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Festus Ezeli said he advanced quickly in school and was promoted past the fifth and sixth grades by American standards at the private Igbinedion Education Center in Benin City. He actually earned his high school diploma just months from his 15th birthday. “The common knowledge of Africa is poverty, which we do have a lot of,” Ezeli said. “But the affluent and educated exist in Nigeria as well. My parents worked hard enough to send me to an international school. At the school I learned about different parts of the world. I learned to get out of a small-town mentality and to aspire to be great.”
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Festus Ezeli arrived to Sacramento standing 6-foot-8 with plenty of room left to grow. While school remained the focus, his uncle believed it made a lot of sense for his nephew to begin playing basketball, too. “[Ndulue] saw my height and said, ‘We could do something with this,’ ” Festus Ezeli said. “I told him that I came to America to be a doctor. He told me, ‘You can play basketball and use basketball to pay for your education.’ We all thought it was a good idea, but we didn’t realize how hard it would be.”
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Ezeli received 27 scholarship offers before narrowing his field to Boston College, Connecticut, Harvard and Vanderbilt. Ezeli’s parents thought it would be a dream come true for their son to get a Harvard education. In hopes of getting the best combination of school and basketball though, a strong-willed Ezeli chose Vanderbilt. “I didn’t think it was the best decision because I thought Harvard would give him the greatest opportunity in life,” Patricia Ada Ezeli said. “Most parents would think that for their children. But when he kept insisting about basketball, school and being able to play at the highest level of the sport, we said to ourselves, ‘School is always there. He can try it and if it doesn’t work out he can go back to school.’ “
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Ezeli is scheduled to depart from South Africa back to the United States on Aug. 6. He says his trip to Africa won’t be complete until he finally steps foot back in Nigeria. “Even if I can’t go right now, the fact that I can go back to Africa is exciting to me,” Ezeli said. “There are a lot of things I want to do in the world. With the trouble in Nigeria and things like that, I want to be able to help my country in some way. I don’t know how it’s going to be, but I want to help my country. But to be able to give back to the continent, this is an exciting first step.”
via Yahoo! Sports