In their one season together at Calvary Christian Academy, Chinedu Victor and Chidi Solomon Uyaelunmo propelled the Fort Lauderdale school to a 23-6 record and Florida’s Class 5A boys basketball championship in 2016-17.
The Uyaelunmo brothers (pronounced Ooo-Yell-A-Mo) are hoping to recapture that magic for Towson University.
Chinedu Victor Uyaelunmo, a 7-foot, 220-pound center, officially transferred to the Tigers on Monday after spending the past two years at Southern California. Uyaelunmo, who is 16 months older than his brother, will have to sit out next season per the NCAA’s transfer rules, but will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Uyaelunmo (whose birth name means “God is leading me”) said he also considered Georgia State, but could not resist the pull of playing with his brother (whose name means “God exists”) – both of whom have expressed a desire to use basketball to help their home country of Nigeria.
“We were pretty successful together,” he said Monday. “So I think we can do great things at Towson.”
Tigers coach Pat Skerry described himself as “really jacked up” about the opportunity to coach the elder Uyaelunmo, who was a three-star recruit pursued by Southern California, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “He was a highly sought-after prospect coming out of high school. Much like Solomon, he’s a worker. He’s got great parents, good academics.”
As a freshman, Uyaelunmo played in 15 games, logging only 3.5 minutes per game and starting once. He averaged 1.4 points and 0.9 rebounds. Last winter, he played in 28 games with three starts, but averaged 6.5 minutes, 0.8 points and 1.6 rebounds.
Uyaelunmo said that the minimal amount of playing time factored into his decision to seek a new environment.
“I wasn’t too happy with it,” he said. “I was hoping for more, but I didn’t get it.”
Skerry said he and his staff were aware that Uyaelunmo put his name into the transfer portal after the end of last season, which drew interest from Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt. But Skerry said they did not immediately make an inquiry because they first wanted to talk to his 6-7, 230-pound younger brother, who played in 32 games with three starts and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 15.9 minutes.
“We kind of waited to see what the interest level was because Solomon’s a guy we have high expectations for,” Skerry said. “He had a good freshman year for us, and he’s had an unbelievable offseason. So we’re expecting him to take a major jump, and we wanted to make sure that Solomon and he were comfortable with it, that his parents, Wendy Oliver-Pyatt and Michael Pyatt, that everyone was on-board with it.”
Oliver-Pyatt said she, her husband and their daughters, Mikaela and Jada, are excited for the brothers, who the family formally adopted in 2015.
“For our boys, this is an extraordinary opportunity,” she said via text. “I know that the boys will work hard to do their best for Towson. We have big dreams about what can happen at Towson.”
The elder Uyaelunmo said he visited Towson’s campus in April, and while assurances of more playing time were appreciated, he found himself enjoying the time he spent with his brother.
“I miss playing with him,” he said. “I haven’t played with him since high school.”
Skerry compared Uyaelunmo’s background with those of former Towson forwards Jerrelle Benimon and Arnaud William Adala Moto, two players who transferred from Georgetown and Wake Forest, respectively, and blossomed into standouts who are currently playing professionally overseas.
“I think one of the things we do well is, we’ve had a lot of transfers and we’ve been able to develop a lot of those guys,” he said. “For us, Victor’s situation is similar to Benimon and Moto — guys coming from Power 5 conferences, having great sit-out years, and then becoming that type of player for us.”
The elder Uyaelunmo’s eligibility will coincide with the graduation of a pair of post players in 6-9, 225-pound Dennis Tunstall and 6-8, 240-pound Nakye Sanders, whose final seasons will occur next winter.
“We’re expecting big things from him,” Skerry said. “Tunstall averaged 27 minutes a game last year, and Sanders averaged 21, 22. So they’re both going to be seniors. Our frontline is Solomon, Nakiye and Dennis next year, and then when Dennis and Nakiye graduate, I’m expecting Victor to step right in.”
Uyaelunmo said he will get adjusted to the idea of sitting next season. Until then, he said that he might lean on his brother to aid his return to the East Coast.
“It helps a lot,” he said. “He can show me things that I don’t really know about – like what I need to know as soon as I get there or where I need to go.”