Destiny fulfilled: Another Anosike for Vols

Marvin Westwestwords

Nkolika Nonyelum Anosike, better known as Nicky, one of the stars from the Pat Summitt collection of championships, thinks Tennessee basketball fans will enjoy her “little” brother.


Ejimofor Anosike, better known as E.J. because elementary classmates found his real name difficult to pronounce, hasn’t been little in a long time. He is 6-6 and more, 245 pounds, a rebounding warrior who will join Rick Barnes’ Volunteers as a graduate transfer from Sacred Heart University, Fairfax, Connecticut.

“He is an excellent athlete with toughness. He is very competitive,” said Nicky. “E.J. has great determination and an unbelievable work ethic. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. Sometimes I think he works too hard. He is a perfectionist.”

Nicky says E.J. will do whatever he can to help the team, that he is unselfish, almost to a fault.

She was busy with college and professional basketball when this youngest of eight was growing up. She takes no credit for his development. Well, not much.

“He took some of my post moves. He listened to my advice about running the floor and getting putbacks. He might beat me one on one. Maybe someday we’ll see.”

Nicky laughed at the thought. She is only 6-3.

She was obviously an enormous influence. E.J. will wear her No. 55 as a Vol.

From a distance, it appears Rick Barnes traded Jalen Johnson for Anosike. Jalen, potentially a very good shooter, has entered the transfer portal in hopes of finding more playing time. E.J. was going somewhere into the big time for his senior season and Tennessee was his preference.

It has been his preference since 2008.

“The first time I stepped foot on the court at Tennessee, it became my dream to one day play there,” Anosike said.

“It’s good to be following in Nicky’s footsteps after seeing her success.”

E.J. was seven years old when he started following the Lady Vols. He was at two Final Fours, 2007 and 2008, when big sister and Tennessee won.

“I was there for everything. I heard Pat Summitt talk to the team and I was in the locker room after winning the championship.”

E.J. was not widely recruited out of Paramus Catholic High School, East Orange, N.J. He averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds as a senior. He was all-North Jersey and second team all-Bergen County.

He went to St. Thomas More Academy in Oakdale, Conn., for a post-grad year. He earned all-conference honorable mention. There were no major scholarship offers. He turned out to be a prize at Sacred Heart.

“He’s probably the best combination of talent, work ethic and character that I’ve ever coached,” said Anthony Latina. “He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player for us.

“He’s so committed in every way, on and off the court, taking care of his body, putting extra time in. He is a special player and person. Comes from as good a family as you can have, a family with doctors and professionals. He’s a guy you hope your own kids turn out to be like. Super-committed as a student and player.”

E.J. will work toward a master’s degree at Tennessee. His interest is finance.

“He’ll be the sixth in our family with a masters,” said Nicky.

She is beginning work on a doctorate. Their father had one. Ben Anosike became a college professor. He wrote books. Alas, he left the family years ago. He died in 2018.

Their mother, Ngozi Anosike, was and is the rock, the firm foundation.

“They came to the United States as Nigerian immigrants,” said Nicky. “Mother said she had a sixth-grade education. She said she met my father on a Thursday and they got married the following Sunday.”

Nicky said, as far back as she can remember, education was a family requirement.

Ngozi got some schooling the hard way, between having children. She worked days at a nursing home. She hurried home, fixed dinner, helped with homework, slept fast and did a late-night shift at a psychiatric facility.

“She spent more than a decade in becoming a registered nurse,” said Nicky. “We are very proud of who she is. I think we got our fight from her. I have a little of it.”

E.J. has some. He didn’t think the joke about him being the worst rebounder in the family was very funny. Nicky pulled down 914 at Tennessee. Brother Oderah, O.D. for short, played at Siena and twice led the nation in rebounding.

This youngest Anosike averaged 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds last season for Sacred Heart. He was second in Division I with 138 offensive rebounds and tied for fourth with 383 total. His Twitter bio lists his location as “above a rim near you.”

He played against Providence, UConn, Brown, Presbyterian, Holy Cross, Fairleigh-Dickinson, Mount St. Mary’s, etc.

Will his numbers hold up in Southeastern Conference combat?

“All concerned think they will,” said Nicky. “I know he talked with coaches about that.”

Representatives of Gonzaga, Louisville, Georgia, Georgetown, Boston College and Wake Forest expressed confidence.

They never had a chance to get him. Predestination was too much. Anosike was going to be a Volunteer if Tennessee had a scholarship and he was good enough to get it.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com)

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