Maryland Leaving Impression on 2023 Center

After winning a state championship with North Carolina’s The Burlington School last season, three-star center Michael Nwoko continues to impress heading into the season.

The 6-foot-10, 235-pounder averaged 14 points and nine rebounds for The Burlington School Spartans (30-7) as they won their second straight CISAA 2A State Championship when they beat the Trinity Academy Tigers (26-4, 8-0 NCISAA Tri-TAC) 57-45.

“That I’m a lot better than I think I am. Before offers started rolling in, I would question myself, is this really for me? Am I this good? I finally got the exposure that I’ve been wanting. Over my junior season, my confidence picked up a whole lot.”

After that spring, Nwoko followed his head coach, Ryan Bernardi, and two other Spartan assistants to California’s Prolific Prep of Napa Christian. The Crew went 26-6 last season as Nwoko announced the move in late June.

“I feel like I could bring a whole lot of energy. Prolific Prep is being looked at as such a – All the high-level basketball players go there. I’m not even in the top 150, I don’t know how, but I’m not even in the top 150. I’m going to get paid to do what I do. [That means] rebound, dunk the ball, I’m going to do my job and bring the energy off the bench [if need be]. Even if I start, it doesn’t even matter. I’m going to do my job and do what it takes to become a national champion.”

The Ontario, Canada, native had the great opportunity to represent Canada in the FIBA Americas in June. He averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with a 20-point and seven-rebound performance in the 81-57 win against Argentina for third place.

“I mean, it felt really good. It’s just something that a lot of people don’t get to do. I feel like I’ve been placed in a special position to be successful. I’ve just got to thank God at the end of the day,” Nwoko said about the FIBA Americas experience. “It was also different because FIBA had different rules and stuff like that. [I had some] adjusting to do, but yeah, it was a good experience.”

Michael Nwoko is the 138th best player nationally, 20th best player in California, and 14th best center according to On3 and holds offers from Maryland, Providence, Tennessee, UCLA, NC State, Vanderbilt, Oregon, Miami, Georgetown, Houston, and others. “Rebounding. I’m the best offensive rebounder in the country, to be honest. Rebounds overall are my main thing. That’s how I will be paid at the end of the day. I still love the game, but it’s rebounding; I like doing it,” Nwoko said about the best part of his game.”

Perimeter shooting is an emphasis for Nwoko as he looks to gain more confidence in his jump shot. He knows that becoming a better shooter at all three levels will set him apart from other players.

He and Maryland Terrapins assistant coach Tony Skinn have a connection due to their African roots as Nigerians and representing national teams at the FIBA level. He also was excited about earning a scholarship from the program on July 2.

“Tony Skinn has been following me for a good amount of time. We have that Nigerian connection, so I feel we bond as a player to coach much better. Not a whole lot better, but a good amount. Some things he understands, as an African kid [with] African parents that come from Africa, and stuff like that. He gets the culture and stuff. It was great because I know Maryland is a great school, and it’s somewhere I could possibly see myself. It was really cool getting that offer and probably the opportunity to go there.”

Nwoko added that Skinn, who was hired as an assistant to Kevin Willard’s staff back in March, gives him a player-coach relationship vibe because he’s available when Nwoko has questions about recruiting. Nwoko sees their relationship as about more than basketball.

“They said I’ll come in and play a lot and contribute from day one, and they’ll help me develop into a better player than I already am. They were like, the main picture is, you’ll come in, automatically contribute, and we’re trying to develop you into the best player, and we can get you in the league as soon as possible.”

Nwoko said that he likes that Maryland’s coaching staff checks in with him regularly and shows up to his games. To Nwoko’s point about them wanting to develop him into the best player, they do so by giving him constructive criticism about his game. “They’re not saying I’m the perfect player, but they’re there to help me. So yeah, that’s been the main thing. They keep telling me, “Listen, you come here; you’re going to start contributing from day one.”

Nwoko believes his skill set can fit into anyone’s style of play because he plays hard. He knows Willard and Skinn like to see that in players they recruit. Basketball history and program success are two key things that matter to Nwoko. They’ll play a big part in his decision. Despite not reaching a Final Four, Maryland has had plenty of NCAA Tournament success.

Maryland also has the second-highest Nigerian population behind Texas, which gives Nwoko a good feeling. “It’s almost as if I’m home. I feel like that would play a big part, the culture, the possibilities, just a whole bunch of things you could play a part in, especially with such a great location like that.”

Nwoko is still weighing other options and has not yet solidified a top five list or official visit schedule. He is also being pursued by UCLA, Providence, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Miami.