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Nigerian Student Scores on and off the Court

First of three parts.

Good things come in small packages, the adage goes. Sometimes, they come in big packages, too, like with Greens Farms Academy sophomore Sean Obi. At 6 feet, 9 inches and 235 pounds, the 16-year-old from Nigeria is one of the top players in the Fairchester Athletic Association and in the state. His athletic accomplishments are only part of the story of the young man who has captured the hearts of the Greenwich family with whom he lives and of the GFA community.

"He radiates this joy. He has this calm inner presence about him all the time,'' says Bobbi Eggers, whose family, including husband Steve, son Hunter and daughter Maddie, has become Sean's U.S. family.

Sean's parents and five siblings live in Nigeria, and he speaks to them regularly. He was born in Kaduna, but the family moved to Anambra in 2000 amid unrest and rioting that left 11,000 people homeless. By age 12, Sean had attracted the interest of elite basketball coaches. He was recruited to play at the Zinix Basketball Academy and attended an elite school in Kaduna, where the educational opportunities were much higher. He excelled in school and the basketball program.

With his family's approval, Sean's coaches encouraged him to come to the United States. Steve Eggers, an oil trader, already had some basketball contacts in Nigeria. "His coach said I have the next LeBron James here,'' Steve said. "I said they're all the next LeBron James."

Steve and Bobbi had considered hosting a player, and GFA coach Doug Scott encouraged them. "I had a sense he'd be a good player,'' Scott said. "I had a real good sense it'd be a great experience for a host family."

Obi has also had a dramatic impact on the GFA basketball team. Entering Wednesday's game against Masters, the Dragons are 10-3 and riding a school record eight-game winning streak. Obi is averaging nearly 21 points and 16 rebounds per game. Obi also enjoys setting up his teammates with assists, and his defensive influence changes the game as much as anything.

"If you look at our last three or four games, we've held teams to their lowest point total of the year,'' Scott said. "We're doing it with our defenses. Having Sean back there unleashes everyone else to be incredibly disruptive. It's not really about his scoring. He makes us better than that." What's the best thing about playing at GFA for Sean? "Having Hunter playing on the same team,'' he said.

Obi has attracted Division I coaches, but he's not looking that far ahead just yet. "I want to play for GFA first,'' Sean said. As for the next level, I leave it to God."

Coming tomorrow: Transitioning to Greens Farms

Have you seen Sean Obi play for Greens Farms Academy? How good is he? Leave a comment below!

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