Ike Eke Shares Success with Home Country


Photo by Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Ike Eke spent nearly $7,000 to build this court.

Seven thousand dollars spent and over 5,000 miles traveled: Those are some of the hurdles over which Marquette University’s men’s basketball player Ike Eke jumped to give back to his hometown, Enugu Nigeria, this summer.

Using his own funds, Eke decides to make a new court to replace one in Enugu that is in bad shape. Eke also decides to give multiple pairs of basketball shoes to those who practice on the court the most.

When he went to Nigeria to begin the processes of build the court he talked with some of the players there. Though Eke didn’t know each player personally, he had his friends from home help him decide who to give the shoes to.

Eke was going back to Nigeria for month. While he normally visits once a year during the summer, he didn’t let anyone know his plans to build a basketball court.

“Just come back (to America) with no one knowing, but when I told my host family back in America and they were like, ‘Oh this is a good idea, I think we should put this out there.’ So I said ‘OK,’” Eke says.

A tweet from University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy spreads the word quickly.

“I mean I won’t say it … I was like God,” Eke jokes. “I mean, I don’t know how to say it, not God, sorry God. I don’t know the word to use. They liked what I did.”

Jim Adams says he was really proud of Eke when he heard about the donation. Adams is Eke’s legal guardian until he turned 18 and the communications director at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School where Eke attended school.

“To tell you the truth, (I) didn’t even know he was planning to build the basketball court until he got (to Nigeria),” Adams says. “I was talking to him on the phone, and he was like, ‘Hey dad, I want you to know I’ve been saving my money. I’m doing this while I’m here.’ So I was like, ‘You’re kidding.’ He wanted it to be a surprise for everybody, including (me).”

Marquette men’s basketball chaplain Rev. John Laurance says he wasn’t surprised when he heard and calls Eke a mensch, a German word meaning man. But, he calls him that for a deeper reason.

“I think that his good heart and his good fortune, he just wanted other people to experience what he was experiencing,” Laurance says.

Though, there were times when Eke didn’t think he would end up building the court. When he felt this way, Eke made sure to call his little brother,  Edu encouraged Eke to keep going.

“He kind of helped me to finish it by talking to me everyday. ‘Just keep going, keep going,’” Eke says. “(He would) tell me what kind of paint to use (and) what to do.”

After building the court Eke says he saw almost 100 people there on the court. Once it was done, he says he felt good.

“After that first tweet I was like, ‘Wow, I really did this,’” Eke says. “It felt so good. I got so much joy from doing it.”

Eke says he wants to continue his service by creating a program to help pay for people’s tuition to attend a higher learning institution in Nigeria.

Eke knows he wants to do more with the attention he received.

“‘OK, let me use this opportunity to see if I can help people,’” Eke says.

Much of his passion ties with his Jesuit education, first at U of D and now Marquette.

“Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” which means for the greater glory of God, is etched into every building Marquette has built, is on Eke’s Twitter bio and even is one of Eke’s tattoos. Eke’s relationship with the Catholic Church goes back to his time in Nigeria.

“I grew up Catholic. If I called my mom today (and said) I didn’t go to church Sunday, if I was in Nigeria, she would beat me up,” Eke says. “Growing up Catholic and going to a Jesuit school has helped my journey (in life).”

Eke says the Jesuit tradition is why he chose Marquette, and it gives him and Laurance something to bond over.

“There was a connection I already had with him because he went to a Jesuit high school,” Laurance says. “He’s very much at home with talking to another Jesuit.”

Eke points to his faith and relationship with God as what he leans on — his foundation — especially as injuries have plagued him throughout his collegiate career and taken away any chance of him playing in a Division I game.

“Me being injured for a couple of years, not being able to play, if you’re not strong (in your faith) that can just hit you,” Eke says.

Eke says his situation of not being able to play and being injured can cause others in similar situations who are not strong in their faith to turn to other means of coping, like alcohol. But he says his faith has always been there.

Even though Eke has been through tough times, he says he knows it’s for the greater glory of God.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Eke says. “Even though I blame God (for the bad stuff in my life), I shouldn’t.”

“Growing up, I had so many cousins at home, and every time they came to my house they were in need of something, money, food and stuff.” Eke says. “My mom was always giving away. She would never ask why, just give.”

Now, Eke just wants to give too.