Buffalo’s Ike Onwukanjo selected to play for Nigerian national team

D1A Rugby: Buffalo’s Ike Onwukanjo selected to play for Nigerian national team
Photo Credit: Potted Palm Productions

University at Buffalo junior Ike Onwukanjo has been selected to play with the Nigerian national sevens side this summer as they try and qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Nigerian Rugby Football Federation has been looking for overseas players eligible to compete for Nigeria as a way to boost their efforts to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Onwukanjo holds dual United States and Nigerian citizenship. The team will compete in a series of tournaments this summer in Europe and Africa and will later compete for the Africa Cup Championships.   

“Being invited to play for Nigeria is a tremendous honor,” said Onwukanjo of his selection. “It’s a challenge that I am really looking forward to.”

Ike began his rugby career as a sophomore at New Rochelle High School and joined UB Men’s Rugby upon his arrival in Buffalo where he quickly established himself as a starter on both their fifteens and sevens sides. Ike’s strong play in sevens led to an invitation to last year’s Northeast ODA Sevens camp where he had the opportunity to train with some of the best sevens players and coaches from across the Northeast.

“The ODA was a great learning experience for me. I really learned a lot about what’s required both physically and mentally to compete at the next level,” said Onwukanjo. “And the things I learned at the ODA I was able to apply at UB for our first year moving up.”

Onwukanjo was referring to UB’s first season in the tough Rugby East conference where they failed to win a league game last fall. The dual environmental studies and paralegal major said despite last season’s results, he is looking forward to UB’s second season of D1A rugby.

“The coaches told us there would be no easy games in Rugby East, but I don’t think we fully understood how high the competition level would be,” Onwukango said. “This year we all know what to expect and know how hard we have to work to get ready. I can’t wait.”