Heading into the first primetime, nationally televised game for Penn State this season, Akosa Maduegbunam was settling in his bedroom at Winchendon Prep to check out his future teammates.
Minutes before the game, the future Nittany Lion was full of confidence his team would take care of business, despite their 1-5 start in conference play.
“The energy has to be there tonight. Illinois is just as young as Penn State is, and they’re only the No. 25 ranked team in the country, so Penn State should be able to steal this one.”
It turns out that Maduegbunam was right.
While Penn State beat Illinois by two on a shot in the waning seconds, they also did so in style, donning some slick new gray uniforms.
“Those new uniforms are tight,” admitted Maduegbunam - pronounced Mah-do-way-boo-nam. “I was on Twitter and saw a girl wearing a gray uniform with the No. 1 on the front at the open practice before the game, and I was like ‘That’s my jersey!’”
Well, that will be his jersey. Next season. Right now Maduegbunam is entrenched in his prep school season, where he quickly learned of the challenges that lay ahead. Not that the 6-foot-3 swingman felt daunted in any way.
“The first couple weeks of prep school weren’t that hard, it was kind of natural,” Maduegbunam recalls. “I knew my objective and what I had to do, so I got right down to work. The gym is open every day and barely closes, so I live in there.”
What some would call a gym rat, Maduegbunam has used this extra year to get mentally and physically prepared for the college game. That means working on defense, off-ball movements, strength training, and never taking a play off.
For the hours and hours of training taking place, sometimes it just helps talking to someone who is going through that high school to college transition right now. Like freshman point guard Trey Lewis.
“I talk to Trey a lot about the transition from high school to college and what its been like for him. I ask him how hard he is working to prepare himself, he fits in and is doing his thing but it is unfortunate he’s struggled with these little injuries.”
In speaking with Lewis and also the new head man, Maduegbunam has gained a sense of what the future holds. Coach Patrick Chambers had some wise words for his future player, advice the Boston native has taken to heart.
“Basically he tells me to work for my minutes now. Basically, do what I have to do now so I can step right in and be ready for the next level. It is a huge leap, you can never takes plays off.”
Whether it is on the court or the Internet, Maduegbunam is showing he is ready for the next level, and looks forward to the day he dons the blue and white. Or, for that matter, gray.
“I'm pumped for Penn State. The pieces are there with the players, but the main piece is there in the head coach. Coach Chambers he brings a lot of energy to the table. At times it is hard to have more energy than the coach, because he brings it every day.”