WALK-ON CHRONICLES: PITT'S ARON NWANKWO
by Lauren Kirschman
It’s a lesson every college student has to learn: keeping an equilibrium between school work, a social life, extracurricular activities and every once and while, a good night’s sleep.
It’s also a lesson that Aron Nwankwo had to master immediately.
Nwankwo, a freshman on the Pittsburgh men’s basketball team, juggles walking-on to one of the nation’s top squads with a full academic scholarship and a major in pre-Med. For Nwankwo, that means a lot of late nights.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” he said. “You’ve got to manage your time wisely.”
Now in his second semester at Pitt, Nwankwo said he’s used to the time management required in order to keep up with his school work. His solution to handling what could be an overwhelming load is simple: it’s all about discipline. When he needs to get work done, he gets it done.
But that doesn’t mean Nwankwo doesn’t occasionally fall victim to the slayer of many college students’ good intentions.
“I procrastinate sometimes,” he admitted. “Then I have to punish myself and stay up late.”
For Nwankwo, it’s all worth it. He’s planned to go into the medical field since he was young. He came into college undecided on exactly the direction he wanted to take, but now he’s leaning toward sports medicine.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to be a surgeon or just a regular physician,” he said. “I’m still figuring it out.”
Whatever he decides, there’s little doubt Nwankwo will work toward the goal with the same tenacity he puts forth both in the classroom and on the basketball court. He said his academic focus comes from a combination of his parents’ guidance and his personality.
“Everything I do: education, sports, whatever—I want to be the best,” he said.
Nwankwo had the opportunity to play on scholarship at other universities as Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 schools, including Johns Hopkins, Penn State, Elon and NJIT, recruited him out of high school. But academics were his first priority.
“I chose here [Pittsburgh] because I liked the school best and I got to play basketball, so I didn’t really pursue the other schools that were recruiting me,” he said.
Nwankwo attended Baltimore City College High School and he said Pitt also appealed to him because it wasn’t too far from home. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA and played for a Black Knights team that won two consecutive Class 2A state titles.
He was the Baltimore Basketball Academy’s 2010 Scholar Athlete and played in the Baltimore City vs. County Senior All-Star Game. Nwankwo said he couldn’t have imagined ending his basketball career after high school and when Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon offered him a walk-on spot after the Pitt JamFest AAU tournament, he didn’t have to.
He’s seen action in eight games this season and played a total of 13 minutes, netting his first collegiate point on a free throw against Delaware State on Dec. 12. Nwankwo said his role as a walk-on is to help the Panthers improve.
“Just bringing it in practice, you know, work hard and get other people better,” he said. “Provide emotional support and all that. When you get the chance to be on the court, just play hard.”
So far, Nwankwo said he’s happy with his college decision, but it hasn’t been easy.
“Everything’s been working,” he said. “It’s challenging me, definitely. I like the challenge. It’ll help me in the future.”
He’s already aced a skill it’ll take some college students four years to acquire.
Lauren Kirschman is a Senior Staff Writer with the Pitt News. Look for more contributions from Laren in the future with the NBE Basketball Report as we welcome her as our newest contributor.
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