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Tyree Ihenacho's newborn son motivation for guard as UND preps for Summit League tournament

Mar. 8—GRAND FORKS — Tyree Ihenacho had a special guest in the crowd for the UND men's basketball team's final homestand against South Dakota State and South Dakota.

His son, Kyree, watched his dad play basketball for the first time.

"That was cool, being able to play in front of them," he said, "and having my son here dressed up in North Dakota gear."

Kyree was born Feb. 11, the day after UND's home loss to Kansas City.

Ihenacho left immediately following the game.

"It was a crazy time," he said. "After the game, I went straight home. She went into labor like a few hours after I got back. They were just saying, 'He was waiting on you to get back.'"

Kyree was born during halftime of the Super Bowl.

Ihenacho stayed until Wednesday, Feb. 14, making it back to Grand Forks 15 minutes before practice. He then traveled with the team to Denver and Oral Roberts that weekend.

Ihenacho, who was named to the Summit League Second Team Thursday, wasn't nervous to play in front of his girlfriend, Kiley, and son at the Betty last weekend, but he did want to play well.

He had 14 points and six rebounds in the Fighting Hawks' 72-62 loss to South Dakota State, and 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting in UND's 95-66 rout of South Dakota.

It was the latest big moment in what has been a whirlwind season for Ihenacho.

The senior guard transferred back to UND this offseason after two years at James Madison. He needed a waiver from the NCAA in order to play immediately.

Ihenacho wasn't granted one.

He still was able to play this season, though,

after a federal court ruling allowed multi-time transfers the ability to play

with no repercussions.

Ihenacho has played in 20 games since that decision and started 18. He's second on the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game this season, behind B.J. Omot.

He's also averaged 3.9 assists per game and 1.4 steals per game.

Now, Ihenacho will focus on helping UND be successful in the Summit League tournament, beginning with the No. 3 Hawks taking on No. 6 Omaha in the quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Hawks beat Omaha 99-78 in the team's last meeting — three days before Kyree was born. Ihenacho had 22 points and five rebounds that game.

If the idea of a conference championship doesn't push Ihenacho, the thought of Kyree will.

"I feel like, when you think about the reasons why you play, it's just an added motivation," he said. "Looking into the future, I want to play pro basketball, and I want to be able to provide for my family. On the days when you don't feel like really doing anything, it's kind of a reminder. You have to get up and go get it because you have people depending on you. I want to get my son everything that he needs."

Who: No. 3 UND vs. No. 6 Omaha

When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

Where: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls

TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD)

Radio: 100.3 FM