As a basketball player at Idaho State, Chidi Udengwu built his value through his role as a high-energy, hard-working, aggressive spark plug who played with no fear and crashed the boards.
He hopes that translates to a shot in the NBA.
Udengwu is hiring an agent and pursuing the NBA Draft process, he announced Monday night on Twitter.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in the NBA since I was young and am excited to take this next step towards my goal,” his Twitter post read. “My journey will be inspiring to kids and athletes all over the globe.”
Udengwu averaged 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game as a senior during the 2019-20 season. He played in all 30 games for the Bengals, starting 13, and ranked second on the team in rebounds despite ranking sixth in minutes.
The 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward also has experience as a ball-handler and offensive tone-setter. He was a point guard at San Bernardino Community College before transferring to Idaho State in 2018.
“Chidi Udengwu was our most vocal player from the start of the year to finish,” ISU head coach Ryan Looney said of Udengwu being named most inspirational. “We could count on him to have great energy every day. It was a joy to coach him.”
Udengwu isn’t a traditional NBA prospect. His playstyle doesn’t fit that of today’s 6-foot-7 NBA player — he was 0 for 1 on 3-pointers at ISU — and Idaho State isn’t known for producing NBA talent.
But Udengwu hopes to join the list of players who have flourished in complementary roles that divert from traditional norms.
“A lot of people come into the NBA looking to just score 30 points,” Udengwu said in an interview with the Idaho State Journal. “But there’s players like James Harden on a team that are just looking for players like P.J. Tucker that are 6-foot-6 and are going to rebound and do their role. That’s really what I specialize in, is my role.”
If the NBA doesn’t come calling, Udengwu could still get a shot in the G League — the NBA’s developmental/minor league. He hopes that the basketball connections he builds through his agent — as well as his own — help him land an opportunity.
“The agent is your connection. The agent schedules the workouts, schedules who you get in contact with and whatnot,” Udengwu said. “I’ve been doing a lot of personal branding on my own. I’ve been talking to sports public relations people, sports marketing people and whatnot, so that’s been in the works.”
It’s still unknown how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the draft process. The NBA Draft Combine is scheduled for May 21, and the draft is slated for June 25, but both events may be altered or postponed.
Teams also schedule workouts with prospects in between the combine and the draft, but those too could be compromised.
Udengwu said that with the uncertain timeline, he’ll continue working out and building his resume from his home in Southern California.
“I’m just staying ready,” Udengwu said.
Idaho State has not had a player drafted since Mike Williams in 1984, but Udengwu isn’t pursuing his dream with that history in mind.
He’s betting on himself and “believing in the work that you put in day in and day out, that’s pretty much what I’ve done,” he said.
“To the Bengal nation, I want to thank them for everything,” Udengwu added. “My first year was really rough, but I’m glad that they stayed with me through the second year and I’m forever grateful to them for that. I’ll always love Bengal nation.”