Q & A // Aron Nwankwo, City, lacrosse

Aron Nwankwo has gotten a lot of mileage out of his senior year at City. In the classroom, he has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, which helped him earn a full academic scholarship to study pre-medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. As for his athletic career, Nwankwo, 6 feet 7, is best known for his prowess on the basketball court, where he helped the No. 1 Knights win their second straight Class 2A state championship as a defensive catalyst and strong rebounder. Nwankwo also has developed a love for lacrosse, playing defense to help the Knights (10-1 overall, 9-0 in Baltimore City) win 37 straight league games.

QUESTION: How did you decide on the University of Pittsburgh?

ANSWER: They weren't really on my radar at first, but they were one of the schools that really contacted me a lot. They started sending me a lot of mail about the academics they had to offer and asked me to visit. When I visited, I learned about how good the medical program was and I liked the campus and the atmosphere, so it ended up at the top of my list.

Q: How did you feel after learning you earned a full academic scholarship?

A: It was really exciting and a bit of a surprise actually because it came about two weeks after I got accepted there. Throughout high school, I always told myself that if it was possible, I didn't want to pay for college if I didn't have to. The fact that it came true, I was real excited and it showed all the hard work paid off.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to get in the medical field?

A: Probably when I was in elementary school. It has always been my first option and I never waivered from it, so it's been kind of a set course for me. I'm still not sure exactly what I want to do, but I'm starting to lean toward sports medicine.

Q: How did the opportunity come to walk on the Pitt basketball team?

A: After I got accepted and received the academic scholarship, I started contacting the basketball office and asked about getting an opportunity to walk on. I started sending my game tapes and they were impressed and said they would like to have me as a walk-on after they learned more about me. So it's basically a guaranteed spot on the team and I couldn't pass that up.

Q: How exciting was that?

A: It was like a dream come true. A lot of colleges I was considering, like Johns Hopkins, for instance, were schools that ultimately had very good pre-medicine education. But my dream was to go to a good school where I can study pre-medicine and also play for a very good basketball team. So at Pittsburgh, I feel like I got the best of both worlds.

Q: What are your thoughts about playing your college ball in the Big East?

A: I think it's going to be a crazy experience playing in the Big East. Like we have here at City, they play hard defense, they play tough. If I get any chance to play, I think I'll fit in very well and just to be in that atmosphere of very competitive basketball is great.

Q: Winning two straight state basketball titles, was one tougher than the other?

A: This year was definitely tougher. The first one is always tough, but last year we had a great squad with a lot of seniors. This year, the goal was to repeat and we lost a lot of graduated seniors, so a lot of people thought we might not have what it takes. But we got a few transfers come in and some of the juniors that became seniors really stepped up. This year also was very tough because they moved two former state champions to our [region] — Lake Clifton and Digital Harbor. So we had our work cut out for us. We had a few close calls, but we got it done and accomplished the task of going back to back.

Q: What would be your top sports moment at City?

A: I would have to say winning the first state title. Coming to high school, I would have never thought I would have won a state championship and that was just a surreal moment. It was just great to see the fruits of our labor. A lot of times during the season I know a lot of the players sometimes had second thoughts about working so hard at practice and questioned whether it is worth it. But then once you finally get there and reach your goal, you see how it's all worth it.

Q: Basketball has always been your top sport, but how important has playing lacrosse at City become to you?

A: Lacrosse has grown to be very important to me, too. I actually had second thoughts about playing this spring just to give myself more time to play basketball or get a job. But I've grown close with my coach and I didn't want to let my team.

Q: Playing strong defense is your forte in basketball and lacrosse. How vital is it to a team's success?

A: I value defense a lot and know how important it is in every sport. In basketball, everybody looks at the stats — how many points you had and stuff like that. But in a lot of our games, it came down to defense — getting stops and especially rebounding. I don't think we could have won the state championships without the defense we played.

Q: How do you balance all the different facets of being a high school senior?

A: It can be tough to balance schoolwork, sports and also having a social life, but you really have to prioritize things and make sure education comes first. Everything else will fall into place after that.


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