BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh men’s basketball freshman Jesse Chuku enjoyed a busy summer on Great Britain’s Under 20 National Team, participating in numerous training camps and international games against a high level of competition. Chuku faced a number of players from other colleges and some professional players from Europe, which will undoubtedly help his transition to college basketball.
“It was like a professional environment,” said Chuku. “We started off in the summer with around six training camps. Each one helped us get to know each other. At the end of it, we built up to play in the European Championships.”
Chuku’s experience began in June, going to different training camps and traveling around Europe. The squad went to Belgium and played numerous scrimmages in England, among other locations.
“The competition was really good,” said Chuku. “It was around the same level as Division I players in the European Championships. There were many professional players, playing at the highest levels. Facing that competition really helped me bring my game to the next level.
“I feel like just in terms of basketball, it was a snapshot of what I could expect if I take basketball to the next level,” said Chuku. “You get fans after the game and people wanting to talk to you. It was really interesting. I feel like it helped.”
Chuku is making a strong transition to life at Lehigh, but will not play his freshman season due to recent NCAA legislation that examines enrollment between the end of high school and beginning of college.
“The United Kingdom is a country with multiple tiers of secondary school," said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “Although he performed well academically and is a comparable age to most college freshmen, Jesse's educational path was reviewed and when evaluated, it was determined that he would have only three years of remaining athletic eligibility. He is required to sit a year in residence which allows for practice only during the first year, similar to NCAA transfer requirements.
“During Jesse’s recruitment, we were aware of the potential that he may only have three years to play for us,” Reed continued. “In fact, we embraced that because we felt his talent level, his character and his academic interests were so strong that having him for three years would be a very worthwhile investment.”
Despite not being able to play in games this season, Chuku expects to make an impact in practice.
“I can make the best of this year,” said Chuku. “I’m happy to play and learn from the older guys like C.J., Holden and Gabe. They’ve really been taking me under their wing and teaching me everything I need to know. I get to observe everything from the sidelines [this year]. Then I feel like I’ll be even more ready for what I start playing.
“I still feel like I can do my best to help the team win in terms of bringing it every day and working as hard as I can,” he continued.
“Jesse has a rare combination of length, athleticism and skill,” said Reed. “He is 6-8 with a 7-3 wingspan, which allows him to have a significant defensive influence on the floor. Because he has a skill set that allows him to step out onto the perimeter, we believe as he continues to progress over the course of his career, he will be a very strong contributor for our program.”
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