The first time Victor Enoh played an organized basketball game was in seventh grade. Until 2011, he had only ever really thought about basketball in a recreational sense. Let that sink in: the player who is bound to be Marist’s starting center next season didn’t even think about basketball until he was 12 or 13.
Enoh’s story to Marist basketball is unique in many ways. He was noticed out of thousands of players at a basketball camp by former NBA draftee and member of Team Nigeria Ejike Ugboaja. He was brought over to the States to be given a chance at doing something he had never experienced before. He relied on his raw strength and size to gain the attention of scouts watching.
“I remember that game perfectly,” he said. “I was the tallest on the court but I didn’t know anything about basketball. I got called for the three-second at least 15 times that game.” The most eye-opening attribute that Enoh displayed was his determination to go after rebounds.
“The only thing I knew how to do, was just grabbing rebounds,” he recalled. “I had like, 20 rebounds and I didn’t even know what I was doing.”
From rebounding, Enoh would then start to transform his game through other elements and a better understanding of how the game was played. Later at an AUU game that summer, he would see something that would motivate him to want to become a different level of player.
“I seen this one kid just catch the offensive rebound and dunk it without coming down and I was like, ‘I wanna do that by next year man,’” said Enoh. He took rebounding which used to be the only thing he knew how to do and turned it into the focal part of his game that he has spent this last season trying to refocus and rebuild.
A three-star recruit out of Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy in Decatur, Georgia, and originally born in Lagos, Nigeria, Enoh has already been through a lot of transition in his life for someone who’s only a sophomore in college. His journey from Nigeria to Division I basketball hit a roadblock in 2018 when Memphis Basketball Head Coach Tubby Smith was fired and Penny Hardaway was named his replacement.
“Things obviously didn’t go my way,” said Enoh. With no guaranteed future and uncertainty of his usage on Memphis under Hardaway, Enoh entered the NCAA transfer portal in hopes of finding a new home. One thing he knew he had to do was become a better version of himself.
“I wanted to sit out and get better,” said Enoh. A problem that he found when searching for a new school was how bad teams wanted him to play this year. Most people would think is a good thing, to be wanted and needed for your playing ability. He understood that he needed to do what was best for himself and hit the restart button on his basketball career to get where he wanted to go. With other options on the table for his talents, Enoh ultimately decided that Marist was the home for him.
“Right after my Marist visit, I called and canceled all my other visits,” said Enoh when he first arrived on campus here in Poughkeepsie. For Enoh, it was about putting himself in the perfect situation to succeed, and Marist offered the ideal structure that he needed.
“I liked the coaching staff,” said Enoh. “I liked the players and the potential we have but I liked the environment and the isolation from the city. There’s no distractions here.”
Now that he has found the spot for him, everyday has been about transforming his game and getting ready for that first minute on the court next year.
“I’m in the gym every day,” said Enoh. “I lift weights twice a day. It was tiring at first but now I’m hitting up my buddy like, ‘When we going to the gym?’” He went on to talk about his workout regimen tweaking his already massive 6 ‘7 frame. A key part of the coaching staff’s mission this season has been fixing his weaknesses.
“Finishing with his back to the basket and working with his weak hand, we felt like with a year to work with him, he could become a real threat,” said Marist head coach John Dunne when describing what Enoh’s redshirt year has been focused around.
While there has certainly been a lot of excitement around bringing Victor Enoh on board to the basketball team, some might confuse the expectation of what a former big school player like him will be expected to do on the court.
“Not a big scorer but our expectation for him is to be a bigger presence for us inside,” said Dunne when asked about Enoh’s role on the squad next season. When asked about the excitement of bringing in a Memphis caliber player, Dunne also added, “Sometimes people equate that with ‘He’s gonna score 24 per game,’ and that’s not his role.”
Enoh has reflected on his journey to where he is today, knowing his story is far from complete and only just beginning. One person that Enoh couldn’t have gone without was Ejike Ugboaja,
“He is like a big brother, a guardian to me,” said Enoh. Ugboaja not only helped Enoh find a college that would offer him a spot on a team but Ugboaja also founded the Ejike Ugboaja Foundation, an organization created to help give opportunities to athletes in Nigeria. With his work, he has helped 130 athletes from Nigeria reach the next level of sporting and education here in the U.S, according to the foundation’s website.
“My mindset for this year has just been to focus,” Enoh said when asked about his personal motivation to get back to the court while sitting out this year.
While he continues to refocus himself and his game by preparing for his debut as a Red Fox, he had one thing to add.
“I wish I could play today.”