April 28, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's head men's basketball coach Steve Lavin announced that coveted Nigerian big man God's Gift Achiuwa (Port Harcourt, River States, Nigeria/Sure Foundation/Erie C.C. (N.Y.) became the Red Storm's second signee of the spring period on Thursday. Achiuwa, a 2011 junior college first team All-American, joins what is now a nine-man group of heralded student-athletes that have signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) to join St. John's for the 2011-12 season - a class currently rated No. 2 in the nation by both ESPN and Rivals.com.
God's Gift Achiuwa F 6-9 240 Jr.-J.C. Port Harcourt, River States, Nigeria (Sure Foundation/Erie C.C. (N.Y.)
Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 2:05 p.m.
"Gift is a talented frontline player who possesses tremendous size, strength, speed and skill. He is an ideal fit for our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play," said Lavin. "The maturity Gift gained from two years of junior college basketball with a combined 55-6 record will make him a nice complement to what will be the youngest team in the country next season. He is fundamentally sound, and comes from a program with a tradition of winning, where a strong work ethic, playing hard and discipline is demanded on a daily basis."
Achiuwa, a 2011 first team NJCAA All-America selection, is a bruising post presence who led Erie Community College to a 28-4 record in 2010-11 and a fourth place finish in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament. The NJCAA Region III Player of the Year and Region III Tournament Most Valuable Player ranked ninth in the NJCAA in scoring at 22.3 points per game, 10th in rebounding with 11.7 boards and 17th in blocks with 2.2 rejections per contest. As a sophomore, he shot 56.0 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from 3-point range, scored 32 or more points in four outings and netted 39 points against Monroe C.C. on Feb. 8, 2011. As a freshman in 2009-10, he helped lead Erie to a 27-2 record and averaged 13.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game en route to earning 2010 NJCAA third team All-American and Region III Co-Player of the Year honors.
God's Gift (20) is the third of six children born to Eunice and Donatus Achiuwa, a minister, of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He has one older brother, Promise, and two younger brothers, God's Will and Precious. He also has one older sister, Grace, and one younger sister, Peace.
"I am excited to come to St. John's and New York City. I really like the coaching staff and the way St. John's plays. They are a running team and that's what I like, fast paced basketball," said Achiuwa. "I also like the winning tradition of the new coaching staff. They came into the St. John's program and turned things around in less than a year. I think that's a good indication that the program is on its way back. I like the city and have been to New York a number of times, it is a great place to play and live. Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in the world and it is a great opportunity to have The Garden as my home court."
"When I first saw Gift, I could tell he had the potential but he was raw," said Alex Nwora, Achiuwa's coach at Erie. "His work ethic, both in the weight room and during practice, and playing a lot the past two years, have allowed him to develop to become one of the nation's best players at any level. St. John's has been recruiting Gift since Coach Lavin started there. They knew of his abilities from 'Basketball without Borders'. St. John's has a very good coaching staff, including three staff members who have coached in the NBA and that's where he wants to end up."
Achiuwa, a 6-9, 240-pound post player, joins spring guard signee Phil Greene (Chicago, Ill. (IMG Academy (Fla.) and St. John's first wave of fall recruits under Lavin, a class that includes six freshmen rated as consensus top 100 prospects by recruiting services - Amir Garrett (Los Angeles, Calif./Findlay Prep (Nev.), Maurice Harkless (Queens, N.Y./South Kent (Conn.), D'Angelo Harrison (Missouri City, Texas/Dulles), Norvel Pelle (Compton, Calif./Price), Sir'Dominic Pointer (Fraser, Mich./Quality Education Academy (N.C.) and Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster Academy (N.H.) - and a highly-regarded junior college point guard, Nurideen Lindsey (Philadelphia, Pa./Overbrook/Redlands C.C. (Okla.), who will have three years of eligibility when he joins the Red Storm in the fall.
"The 2011-12 recruiting class will comprise the foundation of the St. John's basketball program moving forward," said Lavin. "The arrival of this group, along with a returning starter in Dwayne Polee II and junior guard Malik Stith, will carry the Johnnies into the future."
St. John's has signed more top 100-ranked prep players (six) than any other school in the nation landed in the top 150 (Duke and Arkansas, five). The 2011-12 Red Storm class is ranked as the consensus No. 2 group nationally, marking the fourth time Lavin has landed a top two class in eight years as a head coach. Lavin's 1997 group at UCLA was also second nationally, and his 1998 and 2001 Bruin classes took the country's top honor. The spring signing period began Wednesday, April 13, and concludes on Wednesday, May 18. With the 2010-11 squad graduating nine scholarship seniors and carrying two open spots, Lavin could sign as many as 11 total student-athletes by the time this class takes the court in the fall.
St. John's inaugural campaign under Lavin included a 21-12 overall record, marking St. John's most wins since the 2002-03 season, with six Top 25 victories and four over Top 10 opponents. The USBWA District II Coach of the Year, Lavin transformed a team that finished in 13th place in the BIG EAST Conference last season at 6-12 to a squad that tied for third this year at 12-6 - only twice before has a jump of such magnitude occurred in BIG EAST Conference history. The Red Storm finished its season ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25, marking the first time it qualified for the postseason as a ranked team since 2000-01.
The 2011-12 St. John's squad will be the youngest in 104 years on the hardwood, and will rank among the youngest in NCAA Division I history. With two returning scholarship letterwinners (one junior, one sophomore), the Red Storm will feature at least nine newcomers, comprised of seven freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. STJ will look to its highly-rated 2011-12 recruiting class to assist in replacing 89.8 percent of its scoring and 90.2 percent of its rebounding in the coming season.