Discover how St. John’s stellar Zuby Ejiofor dazzles legendary Rick Pitino

College Basketball: Rising Star Zuby Ejiofor Impresses Rick Pitino

Published on October 8, 2023

In a recent open practice at Carnesecca Arena, Simeon Wilcher, a highly ranked freshman, was hoping to showcase his skills with a breakaway dunk. However, Zuby Ejiofor, a Kansas transfer, was determined not to give up an easy basket and hip-checked Wilcher mid-air, causing him to miss the dunk and land awkwardly. This incident perfectly exemplified Ejiofor’s dedication and effort, which has impressed the coaching staff at St. John’s.

According to St. John’s coach Rick Pitino, Ejiofor has consistently demonstrated an exceptional work ethic since his arrival. Pitino stated in a recent interview with The Post, “Very few players I’ve coached have the ability to bring it every single day. From the day he arrived, he has not had a bad day just from an effort standpoint. I just think he laces them up and he goes full bore.” Pitino further emphasized that if the season were to start now, Ejiofor would undoubtedly be a starter.

St. John’s coaching staff evaluates players based on their “motors” after every practice, categorizing them into high, mid, and low. Ejiofor, standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing 240 pounds, consistently receives the highest grade, demonstrating his relentless drive on the court. His unwavering determination stems from witnessing the hard work his mother puts in to provide for their family. Ejiofor shared, “It’s just a mentality. It comes from the hard work that my family puts in, the extra shifts that my mom [Sandra] works and seeing how hard it is for her to just put food on the table for our family. It keeps pushing me on a daily basis.”

Ejiofor’s high motor has been evident since he first began playing basketball in eighth grade. His mentor, Andy Philachack, recognized his potential and convinced him to join his AAU team, where Ejiofor’s relationship with Philachack flourished. Ejiofor considers him a second father who believed in his abilities and provided opportunities for his growth.

During his senior year at Garland High School in Texas, Ejiofor’s high energy and skill set were on full display. He earned a TABC 6A All-State selection, showcasing impressive statistics of 21.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocks, and 1.9 steals per game. Norm Roberts, a Kansas assistant coach and former St. John’s head coach, emphasized that Ejiofor’s energy has always been the driving force behind his success. Roberts envisioned him becoming a player similar to NBA forward Montrezl Harrell.

Following a challenging year at Kansas, Ejiofor decided to transfer after the Jayhawks recruited Hunter Dickinson. Several schools showed interest in him, including TCU, Kentucky, Villanova, and Providence. While initially planning to visit Providence, Ejiofor ended up choosing St. John’s due to Pitino’s presence. Pitino’s assurance of significant playing time in both power forward and center positions convinced Ejiofor to commit to St. John’s.

Although Ejiofor is still developing his skills and adjusting to the team’s systems, his relentless effort and active presence on both ends of the court make him an early contender for a starting position. Pitino hopes that more players on the team, like Ejiofor and point guard Daniss Jenkins, will adopt their intense work ethic. Pitino described it as a habit that few players develop, saying, “It’s a habit, more so than a skill. It’s a habit that very few have. What happens with guys like that is they reach their potential.”

In conclusion, Zuby Ejiofor’s impressive work ethic and relentless drive have made him a standout player at St. John’s. With his energy and dedication on display every day, Ejiofor is poised to excel and reach his full potential as a college basketball player.


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