Sunday, July 21, 2024

NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

Senior signoff: Kenneth Nwuba expresses gratitude for community, from freshman year to Final Four

Redshirt fifth-year forward/center Kenneth Nwuba jams a dunk. (Myka Fromm/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Kenneth Nwuba

June 10, 2024 3:52 p.m.

It’s hard to say goodbye. Being at UCLA has been amazing. It’s been an incredible journey. How do I describe this, and where do I start?

I grew up in Nigeria and moved here for high school. When I was younger and eventually getting recruited by colleges, I was definitely familiar with UCLA. I knew that UCLA has been a major program. Where I come from back in Africa, people do wear UCLA stuff. You see it. It’s definitely visible. You don’t necessarily see that kind of thing with these colleges in other countries. For people who grew up here in America, you’re familiar with UCLA. You know it’s a major university, has a great environment and all that.

Fast forward to when I got here: It was the summer of 2018. I remember moving in, and I had five other freshman teammates. That was nearly six years ago, but I still smile thinking about that time. Jules, David, Moses, Tyger, and later that summer, Shareef. Being on campus was extraordinary for me. You meet all sorts of interesting people, and there are so many things to discover, both on campus and around Los Angeles. It felt a little crowded at first, busier for me than what I was used to. But meeting those guys, some of my past teammates – it was all love. That was a shared experience because we were all really happy to be here. There was a rush of excitement.

Through my first couple of years at UCLA, we faced some unusual adversity. Our program had a coaching change. About one year later, we were shut down because of COVID-19. That was a big adjustment. With a coaching change, some guys might wonder in that situation, “Am I going to fit in here?” – that type of stuff. But I wasn’t worried about that. I knew I could fit in with any situation, and I saw myself building relationships with our new coaches. I knew that with my work ethic, with whoever they brought in, I would adapt. During my time in America, I’ve adapted to any situation thrown my way. But what I was more curious about: At that time, I wanted to see how things would change around our program. How might things shift around – the culture, and people’s attitudes, and us learning how to win, all that stuff? When coach Mick Cronin got here, he was figuring out how to make us better. He was learning about us, and we were learning about him, and when he felt comfortable coaching us, making us adapt to each other, playing as a team – you saw how it went. We went to the Final Four, and that was the most amazing thing.

When we played in March Madness that year in 2021, we felt like we were brothers, like we were a family. We created an unbreakable bond there. Everything that we did, we just had so much laughter and excitement with each other. It was so much fun. I’m not sure that I have ever had those types of teammates during my time in America. Even when we were off the court and guys might be off on their own, we still felt like a family. I felt like I was playing with my brothers from another mother.

Those next two seasons, we did have a target on our back, and we knew what was coming. We had a proven group, a good team, and everyone was coming for us. We’d built that brotherhood, and we played for each other. We had formed such a strong bond, and at some point, I remembered thinking to myself, “I don’t want this to ever end.” I just wanted us to stick like that.

I’ve learned that whatever gets thrown at you in life, you just have to take it, accept it and keep on living. Keep being who you are, and keep doing what’s expected of you. I’ve had the chance to make friends here, develop bonds and establish relationships. I’ve learned to just live my life positively. My time at UCLA has been great. It has been an opportunity and a privilege to be part of the people who say, “Fours up!” I want to say thank you to everyone who has been so meaningful around our program, for helping make Pauley Pavilion such a great environment. I hope that we brought people a lot of joy and laughter, even if we have gone through some ups and downs. We’ve had such supportive fans, and I am very appreciative of that. I will miss my time at UCLA, but I will forever be a Bruin.

Kenneth Nwuba

Nwuba played for UCLA men’s basketball from 2018 to 2024.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Kenneth Nwuba
Featured Classifieds
Apartments for Rent

WESTWOOD VILLAGE Large 1BR 1 Bath $2,700 (includes 1 parking space). Available now. Beautifully landscaped courtyard building, laundry room, pool, elevator, subterranean garage. 691 Levering Avenue (310) 208-3647

More classifieds »
Related Posts