Saturday night, early in the third quarter of an easy win against Concord, Victory Christian’s 6-foot-10 senior center Ebuka Izundu grabs a rebound and passes to point guard Ty Gadsden.
Very few high school basketball players in Charlotte can keep up with Gadsden, who has several major college scholarship offers.
As Gadsden lowers his head and speeds up the court, Izundu takes off in a straight line, running from the rim over which he grabs the rebound, toward the rim where he intends to score on the other end of the floor.
Gadsden has to make a left-handed dribble move to elude a defender, and by the time he completes his spin, he’s on the right side of the court, about 10 feet beyond the half-court line. Instinctively he throws the ball with two hands at the rim.
It’s not a lob pass, but a line drive that gets to rim height and stays there. Appearing midflight are Izundu’s two extra-long arms and extra-large hands.
He grabs the ball and in the quickest of motions, slams it through with two hands. Before he lands, you can hear the moan of a surprised crowd. The dunk is hard enough to send the ball bouncing nearly to rim height when it goes through. Izundu dunks so cleanly that the nets don’t move.
I’m not sure what was more impressive: the frightening athleticism he showed to get down the floor so quickly – he was jumping to dunk as his defender was just getting to the 3-point line – or the frightening athleticism he showed by jumping so quickly, and I mean Antawn Jamison at his prime quick.
Last month, Izundu signed with Charlotte. At least one national recruiting analyst believes Charlotte might have gotten a guy who can help change the program.
“Ebuka is an extremely long, mobile and athletic player for his size,” said Rick Lewis of N.C. Prep Phenom, the state’s leading recruiting website. “He’s a unique talent. He will need to get physically stronger, but he has all the other physical attributes and skill sets that can make him the face of the (49ers) program for many years to come.”
In his latest N.C. rankings, Lewis ranks Izundu behind Kinston’s Brandon Ingram – who is considering offers from Duke, N.C. State, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA – and Hough’s Luke Maye, a North Carolina recruit.
Izundu has come a long way within a year. Last season, he was long but not nearly as polished. He speaks in a soft voice and credits his high school coach, Aureice McCain, along with his summer AAU coaches with the Charlotte ACES, Kevin Ligon and Gary Gadsden, with speeding along his development.
Gadsden, father of the Victory Christian point guard, is head coach at United Faith Christian Academy.
“They had me in the gym all summer, shooting and working on my ball-handling,” Izundu said. “I ran miles and miles every day. Coach Kevin really helped me, especially with my confidence. I wasn’t as good as this before, so I have to give it to all my coaches.”
Izundu hopes to continue his development with 49ers coach Alan Major next fall.
“I chose Charlotte because they can get me where I want to go,” he said.
In three games at the Hoodies House of Hope Hoops Classic, Izundu has been impressive. He totaled 49 points, 29 rebounds and seven blocks, and shot 20-for-24.
Ligon thinks this is just the beginning.
“He’s like a sponge,” Ligon said. “He accepts coaching so well. He’s very interested in getting better. He’s very athletic with a soft touch and a good shot. And he has this natural ability to run like a guard.
“… You can tell he wants to get better. He’s very hungry, very passionate and once he gets to college and gets 15 pounds of muscle, he’ll be special. Not too many bigs have the natural gifts he has.”