|No. 31 – Golden State Warriors|
October 21, 1989 |
Benin City, Nigeria
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight||255 lb (116 kg)|
|High school||Igbinedion Education Centre|
|NBA draft||2012 / Round: 1 / Pick: 30th overall|
|Selected by the Golden State Warriors|
|2012–present||Golden State Warriors|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli-Ndulue (born October 21, 1989) is a Nigerian professional basketball player who currently plays for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected by the Golden State Warriors as the 30th pick in the 1st round of the 2012 NBA draft.
Life in Nigeria
One of five children, Ezeli remembered in a 2011 interview with Andy Katz of ESPN.com, "My parents told me I was an unusual child. My first name is Ifeanyi, and that means 'nothing is impossible with God.' That sets the tone for my journey while I'm alive." He concentrated on academics, graduating from high school while still age 14, and aspiring to become a physician. To further his career goals, his parents sent him in 2004 to live with his uncle, a pediatrician in Yuba City, California.
Life in America
Shortly after Ezeli arrived in Yuba City, his uncle encouraged him to take up what seemed to be the most appropriate sport for a 6'8" (2.03 m) teenager—basketball. This proved much more difficult for him than academics; although he had played soccer as a child, he had never played any organized sports. He took a year of classes at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, but did not play basketball; different sources report that he was either ineligible to play because he had graduated from high school in Nigeria or cut during tryouts. The start of his organized basketball career, with a low-level AAU team, was especially inauspicious; his first points were scored in his own team's basket. Recalling that incident, he said, "Everybody was running up the court, and I was just running with them. It's kind of surreal. Sometimes I think about it now and I'm like, Damn. How did I get here?"
Also in the Katz interview, Ezeli remarked on his struggles to learn the game:
"I didn't know what I was doing. Imagine someone who is 14 or 15 years old, and you're teaching them as if they're a 6-year-old. It was tough. Everyone was getting frustrated with me. I was getting frustrated with it. I tried playing in 2005. I stopped. I tried again in 2006. And when I had my first dunk in a summer league game in Las Vegas in 2006, that's when I was so excited. It was so exhilarating that I started to like it."
At age 16, Ezeli joined a second AAU team and also enrolled part-time at Yuba Community College. By not attending full-time, he retained a full four years of college eligibility and was still able to practice with the team; he also served as the team's videographer. Although still learning the most basic of basketball skills, he made his high-level competitive debut on the AAU circuit in the summer of 2007. By then, he had reached 6'11" (2.11 m), and averaged 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game, earning an invitation to the Reebok All-American Camp in July 2007.
Ezeli's appearance at the camp marked a major turning point in his life. According to Sports Illustrated writer Pablo S. Torre,
"Recruiters. . .awaited his arrival as if he were Bigfoot. They left with their heads spinning at Ezeli's size and raw potential, even if it was clear that he lacked confidence. Offers from 27 Division I schools he knew almost nothing about rolled in."
With the help of his AAU coaches, Ezeli narrowed his list to Boston College, Connecticut, Harvard, and Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt coaching staff sold him on the school, citing its academic reputation and the program's recent experience with international players. Head coach Kevin Stallings added that Ezeli would be able to redshirt his first year at the school to allow him more time to develop, since the program had a highly touted Australian prospect, A. J. Ogilvy, arriving at the same time and playing Ezeli's position.
Ezeli arrived in Nashville in 2007 as a biology major and among the rawest of basketball prospects. During his first two years in the program, while still learning many of the basics of the sport, he was frequently dominated in practice by Ogilvy. However, as early as midway through his redshirt freshman season, the Commodores staff noticed that Ogilvy was beginning to have difficulty scoring against Ezeli in practice. While obsessively studying the game and working on his basic skills, he spent his first two seasons of eligibility primarily as a backup to Ogilvy, occasionally starting, until Ogilvy declared for the NBA Draft after the 2009–10 season.
With Ogilvy gone, Ezeli had a breakout season in 2010–11, averaging 13 points and 6.3 rebounds while being named a second-team All-SEC (Southeastern Conference) performer. He also broke Will Perdue’s Vanderbilt single-season record for blocked shots. Ezeli's improvement was noted by many in the basketball world; then-Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “I don't think they miss [Ogilvy] at all. Ezeli has improved so much that he gives them the best of both worlds [offense and defense].” Before the 2011–12 season, Ezeli was also named by Basketball Prospectus in its preseason outlook as one of the top 20 players in men's college basketball, along with teammates John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor.
As the Commodores were preparing for Ezeli's final season at Vanderbilt, Stallings said about him,
"He now has a feel for the game. He has made himself an effective player. I think it's very rare. All of us are looking for more finished products. But we all understood if the payday came, if it really came, if he understood the game, if he was experienced, then it was going to give him a chance to be different than other guys. He didn't learn the game in elementary school like I did. He was trying to learn the game while competing effectively in the SEC. That makes it even more amazing."
|Festus Ezeli statistics at Vanderbilt University|
|2007–08||Redshirted – did not play|
Ezeli was selected with the 30th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 NBA draft. On July 6, 2012, he signed a rookie scale contract with the Warriors. In his first NBA season, Ezeli started many games for the Warriors in place of injured center Andrew Bogut. On January 19, 2013, Ezeli scored a career high 13 points against the New Orleans Hornets.
In June 2013, it was announced that Ezeli would miss the entire 2013–14 season due to a knee injury.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
Although he began his Vanderbilt studies as a biology major, he changed his major to economics because of the time demands of basketball. Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas Zeppos has raved about his intelligence, saying, “You can imagine what it is like to hear his perspective on world trade, globalization, and the economics of American sports.” As of August 2011, Ezeli had not returned to Nigeria since his parents sent him to California, although his family has frequently visited him in the U.S.
- Katz, Andy (August 9, 2011). "Festus Ezeli continues to learn the game". ESPN. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- Torre, Pablo S. (March 7, 2011). "How Did I Get Here?". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- Dortch, Chris (March 10, 2011). "One-On-One With Chris Dortch: Festus Ezeli". Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. Southeastern Conference. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- Boettcher, Jerome (November 11, 2010). "Big man finally positioned to play big role for Vanderbilt basketball". Nashville City Paper. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- "Individual Basketball Statistics". 2010–11 SEC Men's Basketball Statistics. Southeastern Conference. April 2, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
- "2011 SEC Men’s Hoops Awards Announced" (Press release). Southeastern Conference. March 8, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
- Bergeron, Elena (August 9, 2011). "CBB Summer Buzz: Vanderbilt". ESPN. Retrieved August 25, 2011. (full article behind paywall; cited information in free preview)
- "Festus Ezeli Profile". ESPN. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- "Warriors Sign Festus Ezeli To Contract". NBA.com. July 6, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
- Notebook: Warriors 116, Hornets 112
- Warriors’ Festus Ezeli expected to miss 6-to-9 months after knee surgery