Washington Wizards forward Daniel Ochefu's path to a national championship with Villanova in April and a spot of the Wizards' roster this fall was anything but typical.
Ochefu was born in Maryland in 1993, where he moved around for about 12 years. The Baltimore native and his family then moved to Nigeria so they could reunite with relatives and experience the Nigerian culture. He ultimately moved back to the States for high school, attending Westtown School outside of Philadelphia.
At Villanova, the 6-foot-11, 245-pound Ochefu played 141 games throughout four years and eventually developed into head coach Jay Wright's most reliable, well-rounded big man. Recently, he became one of three undrafted rookies to make the Wizards' roster and made his NBA debut during the Wizards' season opener Oct. 27, playing four minutes and grabbing a defensive rebound.
"I have a bond with those guys that were on that team forever now. The relationship we're going to have down the years is always going to be great," Ochefu said of Villanova's national title on
Glenn Clark Radio
Oct. 25. "But I think the biggest thing for me, if I can just speak out to some of the young people listening, you can't use that as the backbone for the rest of your career.
"I won the national championship and then, three weeks later, I'm working out trying to get drafted. You obviously celebrate and enjoy your accomplishments, but don't lean on it too much. You have to forget it and move on to better things."
Ochefu averaged 7.2 points, 6.6 boards and 1.3 blocks per game during his four years as a Wildcat, but saved his best for last. He averaged 11.5 points and 7.2 rebounds through six NCAA tournament games in 2016 -- including 17-point efforts against UNC Asheville and Miami -- while playing with a sprained right ankle.
He was on the court when Kris Jenkins hit the 3-pointer to win the national championship game, 77-74, versus North Carolina April 4. Ochefu scored nine points and pulled down six boards, while fellow Baltimore native Phil Booth scored 20 points off the bench for the Wildcats. It was Villanova's first national championship since 1985.
"As soon as [Jenkins] shot it and it went in -- I just remember because I see it on the video, that all my teammates ran to him and I ran towards our bench," Ochefu said. "I went towards our bench and started hugging our coaches and whatnot. Everything else that happened after that, I don't remember. It was really just a blur for like the next week."
Ochefu said he watches the buzzer-beater when the clip pops up on his Twitter feed -- "I definitely just get goose bumps thinking about it, reliving it." He also said his piece of the net from the title game is stored in his D.C. apartment, as is his championship ring. He's shown off his ring to Wizards guard Sheldon McClellan, a fellow undrafted free agent who was a part of the Miami team Ochefu's Wildcats beat during the Sweet 16.
In addition to Ochefu and McClellan, guard Danuel House also made the Wizards as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M. By keeping three undrafted rookies, the Wizards injected some youth into their roster despite not having a draft pick this June.
"I think it's just surreal that three undrafted rookies made the team this year," Ochefu said. "It's a great compliment to our hard work, but I think, also, the way the situation worked out for us, they didn't have a draft pick. We're young guys coming in trying to work hard to make a team. I just think our work ethic and our attitudes definitely helped us a lot when they were making decisions."
For more from Ochefu, listen to the full interview here: