Savannah State University‘s own Ezinne Kalu is set to play basketball in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, which begin tomorrow. Learn more about the Nigerian athlete in the Savannah State Athletics article below.
Former Savannah State women’s basketball star Ezinne Kalu will lead the Nigerian women’s basketball team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics beginning next week.
For only the second time in the African nation’s history, Nigeria will be represented in women’s basketball on the world stage. Kalu, an American-born dual citizen, was a pivotal part of the D’Tigeress’ journey to Tokyo.
Nigeria qualified after winning the 2019 Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) Africa Championship. Nigeria beat Senegal 60-55 for the FIBA title. Kalu led her team with 13.0 points, 3 steals and 3.2 assists in the championship game and was named the MVP of the tournament.
Following two wins in the Africa pre-Olympic qualifier, Nigeria closed the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia with a 76-71 loss to team U.S.A. Nigeria will get another chance at the No. 1 team in the world. They open the Tokyo Olympics against the U.S.A. on Tuesday, July 27 at the Saitama Super Arena to open Group B play.
“If you told 21-year-old me that I’d be playing for a national team or in the Olympics I would look at you like you had three heads,” Kalu said. “That’s huge! I am just a young girl from New Jersey who went to an HBCU and now I am going to be playing in the Tokyo Olympics.”
The D’Tigeress’ are ranked No. 14 in FIBA’s World Ranking. They are one of the most successful teams the African country has ever produced. At the 2018 FIBA World Cup, according to USAB.com, they became the first African nation to advance to the medal round at a top FIBA women’s event. They are ranked No. 1 in FIBA Africa.
Kalu played for Savannah State for five years. She holds the NCAA Division I school record for most career points (2,119) and led several of the most successful women’s basketball teams in school history during her career.
During her time as a Lady Tiger, she was named to the 2015 All-MEAC Tournament Team; 2015 All-MEAC First Team; 2014 MEAC Preseason Player Of The Year; 2012 All-MEAC Preseason First Team; 2012 MEAC All-Conference Team.
In 2015, Kalu earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Savannah State. She was immediately recruited to play professionally in the European basketball league. Kalu has played for the Nigerian national team since being recruited in 2011 while a student-athlete at Savannah State. For the last six years, she’s had incredible success on both international stages.
She was named the 2016 Guard of the Year Portugal 1st Division; Captain of the Nigeran National Team 2016-17; 2017 Afro-Basketball Tournament Champion; 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Budapest 1stDivision; 2018 Co-Captain of Nigerian Team; 2019 MVP of Afro-Basket Tournament; 2019 Afro-Basketball Tournament Champion; 2020 Top 12 Best Player of Africa; 2020 1st Team All-French Player; 2020 1st Team All-Imports France League; 2020 Guard of the Year France 1st Division.
Currently, she plays for the French team Landerneau Bretagne Basket. She signed with the team in 2019 and averaged 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in the 2019-2020 season.