Originally created 02/11/02

Prodigy balances 3 sports



Any area sports fan who doesn't know who Obi Egekeze is now probably will by the time he graduates high school. The lanky, 6-foot-4 sophomore from Westside with the unmistakable grin keeps popping up all over town in different capacities to display his versatile athleticism.

Egekeze appeared Sunday as a forward for the Under-16 Arsenal Gunners Blue in the Augusta Arsenal Spring Shootout soccer tournament at Fort Gordon. All he did this time was score two goals in the Gunners' 3-1 win over CASL White (Raleigh, N.C.) in the Under-16 championship game.

In December, Egekeze was selected as a Class AAA All-State place kicker for the Westside football team. Since football season ended, he has been shuffling his roles as a starter on the Westside basketball team and leading scorer for the Gunners.

Egekeze is the youngest of three brothers, each of whom are standout athletes. Ndu is a 6-foot-7 sophomore guard on the Penn State basketball team, while Nkem plays soccer for Mercer. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, and Obi was born in Rome, Ga.

Despite his success, Egekeze said this was his last game for the Gunners, and after the Westside soccer season in late spring, he'll hang up his soccer cleats for good and focus on football and basketball.

Even though he's putting his soccer career on hold soon, the sport was actually Obi's first love.

"After I scored those two goals, coach pulled me out," Egekeze said. "I sat on the bench and I really saw my life. I grew up on this game. If it weren't for this game, I wouldn't be kicking those field goals."

"I can see how much this game has changed my life, and how it's prepared me. You learn many lessons. All the soccer trips, you become such good friends. We're a close-knit group. I'll go to war with any guy on this team, and that's how close it is. I'll always have a special bond (with them)."

Gunners coach Joe Spires knows how valuable Egekeze has been to his team.

"Obi's just got blazing speed, and our guys kind of focus on that when they're trying to get him the ball," Spires said.

"I think he's going to probably be a NCAA Division I choice, I don't know in what sport, but he'll probably have his pick (out of) basketball, football and soccer. And he always tries to fire the team up. He's very easy to coach."

Spires also noted that the team's Spring Shootout championship was a team effort.

"Every guy gave 110 percent," Spires said. "and that's what we've been looking for in the four years I've had these guys."

In girls action Sunday, goalkeeper Stephanie Allen had two saves, helping the Augusta Arsenal Vipers win the Under-10 girls championship.