Nigerian Big Key For N. Penn Girls

Posted: February 24, 1993

Watching Ebiho Ahonkhai glide down the court, her giant strides leaving opposing defenders in her wake, one marvels at the swiftness the 6-1 senior center brings to the game. But, even as she explodes to the basket, punctuating the fastbreak with a lefthanded finger roll, there is no hint of emotion.

There is no time for celebration. No exchange of high-fives with her teammates, no gotcha glare for the beaten opponent.

This 17-year-old native of Lagos, Nigeria is all business - on and off the court.

"I didn't realize how quiet I was on the court," Ahonkhai said with a laugh. "But I do take basketball seriously and coach (Jim) Crawford has shown us how to be mature on the court."

Ahonkhai plays an important, if somewhat offbeat, role for North Penn (23-0) - the lone undefeated PIAA girls team in the area.

In the Maidens' all-out, fullcourt attack, Ahonkhai plays the point on the press as well as in the team's 1-3-1 halfcourt defense.

Consequently, the majority of Ahonkhai's 201 rebounds this season have come off the offensive glass. And her ability to handle the ball in the open floor lends to her team-leading 23.6 scoring average.

Ahonkhai, the school's all-time leading scorer, male or female, with 1,472 points, is not alone. The Maidens' lineup includes the towering frontline of 6-1 junior Marcy Wetzel and 6-foot senior Amy Heath, who have combined for 103 of the team's 165 blocked shots.

Senior swing guard Amy Hoopes provides added scoring punch, sophomore Denise Hartman and junior Yolanda Wisher alternate at the point and junior Shannon Strong supplies depth at guard off the bench.

If Ahonkhai has one regret about North Penn's up-tempo style, it's that she doesn't get to work on her low-post offensive moves.

"I don't get to face man-to-man defenses too often," Ahonkhai said. "I'd like to get into a halfcourt game once in a while to try out my post-up moves. But we're a fastbreaking team and that should work to my advantage when I get to Georgetown."

Ahonkhai was so impressed on her visit to the school that she canceled her two remaining college trips and signed a letter of intent last fall.

The fastbreaking Georgetown women's team, under coach Patrick Knapp, has started to emerge from the long shadow of the men's program and recently moved into a first-place tie in the Big East.

Ahonkhai takes great pride in her family and her heritage.

"A lot of kids don't have anyone to pattern thmselves after, so I'm fortunate to have built-in role models like my mother and father. They came to this country and made their own way."

Her father, Iribua Vincent, is a pediatrician, and her mother, Ekama Bernadine, has a doctorate in education and owns and operates a child day-care center. They came to America when Ebiho was an infant.

Ebiho, who serves as president of the African-American Awareness Club at North Penn and carries a 3.5 grade-point-average, has two sisters, Aima, 16, and Omua, 12, and a brother, Imoniri, 9.

Last February, Ebiho was an area finalist in the McDonald's Black History Makers of Tomorrow program. This year Aima, a track star at North Penn, was selected as one of 10 students from across the nation to appear in the fast- food chain's television commercials and magazine ads saluting Black History Month.

At Georgetown, Ebiho plans to expand on her studies of African culture by majoring in International Relations. She also dreams of one day becoming an ambassador to an African nation.

"I can't think of a better way to both serve and teach people about my native land and its customs."

comments powered by Disqus