CHARLESTOWN, Mass. -- Former ESPN Boston All-Stater Akosa Maduegbunam returned to Charlestown High this afternoon to sign his National Letter of Intent with Penn State, inside the school's gymnasium. Maduegbunam, a Hyde Park resident, committed to the Nittany Lions last June and finished up his high school career this past season at Winchendon School.
Maduegbunam addressed the media in a press conference at center court following his signing:
On choosing Penn State: "I'm a very family-oriented young gentleman, and Coach Chambers really harps on that. That made it comfortable for me to choose Penn State. The history of academics, they have really great programs. And lastly, who wouldn't want to play on the big stage, and the history of athletics that Penn State has?"
Why he is signing now instead of last November: "It was worth the wait. If I had did it earlier, I wouldn't have been able to celebrate with everyone back home here...(What was holding him back?) I would say SAT scores and stuff like that."
Clarification, from coach Edson Cardoso: "When Pat Chambers was at Boston University and then going over to Penn State, initially Boston University offered him his junior year. Through his clearinghouse process, he scored the right SAT scores. They initially had offered him before he even left for Winchendon...part of it was also paperwork, but I also think he wanted to wait it out and enjoy his high school season, then go on and sign."
What he's been working on at Winchendon: "Academically, I'm much more confident and stronger in the classroom. In terms of athletics, just a better overall basketball player. I feel like my IQ went up a lot, playing in a system, learning how to score, and learning team defense. A lot of stuff that I was playing for minutes this year, that will help me at the next level."
On his relationship with coach Pat Chambers at first: "Coach Chambers was a very energetic guy, almost too energetic for me at times [laughs]. I just love him. First impression was, this guy is great and can be a role model to me, like another male role model in my life."
What Chambers wants him to work on these next few months: "Just being a five-tool basketball player and being a great person, staying out of trouble. Playing defense, scoring the ball, rebounding, passing, running the floor, but being a great person too."
If he saw himself playing for BU had Chambers stayed at BU: "I get that question a lot. I can't say yes, because I always wanted to leave Boston. That was my goal, to leave Boston, so maybe not necessarily...This is my city, and I feel like I know it too well. I just wanted to grow up and live outside of the city, in a different town."
On being back in Charlestown today: "You mean getting permission from school to be here today? [Laughs] Because it's a blessing. I called Coach Cardoso this morning and said 'Where's this ceremony gonna be?' And he said 'In the gym', and I told him I had a dream it was going to be in the gym, so this is all too real. Everyone in this room, I'm grateful for. I thank God for the opportunity, everyone who has been here for me."
On tracking the higher-profile Big Ten recruits: "In terms of profile, I'm not a high-profile player, as many of you in this room already know. I was underrated then, I'm underrated now, and I think I will continue to like being underrated. It always shows that I will be able to prove myself better to people."
How he'll prepare himself for the Big Ten basketball: "Just be ready when it comes. I'm seeking the opportunity, and I've just got to go out and get it. I'm a go-getter. I've never shied away from opportunity. When opportunity comes, I've just got to go out and get it. I feel like I'm prepared now, and I'm ready."
On how much Cardoso is responsible for his success: "A lot. Coach Cardoso gave me an opportunity, and that's all I ask for -- an opportunity. He believed in me, and I just took it. I took the opportunity."
On this year's Charlestown squad and its run to the Division 1 state semifinals: "That still hurts, the fact that they came up short. Shout out to Tyrese Hoxter of course, that's my man -- and Rony [Fernandez] too. I was always playing a role for Charlestown, even when I was at Winchendon. I would call Coach Cardoso and tell him congratulations on the win, or tough loss tonight. Charlestown is always going to have a special place in my heart. So when I go to watch the games, it was like, man, I wish I was playing right now."