For King/Drew senior forward Fidelis Okereke, this was the season everything came together.
“He had been having a hard time with his identity because the game is very guard dominant,” King/Drew head coach Lloyd Webster said.
A year ago, Okereke took a three at the buzzer in the Golden Eagles’ 52-50 Division 1 playoff quarterfinal defeat to Fremont. The shot missed and King/Drew’s season ended.
“That wasn’t what we like him to do,” Webster said.
Okereke felt like he hadn’t lived up to his potential as a junior and that angered him. It was that misfire that transformed the 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward’s thinking. He knew he wasn’t a guard, so why was he playing like one?
“It clicked after that game,” Webster said. “He’s a really big physical specimen and he had to learn to play to his strengths and be comfortable with who he is. Once he became comfortable with his identity, he got more skilled around the basket and he worked on his post moves and his passing as well as becoming a defensive stopper.”
As a senior, Okereke averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game for a King/Drew team that made deep runs in both the LA City and CIF State playoffs. He had five triple-doubles on the year and was the City Section’s most consistent player. Not bad for someone who’s only been playing organized basketball for three years. Webster discovered his star player in ninth grade in his P.E. class.
Okereke describes his transformation from his junior season to his senior year in his own words below.
After that Fremont game I immediately went to the gym and I started looking at the many flaws I had. I didn’t feel like my body was right, I didn’t feel like I was fundamentally sound, I just felt disconnected and that game pushed me to do what was needed for my team for us to have a chance to win every game. My drive went up, I was running more, I was getting comfortable in my own body, I was learning more about defense, I changed my diet and I started watching a lot more basketball videos of Hakeem or Jordan trying to see how I could use their moves and make them into my own. Everyday in the summer I worked out for hours, pushing myself to be better, pushing myself to be stronger, staying in the gym until 11 p.m. or later trying to get my touch on my shot, improving my free throws, even improving my passing. Last year I was really raw but the stuff I did in the summer, the breakdowns of the moves I’ve learned, the court vision that I’ve gained, and my improved will to win with my team pushed me to be a better version of myself.
Okereke was a force in the Coliseum League this season leading the Golden Eagles to a 10-0 finish. In his two previous varsity seasons, Washington Prep was the team to beat in league. With Okereke leading King/Drew, they became the alpha in 2019-2020.
“Fidelis improved a lot from this year to last year, especially on the defensive end.” Washington Prep head coach Jovante King said. “It was a challenge going against him because he was closing in on layups fast. You’d think you’d have a wide open lay up and he’d just slap the ball away. He got a lot better offensively as well…He had our number this year.”
Okereke earned his first Division 1 scholarship offer from Binghamton earlier this month. Even though he’s a little undersized to potentially play the four in college, the King/Drew staff is hoping Okereke’s strength, athleticism and 6-foot-8 wing span will lead more college coaches to take a chance on him.
“We’re trying to sell him as a power forward … I’m very proud of him,” Webster said.
Okereke’s senior year will be remembered for his rim-rocking dunks and emphatic two-handed blocked shots. No one will remember his three point shots because he didn’t take any. The missed triple that ended his junior season was the last three Okereke attempted at the high school level. Now he’s the Player of the Year. Go figure.