Melvin Ejim Reaching New Heights Despite Flying Under National Radar

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Courtesy: AP Photo/John Bazemore

BRAMPTON, ON–The basketball journey for Melvin Ejim (Brampton, ON) has been a bouncy one to say the least. He attended three different high schools in Brampton’s very own St. Augustine, St. Mary’s Ryken in Leonardtown, MD, and finally Brewster Academy of Wolfeboro, NH where he earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors.

Constantly transferring schools and being away from home forced Ejim to adapt to new environments and develop a tough mental state evidenced by his resiliency on the court.

Moving around from place to place was not always something Ejim wanted to do but instead it was driven by a purpose. His ultimate goal coming out of high school was to obtain a division 1-basketball scholarship at a school that would provide comprehensive athletic training while allowing him to maintain his studious nature in the classroom.

In order to achieve this goal, it seemed rightfully necessary to allow Melvin to pair-up as well as compete with some of the best players in the country at that time. Some of his notable high school teammates include: fellow Canadians Taevaun Prince (South Dakota State) and Maurice Walker (Minnesota) as well as CJ Fair (Syracuse), Givon Crump (Baylor), Will Barton (Memphis), and Thomas Robinson (Sacramento Kings).

With recruitment picking up his senior season, Ejim broke down his list of schools and found Iowa State to be the perfect fit for a myriad of reasons. The 6’6 rebounding machine told NPH he ultimately decided to open the next chapter of his life in Ames, Iowa because of the opportunity to play right away for a coach he sincerely respected.

“I was really pleased with the vibe I got from campus and the type of community they have here at Iowa State. I also built a really strong relationship with all the coaches and that just made me really want to go here.”

It was clear Ejim made the right choice, as he entered his freshman season and found immediate success on the court. He started in 30 games while averaging 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, becoming one of just 12 Iowa State freshmen in school history to average double figures. Although the team success (16-16) was not complimented by his stellar performance, Ejim continued to grow as a player and helped push his squad through adversity.

The sophomore campaign for this young stud was capped with a 9.3-point and 6.6 rebounding average in addition to a NCAA tournament berth. Ejim’s numbers may have shifted slightly but they were still impressive considering he was playing alongside Royce White, a 2012 first round NBA draft pick. The Cyclones finished the season with a solid 22-10 record, losing in the round of 32 to eventual National Champions Kentucky.

The 2012 tournament run was not enough to satisfy this hungry 230 lbs physical specimen. Ejim worked all summer to make strides in his game; he wanted to improve his consistency and did so by not keying in on one or two aspects of his game but by striving to become a more complete player both offensively and defensively.

“This past offseason I really focused on improving my handles, my jumpshot, and overall just becoming a more complete and consistent player. I like to give my all on both ends of the floor so my defense and rebounding was also something I worked on.”

His hard work in the off-season definitely paid off and it has shown in his numbers early in the 2012-2013 campaign.

Ejim is averaging 11.0 ppg while leading the Big 12 in rebounds with 9.3 per contest despite only standing 6’6. His tenacity on the glass is unparalleled by any other forward in the nation. When asked about why he is so effective rounding up the boards and racking up double-doubles (his 11 career double-doubles are the most of anyone in the Big 12), he acknowledges people that helped him along his journey but at the same time feels rebounding stems from innate instinct.

“I don’t think rebounding is something that can be taught, you just have to have to go out and get the ball. People along the way can definitely help you improve but all my coaches told me its all about hard-work and effort. At the end of the day it’s about how much heart you have and who really wants the ball more.”

The Cyclones are currently sailing smoothly with an 8-3 record and Ejim is coming off a 21 point, 11-rebound performance in an 86-77 victory over the Drake Bulldogs in the Big 4 Classic that took place in Des Moines, Iowa.

His recent success on the court has garnered the attention of major NCAA analysts and also earned him the title for this week’s Big 12 player of the week. Many still believe that Ejim is flying under the national radar and should be recognized as a more prominent athlete in the NCAA. However, his humble beginnings don’t let media attention or the lack thereof affect his mind state and the way he approaches the game.

“I guess I may be flying under the radar but I really don’t pay much attention to that stuff. I’m glad people may be trying to promote me but I’m used to flying under the radar, its something that’s been happening all my life. No matter what, I’m still going to play my game and continue to improve myself each and every day.”

Being one of the top players in the Big 12 Conference and the motor for a promising Iowa State squad, Ejim vows to do everything in his power for his team to reach the highest level of success.

“I know there is a lot of responsibility resting on my shoulders this season but this is a team game. We have to find our type of basketball and play that way as much as we can and also to the best of our ability. We need to come together and prepare, practice, and play like a unit and that’s how we will be able to reach our goals for this season.”

With Ejim’s non-stop motor and conviction to reach new heights, it does not seem unfathomable for Iowa State fans to see Melly Mell as their shining beacon of hope. Don’t be surprised to see the Brampton product and his program wrecking brackets and causing madness come March.

Nazareth Long, a former Canadian high school standout and Findlay prep alum also joins the Cyclones as a freshman on their journey through the 2012-13 season.

For their next game, ISU travels to Kansas City to take on the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) of The Summit League. Expect Ejim to bring it, as he always has been.

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