Jul 18, 2013 10:00 PM by Andrew Masuda
Cal Poly's motto is "Learn by Doing." We can all learn something from what Cal Poly basketball player Nwamaka Ofodu is doing. The Mustangs showed what happens with hard work and perseverance.
The 5 foot, 8 inch senior guard's contagious personality and smile are easy to spot. "I'm going into my fourth year here. I'm one of the team captains on the team this year and ya, everyone loves me," Ofodu said with a smile.
But in order to love her as a player, one needs to hear her story. Nwamaka started as a walk-on at St. Mary's in Moraga. But things didn't work out there and she wanted to move on to another Division I basketball program. " I literally sent out tons of emails to every coach in California and I didn't care where I was going," Ofodu said.
Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh was one of the first coaches to respond. But coach Faith said Ofodu struggled at the team's tryouts. "Initially she didn't make the team. So she came back up to my office and was in tears. And so we trained her a little bit, helped her be able to pass the tests and what a blessing," said coach Mimnaugh.
Nwamaka earned a spot on the team as a walk-on. But she played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore, less than 80 minutes combined.
She admits even she had some doubts. " I think the toughest honestly was just getting the respect of all the players, who were already here with them being on scholarship. I was just a normal human being wanting to play basketball," she recalled.
Last season, she got a chance to play. She emerged as one of the team's top defenders and became a key role player, who helped the Mustangs capture their first-ever Big West Conference Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth.
Years after initially not making the team, this one-time walk-on is finally reaping the rewards as a full scholarship player.
"Words can't describe how good it made me feel. And really the scholarship was more for my family showing how much I love them and appreciate everything they've given to me," Nwamaka said.
Ofodu is a rare story of perseverance, and an inspirational player, who's energy, enthusiasm and passion, we can all embrace.
"I think it's a testament to everybody who wants to work their butt off that there's opportunities there for you if you just continue to work and believe," said Mimnaugh, who added in her 16 years at Cal Poly had only seen a few walk-ons emerge like Ofodu.
"It's been the most incredible experience and I wouldn't change it for the world," said Ofodu.
As a junior, Nwamaka played in 28 games and compiled 236 minutes on the court. She made 59 percent of her shots from the field and averaged 1.7 points per game, all career-highs.
Her story is similar to that of Morro Bay High graduate Dylan Royer. The sharp-shooter went from a walk-on to a full scholarship player his senior year on the men's basketball team.
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