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EAC’s 2015 Athlete of the Year accepts full ride scholarship to University of Maryland/ Baltimore County

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EAC’s 2015 Athlete of the Year accepts full ride scholarship to University of Maryland/ Baltimore County

By Lexi Lutz

Thatcher, AZ—EAC Women’s Basketball coach Ryan McAdams brought Chukwuma Chiamaka all the way from Lagos, Nigeria back in 2013 sight unseen. He took the advice of a recruiting contact and offered her a full-ride scholarship to play basketball for the Lady Gila Monsters. EAC was the only program to offer her a scholarship and she jumped at the opportunity to come to the United States to get a college education and play basketball. Little did McAdams know the star quality he had found in the young woman from the other side of the world.

“When she arrived in Thatcher, I did not know what we had on our hands,” McAdams said. “She immediately set a tone with her work ethic and intensity, though, and became one of our top student-athletes for two years.

“Being a 5-11 post player, she was undersized against most of her competition, but finished 29th in the country in rebounding her freshman year. She was our leading rebounder and one of our best defenders both seasons—two areas that reflect how much heart a player has. Her skill level was limited when she got here, but she immediately contributed in the effort areas of the game and improved her skill level over time. She was our leading scorer her sophomore year.”

In Lagos, Chiamaka began her day at 1 a.m. with an eight-mile walk to the river where she washed cassava (African salad), and returned by 5 a.m. “I never knew that I was building my endurance and fitness through the process of long walks,” she said, “I never knew that I would be grateful for that early endurance training.”

Despite their harsh surroundings, Chiamaka’s family held education as a priority. Her sister and five brothers all graduated from high school, and continued to further their education by attending universities in Nigeria. When her father was young, he taught himself to read by purchasing books at the local store. After the Nigerian Civil War of 1967, he was employed at Guinness Nigeria as a truck loader, and despite his lack of English skills, he worked his way up to production manager. Of her father, Chiamaka says, “He made great things out of little opportunity given to him when he was working. I learned a lot from his hard work, and his work ethic because it made me who I am today.”

“Chiamaka earns everything in life and takes no easy ways out,” McAdams said. “She once re-read the same chapter in her textbook three times until she had a full understanding of the material for just the next lecture, not even a test. She understands that success does not come easy and she is willing to do what it takes to achieve her goals.”

Highlighting her time at EAC, Chiamaka accepted the most prestigious athletics award presented by Eastern Arizona College—Female Student Athlete of the Year, and after completing her associates degree in general studies in May, accepted a full-ride athletics scholarship to the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

Over the past the summer, Chiamaka went home to Nigeria to be there for the births of her new niece and nephew and reenergize herself for the upcoming challenges here in the U.S. and her new school.

McAdams said, “It had been two years since she had seen her family and she needed to re-connect before taking the next step in her college career, but we were all thankful when she made it back to Baltimore and I know she will do great things for that program and that university.

“I am very proud of Chiamaka and all of my players who graduate and move on. They deserve all the attention they get because what they are doing is not easy. It is a struggle every day to be a college student-athlete and to earn a college degree.”