Zeke
Nnaji
Position: C
Height/Weight: 6-11 / 240 lbs
School/Club: Arizona
Status: Freshman
Birthday: 01/09/2001

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About Zeke Nnaji

Zeke Nnaji is an agile big man with a strong motor who emerged as one of the bigger breakout stars in the freshman class in his single season at Arizona.  A late bloomer who was widely regarded as a top-35 prospect in the high school class of 2019 following his senior year at Hopkins High School (MN), Nnaji was the third highest ranked recruit in Head Coach Sean Miller’s incoming class, but exceeded expectations from the start in Tucson. 

Averaging 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, he earned All-Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors while gaining considerable momentum ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft.

Chris Dortch feature: Arizona's freshman Zeke Nnaji learned hoops lessons from music

  • Standing 6-foot-11.5 with an average wingspan and a rapidly improving frame, Nnaji is a fluid athlete for a big man who makes the most of his dimensions by playing with consistent energy. 
     
  • Finishing the year ranked among the more efficient scorers in the Pac-12, Nnaji played primary off the ball for the Wildcats serving as a reliable, active catch and finish target and productive offensive rebounder.  Showing the ability to use his size and aggressiveness to create some in the post and knocking down midrange jump shots with some consistency, Nnaji displayed some budding coordination to score outside of the restricted area as well.
     
  • Faring better on the defensive end for some stretches than others, Nnaji nonetheless had some nice moments using his mobility to slide out to the perimeter after switches and his size in close. 

Defensive Analysis

  • Showing good mobility stepping out to slide on the perimeter, fighting for position in the paint, and using verticality well on occasion, Nnaji’s energy is a plus on the defensive end.  He is a better offensive rebounder than a defensive one and lacks a degree of length to be especially impactful as a rim protector but had some very positive moments as a freshman.
     
  • Allowing 0.71 points per post up possession [70th percentile] and 0.72 points per isolation possession [56th percentile], Nnaji held his own in a variety of matchups this season.

Career Highlights

  • 2019-20 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (coaches) and Newcomer of the Year (AP).
  • 2019-20 All-Pac-12 First Team and All-Freshman Team choice.
  • 2019-20 All-District selection by the USBWA and NABC.

Freshman (2019-20)

  • Ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring (16.1 ppg), fifth in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and fourth in field goal percentage (57.0).
  • Paced Arizona in blocks (28), free throws made (152) and free throws attempted (200).
  • Scored 20 points against Northern Arizona in his first college game (Nov. 6), the first Arizona freshman with a 20-point debut since 2002.
  • Made 80 percent (52-of-65) of his field goals over his first seven games, including a stretch of 15-for-15 in back-to-back games vs. San Jose State (Nov. 14) and New Mexico State (Nov. 17).
  • Posted 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds vs. No. 6 Gonzaga (Dec. 14).

Strengths

  • Mobile and efficient big man with a nice touch.
  • Capable mid-range, pick-and-pop shooter.
  • Very active on the offensive glass.
  • Praised for his work ethic and intangibles.

Personal

  • Started playing piano at a young age and now composes his own music.
  • His sister Maya is one of the top high school players in the Class of 2022 and has experience with USA Basketball.
  • Father, Apham, is from Nigeria and a former near-Olympic decathlete.
  • His uncle Obiora Nnaji played at the University of Florida under Billy Donovan.

Quotable

“How Zeke approaches the piano and his practice is very similar to basketball. Zeke’s personality is very much a perfectionist, which comes from his playing the piano. His dad told me that before he ever got here.”

- Arizona assistant coach Danny Peters