The record speaks for itself.
In the past four seasons, Huntley’s boys basketball team was 82-21 in games in which Amanze Egekeze played. That’s a winning percentage of .796.
Egekeze started as a spindly 6-foot-5 shot-blocking, role-playing freshman and blossomed into a dominant NCAA Division I recruit who could take over games on both ends.
No matter what part Egekeze played, however, there usually was winning involved.
“Winning is not just something you do,” Egekeze said, “it’s really a skill. From a young age, for me winning was important. I truly think it’s a skill.”
If that is the case, Egekeze and Huntley mastered that skill just like they had shooting, ballhandling, defending and rebounding. The Red Raiders finished 21-8 this season, won their fourth consecutive Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship and third Class 4A regional title in four years.
Egekeze, the 6-8 forward headed to Belmont, was the driving force, averaging 17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots a game. He is the first FVC boys player to play on four straight conference or division champions and is the 2014 Northwest Herald Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
The honor is voted on by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Joining Egekeze on the All-Area first team are Cary-Grove’s Jason Gregoire, Jacobs’ Chrishawn Orange, Marian Central’s Adam Pischke and Crystal Lake South’s Austin Rogers.
Named to the second team were Prairie Ridge’s Michael Bradshaw, Hampshire’s Ryan Cork, Huntley’s Zach Gorney, Richmond-Burton’s Sam Kaufman and Marengo’s Zach Knobloch.
Egekeze shot 49.4 percent from the field, 75.3 percent from the free-throw line and finished his career with 1,114 points. He was a difficult matchup because he could handle the ball well, hit outside shots and also take command inside.
Huntley coach Marty Manning considers Egekeze a coach’s dream in every way.
“He never took anything for granted in practice, he worked hard every day on his game,” Manning said. “That was really important for our guys to see how committed he was, to know you have to practice hard every day to accomplish the goals we wanted to.
“He is the perfect role model for a basketball program. You want kids to excel athletically and academically, and really commit themselves to the game and the team. He really did that. He’ll be sorely missed for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”
Egekeze missed the first 13 games of his junior season after undergoing surgery on his right knee to relieve patellar tendinitis. He returned for the second half to help the Raiders to their third division title in a row. This season, he took his game to another level, although he remained quite unselfish with his play, averaging 14 shots a game.
“A lot of players with my ability would say they should be getting more shots, but in the bigger scheme of things, I feel it would be sending the wrong message to my team and often would be detrimental to what we were trying to do,” Egekeze said. “I could live with us losing, but I couldn’t live with knowing I could have been more aggressive. At the end of games, I had to say to myself, ‘At least I took those shots and was aggressive.’ I think I did a good job of being assertive and also deferring and playing within the system.”
Forward Riley Wicks thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing with Egekeze.
“He’s one of the fiercest competitors on our team and he’s probably one of the best players to come out of the Fox Valley Conference in a long time,” Wicks said. “He led mostly by example. He’s definitely one of the hardest workers on our team.”
Wicks and the other Huntley players look forward to seeing Belmont, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, on TV and possibly in the NCAA tournament.
Manning thinks Egekeze has just scratched the surface of what he can do.
“The things that he needs right now are things that high school programs can’t provide,” Manning said. “Specific one-on-one workouts to get him stronger, one-on-one skill developments he’ll get and playing against other Division I players every day.”
Egekeze will get that starting in June. He will head to Belmont, in Nashville, a week after graduation and enroll in summer classes. There, he will work out with his teammates and prepare for his freshman year.
He will take with him lessons from Manning and past Huntley players such as Dylan Neukirch, Tyler Brunschon, Justin Frederick, Troy Miller and Bryce Only, along with his teammates this season, all who played roles in all that winning.
“I’m proud of the strides we’ve made with the guys I grew up playing with,” Egekeze said. “I was just glad to be a part of history at our school. It’s been a great experience.”