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Be like Ike; WSU freshman makes his mark

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Be like Ike; WSU freshman makes his mark

Freshman guard Ike Iroegbu drives the ball during a home game against the Oregon Ducks, Jan. 26.

Freshman guard Ike Iroegbu drives the ball during a home game against the Oregon Ducks, Jan. 26.

Freshman guard Ike Iroegbu drives the ball during a home game against the Oregon Ducks, Jan. 26.

Freshman guard Ike Iroegbu drives the ball during a home game against the Oregon Ducks, Jan. 26.

Evan Baron | Evergreen men's basketball reporter

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Before practice begins, Washington State freshman point guard Ikenna Iroegbu is one of the first players on the basketball court. While his teammates are filing into the gym and lacing up their sneakers, Iroegbu is in his tank top shooting jump shot after jump shot.

The point guard knows he’ll make mistakes in his first year of playing college basketball; however, with his personal expectations, he wants his skillset to be the best it can be. Iroegbu also admits at times he can be his toughest critic.

“I have such high expectations for myself, and I want to see myself do well,” Iroegbu said.

The WSU freshman said he’s been hard on himself ever since he was 10 years old. Born in Sacramento, Calif., Iroegbu was introduced to the sport of basketball at a young age and grew up playing basketball with his two brothers, Chuks and Uchenna.

“Me and my brothers we would always play one-on-one and then my dad (Emineke) would always play with us until he couldn’t keep up,” Iroegbu said.

The 6-foot-2, 190 pound guard attended Franklin High School and became the first freshman to play on the varsity basketball team. In doing so, he earned a chance to play with his brother Chuks.

“It was the best (playing with my brother Chuks), with him I really didn’t have to talk to him, to see what he was doing and we could just read each other’s minds,” Iroegbu said. “I knew if he wanted the alley-oop pass or if he was flying down the court when to throw it or not to throw it and it was fun playing with him.”

In his first two years at Franklin, Iroegbu helped his school win two league championships.

However, he decided to forgo his next two years of playing basketball at Franklin and instead made one of the biggest decisions of his life, transferring to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

Oak Hill Academy men’s basketball Head Coach Steve Smith coached Iroegbu at a Nike basketball camp and invited Ikenna to join his team in Virginia.

“I visited and knew right when I visited that this was where I was supposed to be,” Iroegbu said.

Oak Hill Academy is a high school basketball powerhouse. It serves as the alma mater for current NBA players such as Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, Rajon Rondo, and Josh Smith.

“It’s basketball 95 percent of the time to five percent you’re either in school or doing homework,” Iroegbu said. “I played basketball three, sometimes even four times a day.”

Success at Oak Hill came right away for Iroegbu. In his first season the team went undefeated, earned a No.1 ranking and took home the 2012 National High School Championship.

“That was the most successful thing I’ve done so far, was going undefeated and we won the most games out of any team at Oak Hill so that’s really a big accomplishment,” Iroegbu said.

Eight players on the 2011-2012 Oak Hill Academy basketball team went on to Division I basketball.

“It was ridiculous (playing with all that talent), most of the times practice was better than the games,” Iroegbu said. “We were so talented that we could have five Division I players one team and five on another (team), and we were just going at it every day.”

His time with Oak Hill resulted in scholarship offers from around the country, including Missouri, USC, Colorado, and Oklahoma State. Ultimately, Iroegbu said he felt Washington State presented an opportunity to see playing time in his first year.

Also playing a role in his decision to don the crimson and gray, was current WSU guard Que Johnson. He, along with sophomore forward Junior Longrus, were Iroegbu’s tour guides on his first official visit to the Palouse.

Johnson said Iroegbu’s YouTube videos caught his interest and when he realized the talent and athleticism Iroegbu possessed, the desire to make him a potential teammate ensued.

Currently in his freshman season at WSU, Iroegbu is averaging 5.6 points and 1.5 assists per game. His best game of the season came in early November on the road against Gonzaga. Iroegbu finished the game with 20 points and dished out four assists.

One word to describe Head Coach Ken Bone’s expectations for the former Oak Hill standout: greatness.

“A lot of the things maybe the typical fan doesn’t see, he’s improved within our program as far as how to set up a play, which direction to run it, knowing who’s on the floor and who we’re going to,” Bone said. “He’s improved, he’s a talent, he’s going to be a really good player here for four years.”

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Be like Ike; WSU freshman makes his mark