Ikechukwu in the Ibo language from South-Eastern Nigeria translates to “the power of God”. For Quinnipiac’s student athlete, Ikechukwu “Ike” Azotam, the 6’7 power forward has come a long way, determined to prove that it is by the power of God that he is able stand firm despite all the trials and tribulations he has endured during his journey into the intricate world of basketball. Like most first generation Nigerian-Americans, Ike’s parents came to America from Nigeria as teenagers with a hope for a better future.
“I was born and raised by my two parents Ben and Ada Azotam in Boston Massachusetts, I am the youngest of four, (with) two older brothers Dozie and Uche, and an older sister Adaorah. My parents were born in Nigeria and moved to the States in their 20s”
Growing up in Boston, Ike did not take basketball seriously until his Senior year at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, “I picked up a basketball in about 5th grade” Ike said to TNB, “I figured I could be pretty good at it when I got a huge growth spurt going into 9th grade”. The Boston basketball circuit gave Ike the exposure that he needed to progress to the next level, he already had the physical tools, and the strong will to succeed, however, he needed to refine his skills to be ranked amongst the best in his category.
With the help of his High School and AAU coaches, Ike was able to add more skill to his game, work on his jump shot, and exhibit a combination of inside outside scoring to the approval of scouts from across the nation. With an improved all round skill set, top College programs started to take notice, including the likes of Sacred Heart, Hartford, James Madison and more, Ike decided to attend Quinnipiac, basing his decision on their strong academic focus.
Ike’s transformation at the Collegiate level is one that takes it foundation from his strong will to succeed, and his attitude to hard work, he went from averaging 5.1 points, and 5.4 rebounds per game in his freshman year to almost doubling his rebounding, and tripling his scoring averages to 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as a Sophomore.
“It didn’t come as too much of a surprise because I knew if I worked hard and kept a good circle I could do some special things on the court. I’ve been doubted all my life and critiqued negatively but I’ve succeeded on the court in all the places I’ve played so the growth from freshman year wasn’t too surprising, it actually didn’t hit me how much better my stats were from freshman year to sophomore year.”
Ike understands what it’s like having to start from the bottom to establish himself as a dominant force in the College game, he understands that he still has a long way to go to be recognised amongst the best in his category, thus he uses his life experience, and the journey his family has endured as a stimulus for success.
“My biggest motivational factor on the court is proving I belong. When I was in high school I could count on my hands how many people thought I could have this type of success here at Quinnipiac. Crazy enough, a couple coaches believed that I wasn’t even a division one player, so proving them wrong makes me feel good and it humbles me. I also want my family to be proud of me and I know they are because I’m in school making the Azotam name look good.”
As far as Conference play is concerned, Quinnipiac would be relying on strong leadership play from Ike Azotam to give them a chance of contending for the NEC title, they finished in 5th position last season with a 10-8 record, but they return a team with a strong front court, valuable experience, and solid young talent.
“I really want to make it to the NCAA tournament, the individual stats are good but basketball is a team game and I want to take my team as far as possible.” Currently ranked fourth in the conference in the pre-season polls, basketball analysts feel that Quinnipiac have the ability to be major contenders in the NEC.
Ike still maintains aspects of his Nigerian roots, when asked about his favourite Nigerian meal, the Boston native simply replied “Fufu, my mom makes it the best”. Regardless of what happens this season, it is very clear that Ike Azotam’s growth in the game embodies his strong family togetherness, and his attitude to hard work, two qualities he will need as he sees out his final years at the Quinnipiac program, proving that he truly belongs.