To several young Nigerians who can play basketball, Towson Catholic has become a symbol of opportunity in America. Towson Catholic is known in Central Africa as one of those American high schools that can open doors.
Lawrence Nwevo is a 19-year-old senior because he lost a year of high school after his mother died, and he is the latest to attend and play at Towson Catholic.
Nwevo arrived in the United States on Aug. 7 with just one extra set of clothes and a few hip-hop and rap CDs by Ludacris, 50 Cent, Eminem and Beyonce.
While he is seeking the promise of opportunity, Nwevo, who is 6 feet 8 and 245 pounds, also brings promise to the Owls' program. Nwevo is a relentless rebounder who led his team to the African under-20 championship and next year he will play on the Nigerian national team at the World Cup in Argentina.
Nwevo says if you're not strong, "you can't play over there," and finds the American game much faster with "more selfish players."
"A friend of mine was here last year and told me about Towson Catholic and that they had a good program with a very good coach," said Nwevo, who is looking to improve his post moves.
"I said I wanted to come and told the embassy in Nigeria and received a visa through the Education Plus program. I'm really excited to be here and be given this opportunity to get an education through basketball."
The friend Nwevo referred to is 6-10 Idon Igbok, who never played at Towson Catholic but is now playing at Michigan State. Igbok is one of several African players who have come here to play for Owls coach Mike Daniel in recent years.
Cyaka Ndoba played last season for the Owls, but returned to Nigeria after graduating from Towson Catholic. Before Ndoba there were Thabo Letsebe and Bien Venue.
Letsebe graduated from Goucher and is running his own computer-graphics company while working on his master's degree in business at Goucher. Venue is currently playing at the University of Wyoming.
"We don't hide anything and Towson Catholic has been bringing in foreign students for a long time, not just basketball players," said Daniel, who has the Denver Nuggets' and Baltimore's Carmelo Anthony as another of his proteges.
Daniel said, however, that he is es- pecially interested in those who are basketball players and that he is able to bring them in because of "connections" he has.
"I have a friend in D.C. who knows a guy, who knows another guy, and they tell me about kids who want to come to America and start a new life," said Daniel.
Nwevo is living with a host family in East Baltimore affiliated with the church of Daniel's wife, Deborah. He is enjoying life in America and says he has become popular at school and is making friends because of his size.
Nwevo won't be the only foreign player in the Baltimore Catholic League and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference this season.
Cardinal Gibbons landed Donatas Disockas, a 6-9, 225-pound Lithuanian. Disockas is an 18-year-old senior who Gibbons coach Bob Flynn says is a Division I prospect.
"Donatas played at Oak Hill [Academy] last year and didn't play much, so he went home, but wanted to come back," said Flynn.
Oak Hill is a nationally and inter- nationally recruited powerhouse.
"Through a college contact I have, we were able to get Donatas to come to Gibbons, and he can really shoot," said Flynn.
There is a lot of movement of players in the BCL and A Conference, but foreign players take the movement to another level.
"We can help these kids, and it's a great experience for our other kids who are from a different culture and take things for granted," said Daniel, who also has two quality local transfers this season in Malcolm Delaney from McDonogh and 6-7 Kyle Cannon from Hammond.
"It's never easy for the kids who come from other countries, but the kids learn from each other."