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High School sports

Former St. Frances forward Josh Ayeni headed to St. Bonaventure

The fifth anniversary of Josh Ayeni's arrival in the United States will be Oct. 3. He'll celebrate the occasion exactly where he hoped he'd be when he left Nigeria: at an American university.

Ayeni, a 2015 St. Frances graduate, signed this week with St. Bonaventure, the reigning Atlantic 10 regular-season co-champions. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward also considered South Carolina, Jacksonville and several other mid-major programs.

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"It has really sunk in," Ayeni said. "I just signed my letter [of intent Wednesday]. My parents signed it [Thursday]. I plan on going there as soon as possible. Not rushing anything now – just working on getting better."

Ayeni's improvement over the past four-plus years has been notable. He came to Maryland in 2011 and enrolled at Progressive Christian Academy in Fort Washington. When that school closed after his freshman year, Ayeni connected with St. Frances coach Nick Myles.

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"The connection was just good at once. I worked out for the team and he saw my energy," Ayeni said. "If Coach Nick didn't help me out, I wouldn't be here at the end of the day. He is a great person that really had a lot of impact in my life. I really appreciate all the opportunities he created for me as a person."

The opportunity Myles created for Ayeni was an invitation to attend St. Frances and play for the Panthers. Ayeni, a third-team All-Baltimore Catholic League selection as a senior, helped the Panthers to the MIAA A Conference championship as a junior.

Ayeni, who said he averaged around 14 points and 10 rebounds as a senior, had several scholarship offers coming out of high school but decided to do a post-grad year instead. He landed at Impact Academy in Sarasota, Fla.

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"Coming out of St. Frances, I felt like I didn't know basketball like every other young basketball player in America," Ayeni said. "I started really late. Having that extra year really helped my game a lot and had me college-ready, just understanding the game of basketball."

Ayeni, who said he averaged 24 points and 12 points for Impact, said he "didn't repeat mistakes" he made at St. Frances on the court. He gained a better understanding of and maturity toward the game. St. Bonaventure coaches noticed and invited him to see the campus.

"It was like a brotherhood there, just a family. Another home away from home," he said. "They want me to still be a threat on offense and play defense. At the end of the day, most coaches recruited me for my energy. I have a lot of energy on the basketball court. They want to see that every day. I take pride in that a lot."

Ayeni will join another former BCL standout at St. Bonaventure in Jaylen Adams (Mount Saint Joseph), a rising junior guard who averaged 17.9 points and five assists while shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point range.

"I remember playing against him," Ayeni said. "I saw the growth he had between his freshman and sophomore years. First-team A-10. It was just incredible. And I talked to him a lot. He's not a selfish guy. He's in for the team. Just a great guy, great person."

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mbracken@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mattbracken


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