When she was 14 in her native Nigeria and using a shortcut to school, Uchechi Ufochukwu ’21 was stopped by a coach. Fearing she was in trouble, she grabbed her book bag and ran.
Rather than turn her in, the man had noticed her stature (she’s 6-foot-4) and had other plans.
“He said ‘you’re really tall, do you want to play basketball?’” Ufochukwu recalled about her start in the sport. “And I said, ‘yeah, sure.’”
That chance encounter on the way to school eventually led to high school in Washington, D.C., Winthrop University and, ultimately, to Bradley where the fifth-year transfer MBA student is among five newcomers for women’s basketball. She has a year of eligibility left after previous injuries limited her at Winthrop.
She first attracted notice at a camp run by a former U.S. college men’s player in her hometown. “A month or so after camp he called me and asked if I’d like to come to the United States to study. I thought it was a scam at first. … He said, ‘No, it’s all paid for.’”
With her father’s consent and help from a nonprofit — Access2Success aimed at helping African students and their communities through sports, education and other sustainable programs — Ufochukwu gained a scholarship to Archbishop Carroll High School. She was team MVP her senior year and Winthrop recruited her.
But injuries intervened. Stress fractures cost her the 2018–19 season and limited her to three games last season.
“ ...I want to go all-out my last year and finish with a bang,” she said. “That’s why I picked Bradley. It’s a family. This will be my new family.”