West Virginia women’s basketball center Blessing Ejiofor had some time in the national spotlight recently, being featured on the CBS News program “60 Minutes”.
The 13 and a half minute segment and corresponding story focused on African basketball players being lured to the U.S. by shady figures under false pretenses. The story describes individuals who are driven by greed exploiting young African athletes by bringing them to the U.S. usually through lies and false promises.
When Nigerian teen Blessing Ejiofor was recruited to play for a U.S. high school basketball team, she thought she was going to play for a school in North Carolina. Instead she was greeted at the airport by a coach she’d never met and taken to New Jersey. https://t.co/PCETFhWqe1 pic.twitter.com/bRVKGvNOcV
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 29, 2020
For Ejiofor, a native of Ebonyi, Nigeria, her experience coming to America was just like this:
As reported by CBS, Ejiofor was originally recruited to come to the U.S. and attend Evelyn Mack Academy in North Carolina. When she got to JFK International Airport, however, a coach from Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey picked her up.
Only 15 years old at the time, Ejiofor told CBS’s Jon Wertheim that she was just excited to be in America and had to go with the coach because there was no way for her to argue with him.
Ejiofor blossomed at Eastside, eventually being rated as a top-20 prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. She had committed to attend Vanderbilt out of high school, but ran into a problem. According to Vanderbilt Magazine, university officials noticed that Ejiofor’s student visa was more than a year expired.
Eastside High School had apparently failed to file the paperwork for Ejiofor’s visa to be renewed. Ejiofor was forced to return to Nigeria for a year. According to a story by the Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt’s coaches worked with the U.S. Embassy to help Ejiofor get a new visa and she was eventually admitted to the school prior to the 2017-18 season.
She played sparingly as a true freshman, averaging 5.6 minutes in 22 games. She scored 28 points and grabbed 40 rebounds. The Commodores struggled under second-year coach Stephanie White and finished the season 7-24, 3-13 in the SEC. Ejiofor was one of six players to transfer away from Vanderbilt following the season.
Ejiofor landed at Chipola College, a junior college in Florida. There, she averaged 6.9 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27 games, 23 starts in the 2018-19 season. After that, she signed a national letter of intent to play at West Virginia.
In her first season with the Mountaineers, Ejoifir started 20 games, averaging 2.1 points and 5.0 rebounds. She pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds when the team upset then-No. 10 Mississippi State on Dec. 8.