Fifth-season UCLA Bruins reserve power forward/center Kenneth Nwuba recently shared his thoughts about the ongoing preseason exhibition tour in Spain. This journey holds a special significance for Nwuba, as it marks his first-ever trip to Europe. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, the towering 6’10” athlete set his sights on basketball opportunities in the U.S. when he was just 15 years old.
“It kind of reminds me of the first time that I came to the States,” Nwuba told UCLA.
Nwuba’s basketball journey has seen its fair share of twists and turns. He redshirted his true freshman season in 2018-19, which set the stage for his remarkable growth. The unforeseen bonus year granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-20 allowed him to extend his time on campus. As a result, Nwuba is now entering his sixth overall year as a valued member of the UCLA Bruins.
“It’s a different situation when you leave Nigeria for America, and you have to adapt to the culture, time change, everything with the people, adapting to their ways of living. It’s the same type of feeling that I have now, being here in Spain.”
“Sometimes when we are trying to talk to people here, they’re looking at us like, ‘I don’t understand English,’ ” Nwuba added. “And then I’m going, ‘Hey Jan!’ or ‘Hey Ev!’ and I’ll ask them to come help explain what they’re saying. Let’s just call over the translators on our team, and they can help us out to have a conversation.”
During the 2022-23 season, Nwuba proved his prowess on the court. Despite averaging modest playing time of 12.4 minutes per game, he showcased his rebounding skills by securing an average of 1.7 rebounds per match. Additionally, he contributed 1.3 points per game, underscoring his dedication to team performance. Notably, Nwuba’s shot-blocking ability also reached new heights, with a career-best average of 0.6 blocks per game. His contributions played a significant role in UCLA’s impressive Sweet Sixteen run during the same season.
Bruins’ head coach Mick Cronin expressed his enthusiasm for Nwuba’s return to the power frontcourt role. Nwuba’s versatility and commitment to the team’s success have made him a valuable asset on and off the court. As he shares his reflections on the preseason exhibition tour, Nwuba’s unique journey from Nigeria to becoming a key player for the UCLA Bruins stands as an inspiring testament to dedication and hard work in the world of collegiate basketball.
“Kenny is like the best backup in America,” Coach Cronin says. “At this point in his career, he would be starting on a lot of teams. He’s now at a point where you could play him and [Pac-12 All-Defense power forward/center Adem Bona] together, if you wanted to play with a bigger lineup. He’s had a great summer. Two nights ago [in Valencia], he looked like the guy who has been practicing hard all summer. Whenever you have a player who is such a good guy and has been so loyal to your program, you are rooting for him. You want him to do well because he’s put in so much time. He’s been so loyal to us.”