By Uche Dibiamaka | A journey of commitment, passion and development from Aussie pathways through to
Pictured: Uche with his SA Metro jersey when he made his SA Metro debut in April 2016.
Preface by Janx....
Uche Dibiamaka is a rare talent. His unique mix of skills, physical strength and athleticism is something I have not seen often, if at all, in a guard, in Australian junior basketball. It is no surprise to me that he has began to burst onto national US rankings since moving over there for High School.
I thought he could become a key component of our 2016 South Australia Metro team but after the East Coast Challenge tournament, which pitted him against some of the best kids in the State of NSW, Victoria and ACT my Assistant Coaches and I were left in no doubt. It was his work ethic and determination in these games which really stood out. He had not had an easy 18 months prior with an injury that put him out of contention for U16 Nationals and 8 months out from playing. It was clear however in that period he had still put in work. Coming back much physically stronger and even more athletic than before his injury. I feel there is a consistent pattern in successful athletes I have worked with in that they have suffered some kind of adversity or setback along the way, overcome it, getting better as a result, and this probably one example of this process for Uche.
For me, he was a pleasure to coach. I was able to challenge him through the process with in-depth and honest discussions on what his role would be and how we planned for him to make the transition from his traditional role of a wing player to a point guard, off guard. Our system that year was built strongly around our guards making plays, finding our big men or scoring was very well suited to a guard like Uche able to score all over the floor. We also saw that some of the best point guards in the country were undersized and we wanted to use our size and physical strength advantages with our guards like Uche to punish these smaller guards inside the paint.
Video: Uche Dibiamaka highlights from U18 National Championships in April 2016. Worth a good watch!!!!!
At the High School level in South Australia Uche’s High School team, St Peter’s College, was coached by Curtis Scipio. Curtis was a former US import, playing in our local Premier League and was employed as the Open As Coach of St Peters. His team was the number 1 team in the state of South Australia, the most successful team in the history of St Peter’s basketball, and competed in the National High Schools Championships that year.
Soon after Nationals Uche made the decision that for him his best way to expand his pathways was by moving to the US to play High School basketball. This pathway was helped in large part through his former High School Coach at St Peters, Curtis Scipio. This would be a hard decision for any 17 year old, to leave his family and friends, and shows his commitment to pursuing success in the game.
I check in with Uche a fair bit to see how he is going and love chatting with him. I recently asked him to deliver a blog and I can't wait to read and learn some more about the US High School pathway.
Over to Uche…
Describe your time growing up playing basketball in South Australia?
Basketball in SA is a full time commitment because it is all year round and there were many opportunities to get better like interstate tournaments, national tournaments, National Intensive Training Program (NITP), club and school basketball which all keep you developing. The national tournaments give you insight to how you compare to talent across the country. Of course with a plethora of basketball comes a significant amount of sacrifice, it could have been easy to lose sight of my ambitions and fade into the background however I maintained my focus and was able to strive in the environment.
What made you decide to move to the States?
I decided to move to the states because it provided a wealth of opportunities to develop as a player and as a person.
Did you have any concerns with the move that weighed into your decision?
I did not have any concerns moving to Houston, I see the move as an adventure and I am thrilled by the fact that basketball has taken me across the globe and has provided the opportunity to experience different cultures.
How have you handled being away from home?
Being away from home is an opportunity for personal growth and to gain independence, especially being surrounded by supportive coaches and a welcoming school community. Technology has made it possible to communicate with my family daily so I am yet to feel homesick.
What are the key differences to playing basketball in US High Schools compared with our district and State system in Australia?
The ultimate difference between playing US high school basketball and district or state basketball is the level of competition. A player in SA will only be exposed to high level talent once or twice a year when SA teams play Victorian or New South Wales teams, whereas in US high school basketball, every game forces you to compete at a higher standard. Also, district games are only once a week, while there are usually two high school games a week here. In addition to this, teams compete in tournaments approximately every two weeks, so the main difference is that there is a greater amount of high level basketball in the US. We play play over thirty games in just three months for the regular season, plus extra games depending on how far we go in the play offs (we plan to go all the way). On top of that, as soon as the high school season finishes, the AAU season begins. From the middle of March to the end of July there is a tournament every weekend where teams compete an elite standard. There are an estimated 70 games a year in an AAU season.
Video: Uche's highlights from his High School season so far with Second Baptist
Tell us about your school? Team, coaches, venues you play at.
Our school team is run professionally with state of the art facilities. The most considerable difference is the crowd’s involvement which brings upon a learning opportunity where one must learn to compete at a high level under the pressure of hostile environments. We are blessed to have a respected and experienced division one college coach leading our team and nurturing each individual player.
What achievements have you had since moving over there both on a team and personal level?
There is so much to be achieved on an individual level and as a program. I have recently been officially ranked in the top fifty in Houston and Second Baptist is ranked as one of the top private schools in Texas. I also received athlete of the week in Houston in December and have been blessed with the opportunity to play in the Showcase Houston All-Star Game in April.
What is the education system like for you there? What are the main differences you find?
The level of education depends on the school you attend. Second Baptist holds all its students, including student athletes, to high academic expectations. The days are also longer and the workload is greater which is good for preparing athletes for the college environment and lifestyle.
What should a young kid consider before moving over there?
Before making the life changing decision to finish high school in the US, an individual must be willing to be independent, responsible and accountable. He must also possess the determination to succeed at all costs and be disciplined to not get distracted by the hype that comes with the lifestyle.
Finishing high school in the US was not something I had envisaged, but as the opportunity arose, I am grateful to be in this positive environment surrounded by supportive, encouraging people doing what I love.