Nigerian athlete joins Matadors on the court

Alfonso Henry

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The best advice that men’s basketball freshman Festus Ndumanya has received in his life is “no pain, no gain.” The 6-foot-7-inch forward had never been tested by these words more than when he emigrated from Anambra, Nigeria to San Juan Capistrano, California at the age of 16.

It was a tough transition for Ndumanya, coming to the United States as a sophomore in high school with French as his only language.

“The cultures between Nigeria and the United States are very different,” he said. “When I moved to the United States it took me a while to get used to the culture, but I am used to it now.”

However, Ndumanya found comfort on the basketball court. He joined the basketball team at Capistrano Valley Christian School, where he averaged a double-double in his junior and senior years.

As a junior he averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, and in his senior year he averaged 18.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. In each season with the CVCS Eagles, he shot 67%.

Ndumanya led his high school team to their first ever California Interscholastic Federation – Southern Section Boys Basketball Championship last season, something he looks back on as his biggest accomplishment so far. He won several awards following his senior season such as Orange County Register All-County Second Team recognition and CIF-SS Division 3A Player of the Year.

He also received recognition from his team by being named captain prior to his senior season. The Eagles won 47 games in their last two seasons under Ndumanya’s leadership, including six CIF-SS playoff victories that culminated in a championship ring.

Ndumanya describes his playing style as athletic, versatile and geared toward defense. He models his game after Shaquille O’Neal, his favorite player.

“Shaquille O’Neal always had that toughness and was not afraid of anybody,” Ndumanya said. “He was very tough to guard.”

In addition to O’Neal, Ndumanya also looks up to current Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Orlando Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu, two athletes with Nigerian roots that have careers in the NBA. He grew up a big Chicago Bulls fan, but he was more drawn to Dennis Rodman than Michael Jordan.

“While living in Nigeria, the Chicago Bulls were the only NBA team that I knew about,” Ndumanya said.

Just like his favorite players, Ndumanya prides himself on his defense and is more than willing to make the big stops late in the game.

“When the game is on the line during the last minute, I can be counted on to make the defensive stops that are needed down the stretch,” Ndumanya said.

When he is not in class or at practice, Ndumanya can still be found working on his game. While his biggest impact on the game is felt with his pure athleticism and physicality, he acknowledges where he feels his game falls short the most.

“One thing that I am improving on is my jump shot so that I can have that in my arsenal,” Ndumanya said. “A jump shot is very important to have, especially when games come down to the wire.”

When it came time for Ndumanya to decide on a college, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and California Baptist University expressed interest, but CSUN was the only school to offer him an athletic scholarship.

His decision to become a Matador was based not only on that, but also because of how comfortable he felt with the players, some of whom he played against in high school and the Amateur Athletic Union, during his visit.

“I really like the coaching staff and the environment at CSUN. They see a lot of potential in me,” Ndumanya said.

Becoming a Matador meant that Ndumanya would have to relocate once again, this time from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley. When he left for college, his parents had mixed emotions but were ultimately proud of how far their son had come. Ndumanya knew it was time to branch out on his own.

“It was my time to get away from home. Living on your own is always a great experience,” Ndumanya said. “You grow a lot by getting out of your comfort zone.”

Ndumanya, who is majoring in art, has set a goal to make the most of his opportunities at CSUN and see how far basketball takes him. He said that he would play overseas or in the NBA if he’s given the chance.

When asked what his advice to young people is, he said, “Whatever you are doing in life right now, love what you do and don’t give up.”

Ndumanya and the rest of the men’s basketball team start their season with an exhibition game on Oct. 28 against CSU Dominguez Hills at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.