From New York City to Laramie, Wyoming.
Yes, you read that correctly and it’s the path that Afam Muojeke continues to take on his road to the elite of college basketball. Afam is from Queens, NY and decided to take a road less traveled, and one, that some in his inner circle were hesitant about. “It was real tough. A lot of friends and family back home didn’t me want to, but i knew what i had to do. To go to school and get an education. And to get outa NYC and the distractions has been a good thing.”
“It was a big culture shock. From trains and buses to nothing. But people in the state are nice. We have great fans and a great atmosphere.” College was not the first time Afam was away from Jamaica, Queens as he traveled to Mississippi for high school. “That helped, it was mainly books and basketball. And that’s what it is here, too.”
Unfortunately, for Afam his freshmen year did not consist of much basketball as he dislocated a knee cap and was forced to redshirt. Something that was a huge disappointment at first, and what would be seen as a setback to most, he has turned into a positive. “It helped a lot. My first year in college, there was a little too much street ball in me. I wasn’t built for the college game. I gained a lot of good weight a season i took off and at the same time once I was healthy it helped me actually get faster and learn the game more.”
Since that point, Afam is taking nothing for granted and is the weight room and working on his game consistently, “I’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room. To work on my knee and strengthen that area. It’s funny to say but it really was a blessing to get injured. I’m good to go now.”
Afam arrived in Laramie under the guidance of veteran players such as; Brad Jones, Brandon Ewing and even a fellow New Yorker, Tyson Johnson. “When I got hurt my freshmen year, Brad Jones talked me through redshirting and how it could help. I really belive he helped me get through it.” With those three lost to graduation among others the past few seasons, Afam only a redshirt sophomore faces a leadership role this season. “I just need to be more vocal now, and be closer to my teammates. Help them out with the transition to college from high school.” Wyoming will have an incredibly young team, and Afam is welcoming that challenge. “Yeah, we’re a young team, but we have a lot of talent. There’s a lot of time to mesh and grow.”
Wyoming and Afam had success scoring the ball last season, but now the focus must shift to the other end this season. The Cowboys won 19 games last season a mark they would like to improve on and it starts with defense. “Coach always is telling me it’s not only about offense, we need defense. I’m going to take pride in guarding the opponent’s top player.” When I asked Afam what he was working on this summer, the theme stayed present, “Defense. Being a stopper for my team.” Afam also reported that he is working out in Los Angeles with friends this summer and is looking to stay away from street ball for the time being. Other than defense, Afam pointed out he’s looking to improve quickness and strength along with this mid range game. Doing such should bolster the solid 14 points and 5 rebounds he collected a game last season in his debut.
Afam took on a ton of responsibility his first season on the floor, even with All conference performer Brandon Ewing in the back court. Afam, according to Kenpom.com accounted for 25% of possessions while on the floor for the Cowboys, leading the team. “I need to work on cutting down on my turnovers. The ball will be in my hands most of the time, and I know I can make it a lot easier to get my teammates involved.” When the ball is in his hands, Afam has no problem reverting back to his NYC roots and going strong to the rim, “I love contact. I love going to the basket and finishing with an And 1.” When I asked if he’s noticed a difference in style of play compared to NYC to the college game and the Mountain West, Afam said, “It’s a lot less one on one play, but I’ve made the transition. I’m learning the college game.”
For this upcoming season, Afam laid out the goals simply, “Just to win the Mountain West Conference and playing in March.” With BYU, Utah, San Diego State and UNLV among others the conference is no slouch. “I think people know we can play. I wouldn’t say we’re overlooked. It’s tough, there are four to five teams every that can play in March.” Afam pointed out, BYU star Lee Cummard was the toughest opponent and he was glad to have that experience out of the way, and beating BYU is a top goal for the Cowboys this year.
Being nearly all the way across the country can grow tiresome for any collegiate athlete, even more when you deal with a change of pace that Afam is faced with. A few familiar faces will not hurt this season. “My family didn’t get a chance to come out to see me last year, but they’ll be at a few games this year.” Afam’s family will get the opportunity to see first hand he made an excellent choice.