Much has been written about the backgrounds of South Sudanese transfer students Akim Nyang, Makur Puou and Mangisto Deng for the Mooseheart boys basketball team, but another of the Ramblers’ key players, 6-foot-4 junior guard Hameed Odunewu, also was born in Africa. Odunewu, though, has been in the country much longer, moving from Nigeria at age 2 before growing up on the southwest side of Chicago. Odunewu, who has been at Mooseheart since 2005, spoke with Chronicle sports editor Jay Schwab for this week’s Weekend Chit-chat, in which he discussed today’s Batavia Night of Hoops matchup with Bartonville Limestone, an upcoming showdown against the state’s top-ranked team, Curie, and his goals going forward. The following is an edited transcript:
How much discipline does it take to stay focused and concentrate when you guys are up 30, 40 points so often?
It takes a lot because with us, we have the mindset that we always want to work hard. When we play, we don’t look at the score, we just want to keep working hard. Every possession is a new ballgame, zero-zero. We want to go out there and just work hard continuously.
Playing a team like Limestone on Saturday, do you consider you guys to be the underdog in that game?
It’s weird … it’s just a toss-up game, I would think, because we’re both good teams but we just play completely differently. It’s just going to be an exciting game with two different styles of play going at each other. If we win it’s going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, Mooseheart beat Limestone,’ and if they win it’s going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, Limestone beat Mooseheart.’ So either way, whoever wins, it’s going to be a shock.
What do you remember most about the summer game you guys played against Curie?
Probably when I dunked on [Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander]. That’s probably what I remember most out of that game. And just watching him play and watching how good he was.
How did that play come about when you ended up dunking on Alexander?
We had gotten a rebound, Mangisto got a rebound and passed the ball up to me, and it was a 2-on-1 fast break with me and Akim, and Cliff was down there in the paint. I saw Akim, and then I was just like, ‘Whatever,’ and I jumped up and dunked it. Because I remember coach was telling me, I missed so many layups, he was like, ‘Forget layups, just dunk the ball,’ and I just jumped up. He was between me and the rim and I said, ‘Why not?’ and just went for it. So, yeah, it was kind of exciting doing that.
How much feedback did you get after that from friends and everyone?
Oh yeah, everybody was jumping up. The thing was at first I just thought he was another big guy playing, and then I found out who he was and how good he was, and that just made everything so much better. But then like the next four possessions he came down and dunked it like every, single time, so all I did was tick him off a little bit.
How have you enjoyed your time at Mooseheart?
I’m definitely trying to make the most out of it. My mindset here is that I want to be here, graduate and when I graduate, not only take what they’ve given me and make the most of it, but I also want to give back. … It’s a small school so there aren’t a lot of people that can go out there and make something big out of themselves, so I want to be one of those people that can do that.