Nnanna Egwu bleeds orange and blue, and he’ll be a member of the Illinois Fighting Illini The Basketball Tournament team House of ‘Paign. Egwu played for the Illini from 2011-15, earning his degree in Communications.
Four years on the team. 105 total starts. 135 game appearances. Big Ten First-Team All-Defense in 2014-15. Egwu’s 201 career blocks makes him Illinois’ all time leader in that category, ahead of Illini legend Deon Thomas’s second highest total of 177.
A Chicago native, Egwu chose to play for Illinois over Northwestern, Oregon State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Since leaving Illinois, Egwu has bounced around professionally from the NBA’s G-League to primarily playing in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and most recently in Japan. Egwu is one of three Americans on Earth Friends Tokyo Z, a team in Japan’s second professional division.
Just what will Egwu’s role be on the House of ‘Paign roster? Generally speaking, in tournaments like this one, defense is typically an afterthought. Egwu’s job will be to try to do what he was best at and what he did so well at while playing Division I basketball at Illinois. Block shots. Protect the rim. Establish himself as an anchor down in the post and prevent guards and forwards from getting easy baskets.
Anything he contributes offensively will be a bonus considering Rayvonte Rice and Malcolm Hill are more than capable of scoring 15-plus points in a game, but Egwu’s mindset going into this should be: Defense, rebounding and some more defense.
The House of ‘Paign may not be the most talented squad in The Basketball Tournament, but they sure are balanced. The players’ strengths and weaknesses compliment one another well, like a real team, and that could give the Illini a real advantage once games begin.