ISU's Okoro plays through family tragedy
AMES (AP) — Nkereuwem Okoro rose and let the ball fly from his fingertips, just like he had countless times while playing with his brother Idiongo in the Bronx.
Okoro's teammates leapt with joy when his shot went in, and the Iowa State fans who had waited out a blowout victory reacted as if Okoro had won the game at the buzzer.
It was a meaningless 3-pointer, yet it meant everything to Okoro.
It was the first career 3 for the 19-year-old Iowa State freshman guard who goes by Kerwin, and it gave him a brief respite from a pair of family tragedies even as it capped an 87-53 victory over TCU on Saturday.
It was the first action since December for Okoro, who had just returned from Idiongo's funeral in New York. His death at 28 from colon cancer came two months after their 72-year-old father, Stanislaus Okoro, died of a stroke, Okoro said.
"It was more than a shot, to be honest with you. Inside I felt like cheesing, but I just kept my game face on," Okoro said. "It really meant a lot, getting a standing ovation and seeing my teammates, how excited they were for me. ... I know this is more than a basketball program. It's really like a family."
Family has taken on a new meaning for Okoro.
His father began shuttling between New York and his native Nigeria to help with family matters in Africa when Okoro was 8. When his relationship with his father became distant, Idiongo stepped into the void.
Idiongo was a former high school star whose dreams of playing major college basketball were shattered when he tore his ACL during his senior year. So he pushed his younger brother into basketball. Thanks in large part to his big brother’s tutelage, Okoro began to blossom at prep powerhouse St. Raymond’s High.
A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Okoro averaged 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds a game as a junior and emerged as a legitimate Division I prospect. He entertained offers from Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, Arizona and others before choosing Iowa State.
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