NGR – Ugoka seizing the day
BLACKSBURG (NCAA Women/Afrobasket Women) – It’s been a hard several weeks for Virginia Tech in NCAA women's basketball, with the losses piling up.
The team’s 68-42 setback at Miami on Sunday was its ninth consecutive defeat.
Yet there is a player who has been a ray of sunshine in the squad.
The 19-year-old, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds in the latest defeat, has been putting in one battling performance after another.
Ugoka is giving Virginia Tech hope for the future and enhancing her own prospects at the same time.
In her team's last 12 games, Ugoka has been the leading scorer on five occasions and the top rebounder nine times.
She is averaging almost 13 points and nine boards.
When she travelled to America as a 17-year-old, the 1.85m Ugoka first played at Grayson County College in Dennison, Texas.
She practiced hard with the team, and in her free time, believing that basketball would take her places.
Ugoka ended up becoming a junior college All-American.
When the college decided to pull the plug on its basketball program, Ugoka took her skills to Florida and enrolled at Gulf Coast Community College.
After being named All-American again, Virginia Tech University offered Ugoka a scholarship and a chance to compete in Division 1.
“She’s looked at every game as another opportunity for her,” Hokies coach Dennis Wolff said to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“She doesn’t want to waste them.”
Though she has been homesick at times, missing family, the time in America has been a real eye-opener for Ugoka.
“Life back in Nigeria is very, very tough," she said.
"You have to struggle to survive. Light. Water. The roads.
"Everything is just kind of easier here (in America). If you want something here, you can just order it online.
"You don’t have to travel all the way to get it.”
On the evidence of her performances for Virginia Tech, Nigeria have a player who is developing well in the college game.
Ugoka, who is majoring in Sociology, would appear to be someone that can help the national team in the years to come.
For now, all Ugoka wants is to capitalize on the chance she has to improve her life.
"I have to do everything I can to make it here," she said.
"My family really needs me.”