Ebelechukwu Mbagwu is a 14-year-old basketball hotshot from Stockdale High School. For many years, Mbagwu has played ball in many courts across the US. She holds starting point guard positions in nationally-acclaimed teams like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball Team and Team Militant. The young talent from Bakersfield averages 16.3 points per game, with 6.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds. With her innate instincts, Mbagwu sets her sights on higher arenas in the future.
Back then, Mbagwu had the guidance of her two older brothers, who taught her the ins and outs of the game. To her, being coached by someone close to home and her heart laid the groundwork for her would-be successful athletic career. Later on, she enrolled in Stockdale High School as part of the Class of 2023. In one of her matches during her freshman year, Mbagwu slammed a total of 30 points, outmatching her superiors. Within only a year, Mbagwu climbed the ranks within the basketball varsity team of Stockdale, earning her an MVP award and All-Area Honorable Mention. Apart from these accolades, Mbagwu participated in county competitions where she championed for two consecutive years and was invited to compete in all-star matches twice.
According to her, being an athlete means a continuous pursuit of knowledge, in theory, and practice. Mbagwu surrounds herself with like-minded people so that she can learn from them. The ‘mutualistic effect’ that emerges from her work ethics allowed her to become a standout player in the Stockdale High School basketball varsity team. Mbagwu made sure to assume her responsibilities on the court and inside the classroom. She aced her subjects with a 3.8 GPA under the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, this while being an active member of the Black Student Union (BSU) of the campus.
In many instances, Mbagwu came across basketball legend Kobe Bryant. Their first meeting was two years ago. She participated in a tournament in Los Angeles, where the Mambas were also participating. Gianna Bryant, Kobe’s daughter, played before them, so Mbagwu thought that the legend would immediately leave. “Minutes later, my coach starts walking towards me. He taps on my shoulder and says, ‘Kobe wants to talk to you.’ Hearing those words come out of my coach’s mouth made my mind spin with so many emotions.” During their conversation, in what would become Mbagwu’s most memorable moment of her life, Kobe expressed his astonishment for her plays. He went on to wish for the young athlete to enter the WNBA.
A year later, the same thing happened. Mbagwu said, “I still have that encounter with him engraved in my mind, but I thought it would be long forgotten in his.” For Mbagwu, it came as a surprise that Kobe would still recognize her after a year. “It’s so surreal to me that he even recognized me considering the fact that tons and tons of fans approach him every day,” Mbagwu said in jest.
Twice in a row, Mbagwu got inspired by how a legendary basketball superstar believed in her abilities. She uses this to up her game. In the same year, when she met Kobe, she tested all the male competitors for a 1v1 tournament during UCLA’s Boys Camp. “I just simply outworked them, and all the coaches were in awe, but this was nothing new to me since I play in a boys league in my hometown.”
Mbagwu understands that the landscape is always changing. And her co-players are also trying their best to update their skills. To this, she said, “Every day, I strive to reverse my weaknesses into strengths by continuing to work on my craft.”
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