Throughout the summer, GoBonnies.com will feature interviews with members of the St. Bonaventure men's basketball team and their preparation for the 2017-18 season during off-season workouts. Our next Summer Session features rising sophomore center Amadi Ikpeze.
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – When recruiting rising sophomore center Amadi Ikpeze, members of the St. Bonaventure men's basketball coaching staff did not have to travel far – just up the road to Buffalo where Ikpeze played high school ball at Amherst High.
A multi-sport star during his high school days, Ikpeze was relatively new to focusing solely on basketball, playing football and lacrosse for much of his youth. He hadn't played organized basketball prior to high school, finally making the decision following his sophomore year that basketball was his passion.
During his freshman season at St. Bonaventure, he immediately flashed some of the skills that have Bonnies coaches and fans excited for his potential during the next three years. He played in 24 games a year ago, coming on strong during the second half of the Atlantic 10 schedule with impressive performances at Duquesne and against VCU and Saint Louis.
His work during the off-season has many around the program pointing to Ikpeze as a potential breakout candidate for 2017-18 as he continues to mature and gain an added comfort level in the program.
What's the biggest improvement you made in your game during your freshman season?
Just patience and knowing the right things to do on the court. Overall getting comfortable and a feel for the game. Getting into spots that I know I can make shots and help the team.
Do you feel more comfortable this year after a season under your belt in the program?
No doubt. Coming in as a freshman you don't want to mess up and to make a good first impression. Now I'm comfortable in the system; I know my teammates and the coaching staff. It's definitely more comfortable.
Coach Schmidt preaches the mental side of the game and making second and third efforts. How important has that been to the development of your game?
Especially being a big man, just keep attacking the glass and keeping a high motor. I definitely take into consideration what he says because it definitely helps rebounding-wise and keeping plays alive, keeping energy.
Foul trouble was an issue at times last year for you. How do you improve on that this year?
Just keeping with the game plan on defense, knowing when and when not to leave my man, to contest a shot and block it. Just more awareness. It comes with confidence and playing more.
Last year you had some really strong games, but what is the key to becoming more consistent?
First is definitely practice. Off the court, working out with the coaches and getting in the gym as much as possible. Repetition and crafting my skill.
Talk about the jump in competition from playing high school ball to now playing in the Atlantic 10.
It was a big adjustment. In high school, I was always the biggest guy on the court and didn't have to do some of the little things. I have the body for it, so I'm not intimidated by it. I'm embracing the challenge.
You're playing pretty close to home. How cool is it to be able to play in front of so many family and friends?
It's definitely cool. For me, it drives me to get better because I always have people watching that I want to impress and those who have high expectations for me. At first I didn't want to stay local, but after visiting here and realizing what a good opportunity it was how could I say no?
How important are your rebounding and shot-blocking abilities are to your game?
It keeps the defense honest. I feel like I can score too, but you need to be versatile. One night the shots may not be falling. Being able to switch up my game to adjust is very important.
What is the biggest thing you're looking to get out of this summer's work?
Definitely getting stronger and in better shape and keep working with my skills with Coach Moore and the other coaches so when the season comes I will be able to go full-speed in practice every day.
What classes are you taking this summer?
I'm taking marketing. It's going good.
Who has been most impressive during off-season workouts?
We've all been working hard. You can tell we're all hungry for next year. Everybody really.
Favorite athlete: LeBron James
Favorite food: Pizza
Actor that would play you in a movie: Idris Elba
Favorite movie: The first Transformers
Favorite music artist: Future
If you could play another sport it would be: Golf or baseball
Best advice you've ever received: From my mom, she said if you want basketball you have to work hard.
One thing people might not know about your teammates: All of them are funny, they're comedians. Courtney always has me laughing.
If you could trade places with one person for a day it would be: Cristiano Ronaldo.