Similar to recent post we did on girls basketball, we have a few items to catch up on from the 2015-16 season, such as our pick of State Most Inspirational Player of the Year. Plus, we have lists of more top freshmen and sophomores who just missed being on the all-state underclass teams, a look at the highest chosen California players in the last 10 NBA Drafts, Family Ties and details about player who has to have the best hops (based on what he does in the high jump).
NOTE: This is a Gold Club post on CalHiSports.com. We will have a continued mix of free and Gold Club posts through the summer highlighting the best of California prep sports heading into the 2016-17 school year. To get your Gold Club membership, CLICK HERE.
While a senior having a solid season for his team that made the playoffs but finished under .500 may not seem like a big success, the fact that Valencia’s Chibuzo Ikonte was even on the court this season was a big time success story.
That is why he is being selected at the Cal-Hi Sports’ Most inspirational Player for boys hoops in the state for 2016.
Making his varsity debut in his senior season with 24 points in a 67-65 win over Canyon of Canyon Country, it ended a battle of two and a half years to receive medical clearance to return to the sport after nearly dying in 2013.
As a freshman he collapsed during a practice at Valencia and received emergency heart defibrillation from students enrolled in a sports medicine program.
“I had just taken a water break and mid-conversation I collapsed into my teammates’ arms and went into cardiac arrest,” he told KTLA.
Chibuzo’s mother, Chioma Ikonte, told KTLA he had a thickened heart muscle that caused the attack and “the surgeon that operated on him looked at me in the face and said 90 to 95 percent of people that have this incident outside the hospital die.”
“Physically, it was just extremely tough,” Chibuzo Ikonte told KTLA. “Like for the first three months, my exercise was simply just walking up and down the stairs.”
From near death and just walking up stairs, Ikonte was finally able to return to the court and contribute in a big time fashion for the Vikings this season.
“It’s been over two and a half years,” he said to the Santa Clarita Signal after his varsity debut. “Sometimes I felt like giving up but I just kept my faith. Just the chance to get cleared and play, all the glory to God.”
During Valencia’s first playoff game against Village Christian of Sun Valley, the Vikings’ co-captain scored 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just his 10th game of the season in the upset 69-61 road win.
Winner of two dunk competitions and the MVP of the 2016 SCV Hoops Finale All-Star game, this 6-foot-7 high flyer will now head to Northwestern. Throughout his battle to get back on the court, Ikonte dominated in the classroom with a 4.3 cumulative GPA.
Youtube video from his first few games: