By Jeff Borzello
One of the more interesting recruiting pipelines that has developed over the past year is the one that extends from New York City to Ames, Iowa.
It started in September, when Tavon Sledge pledged to the Cyclones. On Monday morning, Fred Hoiberg and co. picked up another NYC prospect, as rising senior Nkereuwem Okoro committed to Iowa State.
“I chose Iowa State because I love the coaching staff, the Big 12 is one of the best conferences in college basketball and I have an opportunity to make an impact my freshman year,” Okoro told CBSSports.com in an interview Sunday night. “Plus, they’re also bringing in a lot of good recruits.”
Okoro, a 6-foot-4 wing from St. Raymond’s (N.Y.), picked Iowa State over Seton Hall. He also held offers from Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Arizona. Okoro is the second New York player to commit to the Cyclones since Brooklyn native Matt Abdelmassih joined Hoiberg’s staff. Abdelmassih played a major role in landing Sledge and Minnesota transfer Royce White while in recruiting positions.
While Iowa State seems like a strange destination for a New York player, Okoro said Sledge signing there for 2011 and several other NYC recruits considering the Cyclones played a role in his decision.
“It feels good to have players from my state that I know be at school with me,” he said. “Helps me feel more at home.”
There were reports in late May that Okoro was ready to commit to Iowa State, but he quickly squashed those rumors and said he was unsure of his next destination. It turned out that Okoro knew all along that Ames was the spot for him.
“I just had to review some things with my coaches and my family,” Okoro said, adding that he is “very confident” in his decision.
Okoro is the Cyclones’ second commitment in the class of 2012, joining New England prep school forward Georges Niang.
Naturally, the Iowa State coaching staff was excited about Okoro’s pledge.
“Coach Hoiberg sounded very happy in my decision,” he said. “It was great news to them.”
Most observers will immediately notice Okoro’s strong body and non-stop motor. He never takes a play off and loves bringing it on the defensive end, bodying up opponents and racking up steals and deflections. Offensively, he is still developing his all-around game, but Okoro has the ability to score in the mid-range effectively.
His energy level and defensive ability will be an asset right off the bat.
“I’m considered a big guard and the Big 12 is flooded with big guards,” he said. “I’m going to bring the most I can offensively, but I’m going to defend all the time and continue to work hard.”
Okoro has been on the recruiting scene for several years in the New York City area, so the process has lasted quite awhile for him. With a commitment he feels comfortable with, it’s as if a weight has been lifted off Okoro’s shoulders.
“It feels very good to come to the conclusion and know where I’m playing college basketball,” he said. “Next year, I can just focus on winning championships. I’m looking forward to the future.”