Lehigh Hoops Nation, as part of the continuing effort to get everyone prepared and ready for the ’13-’14 edition of Lehigh Basketball, was fortunate enough to chat with sophomore forward Jesse Chuku in an attempt to get Mountain Hawk fans familiar with Jesse before he hits the court for the first time in his Lehigh career. Special thanks to Jesse for taking the time to chat!
Q.) With England being known for their soccer prowess and passion, how did you first get introduced to the game of basketball?
A.) Growing up, I spent lots of time playing soccer (or football as we call it). I tried to imitate the popular stars at the time like David Beckham and Thierry Henry. However, my body just wasn’t well suited for the sport. As I towered above most of my peers, I looked towards basketball where I realized I may have an advantage by using my height and long limbs.
Q.) Where do your athletic genes come from?
A.) As strange as it may seem, I don’t seem to have any. I am by far the tallest in my family and the only athlete.
Q.) When you left London in 2010 to come to America and play at Kimball Union Academy in NH, was the goal to get exposure to college coaches here in the US to play D-I hoops?
A.) Yes, I always dreamed of attending and playing in an American School. Sometimes when I look back, it amazes me how I even did it. I knew I was good enough to play in college, but I had no one to compare myself to know if I was good enough for Division I. Though, when I arrived on American soil it became clearer that I didn’t belong anywhere else.
Q.) Jesse, you got sick soon after arriving at KUA and missed your first basketball season away from home, yet some colleges wanted you to enroll in 2011, talk us through your decision to do another year at KUA versus enroll in university?
A.) I still wanted to experience high school basketball in the States in order to feel more prepared to how the game is played over here.
Q.) Certainly your tough first year at KUA taught you how to deal with adversity, and did you take anything away from that experience to help you deal with having to sit out last year at Lehigh? How hard was it not playing last year with your LU hoops family?
A.) Most people who have had a near-death experience can tell you they returned with a new attitude towards life and I’m no different. My experience taught me how to not take my time for granted. When I sat out at KUA, I used the time to learn new things, I read, got to meet new people and experienced things I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to if I had been playing. So when I got to Lehigh, it was no different. I made many new friends, got involved in extra-curricular activities and had extra time to develop my basketball skills. I can’t say it was easy sitting on the sideline, but I made every effort to make sure it was time not wasted.
Q.) Since fans last saw you on the court last summer suiting up for Great Britain on the Under-20 team, I know you’ve been working hard on the court and in the weight room, so what improvements to your game are you most proud of?
A.) After thousands of repetitions over the last year, I’m proud of the progress I have made in improving the consistency of my shot. In addition, the improvement of my overall strength has made it much easier getting to and finishing at the rim with contact.
Q.) Many Lehigh fans have been clamoring for your debut for a long time, and it is exciting that it is so close, can you give a self-scouting report on your game for Lehigh fans?
A.) I see myself as a do-it-all type player who brings energy and intensity at all times.
Q.) What “current” NBA player best describes your style of play?
A.) Probably Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics.
Q.) What individual goals or expectations do you have for yourself in your first year of college hoops?
A.) I really want to establish myself as a player the team can trust in pressure situations to help the team win.
Q.) Tell us about yourself off the court?
A.) People are often deceived by my serious face, maybe thinking I’m unapproachable. I’m actually a lighthearted guy who gets along with almost anyone that understands my British sense of humor. Off the court, I’m usually listening to music, hanging out with friends or messing around with my computer. I’m very passionate about technology, music and anything that reminds me of England!
Thanks for taking the time to chat Jesse.