2017 PF Eboigbodin fills huge need in UIC frontcourt

Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell | Detroit Free Press

UIC got on the board in 2017 with a verbal commitment from University of Detroit Jesuit big man Greg Eboigbodin on Tuesday evening. Eboigbodin, listed at 6’9″, had several Horizon League schools vying for his services, and even sported a high-major offer from DePaul. The Nigeria native ended up picking UIC over Kent State, Oakland and UAB.

UIC was steadfast in its recruitment of Eboigbodin, offering him a scholarship on April 26 during the spring evaluation period and consistently evaluating him throughout the summer, even after he switched AAU teams for a tournament in July. Assistant coach Ron Coleman was Eboigbodin’s primary recruiter for UIC.

Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell | Detroit Free Press
Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell | Detroit Free Press

UIC made a trip to Detroit on September 14, checking in on Eboigbodin in person at his school. Eboigbodin then unofficially visited the Flames on September 20. He officially visited UIC this past weekend, and it sealed the deal for Eboigbodin. He became closer with Flames players Michael Kolawale and Tai Odiase, who are also of Nigerian heritage, and the rest of the UIC squad and staff.

“It just felt like the right decision,” Eboigbodin told The Catch and Shoot. “I didn’t know much about UIC when they first offered, to be honest. But Coach Coleman maintained a good amount of contact after the offer, which led me to unofficially visit. That’s when I fell in love with UIC. I liked the system, the guys, liked Coach McClain and the rest of the staff. UIC has players from all over the world, like Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Nigerian and Puerto Rican players too. I like that, and the location too. Chicago is a very good city. UIC is very diverse.”

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The UIC staff closed on Eboigbodin on his official visit.

“The official was the deciding factor,” Eboigbodin explained. “I met the strength coach, he was very professional and prepared. I talked about my future classes and academic interests. A key thing for me is player development. I like the work they’ve done with Tai. They will do the same for me. We want to build something for the future, I want to be apart of that.”

The UIC staff also incorporated Eboigbodin’s Nigerian heritage during his official visit. Although it wasn’t a deciding factor, Eboigbodin certainly appreciated the gesture.

“We ate Nigerian cuisine at dinner on the visit, it was very good,” Eboigbodin recalled. “The coaches tried lots of new food and were very happy to have it. I hadn’t had Nigerian food in a while, so it was nice to enjoy it with the team.”

On the basketball court, Eboigbodin won a Class A state championship last spring playing alongside current Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston and 2017 Marquette commit Ikechukwu Eke. (UIC also offered Eke this past spring.)

Eboigbodin exploded for a double-double in the state championship game, contributing 13 points and 18 rebounds. He followed that up with a solid showing on the AAU circuit. He played for Detroit-based The Family in the Nike EYBL, averaging 4.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. Most importantly, Eboigbodin fills a crucial position of need for UIC.

Landing a big man in 2017 has been a primary focus for UIC, considering Kyle Guice, Tai Odiase and Clint Robinson will all be seniors when Eboigbodin sets foot on campus for the 2017-2018 season. Hassan Thomas is another big man and will be a junior next season, but his 6-foot-7 stature meant UIC needed a big man with length in 2017.

Eboigbodin is particularly excited to learn playing alongside Odiase, a player with a similar defensive-minded approach. Odiase led Division I with 3.2 blocks per game last season. While still new to the game of basketball, Eboigbodin said he understands his strengths as a defender and rebounder, and feels his offense will continue to come along.

Eboigbodin barely started playing basketball when he moved to Detroit, he actually grew up playing soccer in Nigeria.

“I played soccer before I started walking, actually,” Eboigbodin remembered. “My parents had a soccer ball for me as a baby. Basketball was not as popular in Nigeria when I was born.”

Eboigbodin moved to Detroit as a freshman at U-D Jesuit, but was ruled ineligible in his first year because of international transfer rules. He’s only played three years of organized basketball. Despite being so new to basketball, Eboigbodin understands what he does well on the court.

“I rebound the ball very well, that’s what I do best,” Eboigbodin said. “I also have a 7-foot-2 wingspan, which helps a lot. I like to play defense. I run the floor. Very few big men run the floor like me. Since I played soccer growing up, it helps athleticism-wise in basketball. My soccer background helps create space and transition opportunities to score. My offense is coming up.”

With Eboigbodin in the fold, UIC will now turn their focus to 2017 combo guard Elijah Joiner from Curie in Chicago. Joiner is regarded as a three-star recruit from several recruiting websites, and won a Class 4A State championship at Curie last year as a junior. He officially visited from Thursday to Saturday, and has an official visit scheduled to Tulsa next weekend.

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