Smyrna won’t have 7-2 center back for another run at state title

From the Sports editor

 

Andrew Mears definitely enjoyed watching Azubuike Nwankwo develop as a player last winter.

The 7-foot-2 newcomer to the Smyrna High boys’ basketball program went from being an unknown to being a major factor in helping the Eagles capture their first state title in March.

“In one year, he covered a lot of ground in regards to basketball,” said Mears, Smyrna’s coach.

But now Nwankwo will be fulfilling his basketball potential somewhere else.

Smyrna’s Azubuike Nwankwo slam dunks against Caravel in last year’s state finals./Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Mears confirmed on Tuesday the rumors that Nwankwo is no longer at Smyrna and has transferred to an out-of-state school. He would have been a senior at Smyrna this school year.

In a sports world where such moves aren’t uncommon any more, Mears took Nwankwo’s departure in stride.

“He was a great kid for us last year,” said Mears. “But, every year, kids move into the district, move out of the district. Obviously, in public schools, kids come and go. It is what it is.”

Nwankwo, who transferred to Smyrna from Kentucky before last school year, was a third-team All-State selection as a junior. But his considerable height made his prescence felt on the court, especially later in the season when he adjusted to Smyrna’s players and vice versa.

In the Eagles’ last three state tournament games, Nwankwo had a total of 15 blocked shots and 35 rebounds.

While the loss of Nwankwo clearly changes things for Smyrna, they do still return two of their top players in first-team All-Stater Caleb Matthews and junior forward Jaymeir Garnett, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Eagles’ state-final win over Caravel.

“The guys that we have in Smyrna are working hard,” said Mears. “They’re hitting the conditioning, the weight room, open gyms. … they’re full force and ready to go.

“We have a big target on our back. Between returning Caleb Matthews and Jaymeir Garnett, we’re going to be ready to go this year. We’re not sneaking up on anybody, that’s for sure.”

As for Nwankwo, there will probably be a lot of basketball fans around the state who will be interested to see how far his ability takes him.

“I just hope the best for him,” said Mears. “Being a young guy, the sky’s the limit. He’s got a lot ahead of him.”

Taking a knee

Caesar Rodney high grad Duron Harmon was one of many NFL people who took a knee before Sunday’s games.

The veteran New England Patriots safety then explained his actions during an interview on a local Boston TV station, WBZ-TV, on Sunday night.

First of all, Harmon said, neither he nor his teammates knelt down during the national anthem as a sign of disrepect toward anyone in the military or in law enforcement.

Harmon was joined in the gesture by teammates Devin McCourty and Brandin Cooks, among others, who said they did it as a sign of unity.

“While we took that knee a lot of people don’t realize, but we were praying,” Harmon said in the interview. “We all said a prayer just for our country.”

A number of fans in Gillette Stadium booed when the players knelt down. Harmon said he believes there’s just a lot of misunderstanding right now between people on both sides of the issue.

“We know they don’t understand why we are doing it,” Harmon said in the interview. “It’s two sides of the spectrum right now. We’re doing it for one reason and they want us to stand for another reason and all we’re asking it just to be understood.”

Odds & ends

  • It’s been a tough seasons for the Richmond women’s soccer team, but CR grad Lexi Prillaman scored her first goal of the season for the Spiders in a 1-1 tie with St. Bonaventure this week.

The senior forward has taken a team-high 25 shots this fall. Richmond teammate Brooke Beam, an Indian River grad, is third on the squad with 10 shots.

  • Austin Peay snapped its 29-game football losing streak by dumping Morehead State, 69-13, on Sept. 16. That’s bad news for Delaware State, which now has the country’s longest active NCAA Division I losing streak at 15 in a row.
  • Leddie Brown, the former Smyrna High football standout who transferred to Neumann-Goretti, Pa. for his senior year, ran for 119 yards and 12 carries in a 42-7 win over Bishop McDevitt last week. He had 15 carries for 75 yards the week before.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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