One of the main reasons that Chizzy Ekedigwe decided to attend Division I Seton Hall in 2011 was the chance to play for coach Anne Donovan, an All-American at Old Dominion University who had an illustrious Olympic career.
So when Naismith Hall-of-Famer Donovan resigned after last season to become head coach of Connecticut of the WNBA, Ekedigwe thought about transferring following two seasons at Big East member Seton Hall.
But in the end, it was relationships with her teammates that kept the former St. Vincent Pallotti High standout in New Jersey.
"As times goes on I have been building a bond with my team," says Ekedigwe, one of the few members of the junior class who has been with the program three seasons. She is involved in the African Students Association.
Ekedigwe is majoring in social behavioral sciences with a minor in criminal justice, and hopes to attend graduate school.
She lives just a few minutes off campus with teammate and good friend Brenna Jones, a redshirt senior forward who grew up in Springfield, Virginia and transferred to Seton Hall from Hampton.
A 6-foot-5 center, Ekedigwe said she learned a lot from Donovan, who was also a post player at the Division I college level. "Definitely trying to be consistent as a player" was a main challenge, according to Ekedigwe. "She definitely taught me that."
"Chizzy is a long, lean post player who will add depth to our post game," Donovan said on the Seton Hall athletic website when the player committed to the Pirates after her junior year at Pallotti. "Her potential is unlimited and I look forward to her development and growth in her senior season and during her career at Seton Hall."
Ekedigwe, whose parents are from Nigeria, was born in Virginia and later lived in Hyattsville and Lanham.
She has certainly not posted eye-popping offensive statistics at Seton Hall. She came off the bench in 20 games for the Pirates in 2011-12 and averaged just 6.5 minutes and 1.7 points per contest.
Last season as a sophomore she played in 22 games, with six starts, and averaged 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds.
This season she played in 15 of the first 23 games, with eight starts, and averaged 10.8 minutes, 3.2 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
She is now playing for first-year head coach Anthony Bozzella, a 1989 Seton Hall graduate and the former head coach at Iona in New York.
Her team's next goal is doing well in The Big East tournament which begins March 8.
"It has been an uneven season for Chizzy," he said. "She earned her starting spot then she banged her knee (in a game Nov. 23 against Wagner) and she has not been the same since. I still have high hopes for her. She can help us be competitive in the Big East. She has a lot of potential. She has adapted to our style, which is running the floor. We would not have won the Providence game (Jan. 25) without her (defense). I give her credit for that."
While at Pallotti, she was a 2011 McDonald's All-American game nominee and she averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as a junior for the Panthers.
She led the IAAM in blocked shots (82) and also played for the Blue Star Maryland club team. She was a member of the Spanish and National Honor Society at Pallotti and also played volleyball at the private school in Laurel.
The Pirates were 14-9 overall and 5-7 in the Big East after a win at Georgetown on Feb. 12 even though Ekedigwe did not play in the game.
Donovan liked to play more of a halfcourt game while Bozzella stresses more of a fastbreak offense than his predecessor.
"He is more versatile with his coaching skills," Ekedigwe says. "It was kind of hard in the beginning. As time goes on we have bought into it." And the Pallotti grad has stayed the course at Seton Hall.
Other former Pallotti players now with women's college teams include Tiffany Padgett (Division I Loyola), Mariah Hankton (Division II Southern Connecticut), Natalie Harrison (Division II Nyack) and Brittney Davis (Division III McDaniel). Harrison is teammates at Nyack, just north of New York City, with Laurel resident Jamie McKeither, who attended Meade High. McKeither was averaging nearly 10 points per game in mid-February. Padgett played in the first 24 games, with 21 starts, and was averaging six points per game for the Greyhounds of the Patriot League.