By ADAM ZAGORIA & JOSH VERLIN
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard continued to build on his stellar 2014 recruiting class with the commitment of Michael Nzei, a 6-foot-8, 195-pound power forward/center from Our Savior New American.
Nzei committed to the Pirates after visiting two weeks ago, becoming their sixth pledge in 2014.
“He’s a young Kenneth Faried,” one source said. “He plays hard with a lot of energy and athleticism.”
“Mike is a versatile forward who brings a high level of energy to the court and can be an asset on both ends of the floor,” Willard said. “We are thrilled to have him join our family here at Seton Hall. Mike certainly complements this recruiting class well and adds another option to our front court.”
Nzei joins guards Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington, wing Desi Rodriguez and forwards Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo in the Pirates’ loaded 2014 class.
“Shaheen Holloway did a great job of recruiting Mike throughout the year,” Our Savior assistant Eric Jaklitsch said. “Seton Hall has good academics, it’s a Catholic school, it’s in the Big East East and they have good development coaches. It was everything Mike was looking for.”
Seton Hall is now one over the limit of 13 scholarships but it appears that won’t last for long.
Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey reported that power forward Patrik Auda of the Czech Republic is looking at playing professionally overseas next season, meaning Seton Hall would have one more scholarship for Nzei.
The 6-9 Auda averaged 9.6 points and 4.5 rebounds last season when he missed seven games with a foot injury.
His departure paves the way for Nzei, who had offers from Dayton, South Florida, Virginia Tech and Manhattan, with interest from Temple and George Washington.
“I want a good team, a good coach where I can learn,” Nzei said at the recent Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest where he helped the New Heights 17U team win the title. “I need to improve my game a lot, I just need a good environment, where it’s all basketball and a good school too. I just want to improve my game and go to school.”
Nzei, who’s been playing basketball for five years, came to the States two years ago. He’s been playing for Our Savior for the last two years, getting a chance to go up against players like high-major forward Chieck Diallo in practice day after day. He landed at Our Savior because he was friendly in Nigeria with current St. John’s forward Chris Obekpa, who also played there.
“Playing at Our Savior is tough competition, so [Jaklitsch] tells me to play hard, play for our school,” he said. “Just playing hard and wanting to win all the time, I don’t want to give up.”
Nzei is a high-motor power forward with good hands and an athletic frame who does a lot of the dirty work inside. He gives Seton Hall another prodigious rebounder inside along with Delgado. Nzei currently ranks fifth on the Under Armour circuit with 7.2 rebounds per game.
“Michael Nzei is one of the better rebounders in the country,” Jaklitsch told SNY.tv last summer. “He is a quick leaper who is able to get off the floor in a hurry to grab rebounds.
“He has a non-stop motor and plays every play like it’s his last. He would rather win than breathe.
Nzei has also showed the ability to step out and hit a mid-range jumper.
“Before I got here, my coach was like, people say I can’t shoot,” he said. “So we went out to the gym, we worked on my shot, and now I’ve been shooting the ball. People say you can’t do something, I just want to go out there and start doing it.”