Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
God’s Gift Achiuwa, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward originally from Port Harcourt, River States, Nigeria, has signed with St. John’s.
Achiuwa, 20, chose the Johnnies over Washington. He also considered Cincinnati before the Bearcats landed another JUCO big man.
“Gift is a talented frontline player who possesses tremendous size, strength, speed and skill,” Johnnies coach Steve Lavin said. “He is an ideal fit for our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play. 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 averaged 22.3 points and 11.7 rebounds this season at Erie, which reached the Division II Final Four. During his two years at Erie, God’s Gift led the team to a 55-6 record.
“God’s Gift is a big, physical 5 man who has big, strong hands that enable him to really rebound,” said one JUCO coach whose team beat Erie this season. “He scored a lot because of his superior athleticism, height, and strength this year. In order for him to be an impact at the high-major level he will have to really improve on his back-to-the-backet scoring. At only 6-7 or 6-8 he will also need to improve his skill-set, especially his left hand.”
Achiuwa was born in Nigeria, which helps explains his unique name. He is the third of six children born to Eunice and Donatus Achiuwa 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,” he said. “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. 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 is the ninth commit in the Class of 2011 for St. John’s.
He 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.”
The Johnnies also have a commitment from 2012 point guard Jevon Thomas and are also targeting 2012 guard Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony and forward Ricardo Gathers of Louisiana. Gathers is slated to make an unofficial visit to campus May 12.
6-9 2011 forward Daouda Soumaoro of Our Savior New American is visiting St. John’s Thursday afternoon.
BHULLAR TO XAVIERSim Bhullar, a 7-foot-4 2012 center from Huntington (WV) Prep, has committed to Xavier, per Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop.
“Xavier is the place for me and after this long recruitment process I decided to commit and join the Musketeer family,” he told Kline. “I just thought they were the best fit for me.”
Said Huntington coach Rob Fulford: “I’m very excited for Sim. He has taken major strides in the development of his game. Sim is a great kid who is only touching the surface of how good he can be.
“We are very proud of what Sim has accomplished and look forward to seeing him continue to develop. Xavier is getting a great player and even better young man.”
Sim’s younger brother, Tanveer, is 7-2 and in the Class of 2013. He plays at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, which recently added former St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle.FREE THROWS
Syracuse officially named former Virginia Tech assistant Adrian Autry as Rob Murphy’s replacement…Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger announced the signing of 6-10 JUCO big man Casey Arent…Georgia coach Mark Fox signed a one-year extension through 2016.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.