A Fenton High School basketball alumnus will represent Nigeria this month at the Summer Olympics in London, and his former coach from the Bensenville school said he could not be more proud of Richard Oruche.
"I was just ecstatic," former Fenton varsity coach Dennis Cromer said. "From a coaching standpoint, you always like to see your players go out and have success, whether it's in sports, the business world, or their families. But I think this is absolutely outstanding."
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Oruche is a dual citizen of Nigeria, his parents' homeland, and the United States, where he grew up in Bensenville and attended Fenton from 2001 to 2005. During his freshman year Oruche quickly displayed his talent in basketball and he was promoted to the varsity team by his sophomore year.
"We have had a few other good players, but Richard was probably as talented a player as this school has ever seen," Cromer said.
Oruche broke the school career scoring record with 1,196 points. During his senior year, he was selected for the all-conference team, named conference MVP and placed on the Daily Herald All Area Team.
After briefly walking on to the basketball team at Northern Illinois University, Oruche transferred to the University of Illinois Springfield
"I think he was disappointed he didn't get to play more (at Northern), but then he transferred to UIS and had a very successful career out there," Cromer said. "He really is one of those types of players that doesn't take losing or 'no' easily, and he'll work extremely hard to overcome what perceived deficiencies he feels he has, or others feel he has. That probably is one of his strengths, that he competes so hard and he doesn't like to lose."
While at UIS, the 6-foot 4-inch guard found the success he was seeking, especially during his senior year in the 2009-10 season, when he scored in double figures in all but one game.
Since graduating from UIS with a degree in business administration, Oruche has played professional basketball for two years in Portugal. He averaged 15.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for Associacao Academica de Coimbra during the 2011-12 season.
The process of making the Nigerian Olympic team began when he was contacted while playing in Portugal and invited to try out at several exhibition games. Earlier this month, Oruche traveled to Venezuela and played with Nigeria in a qualifying tournament.
Cromer said Oruche has stayed in touch with him throughout his Olympic journey, and is now in London preparing for the games. His former player has high hopes, especially following the tryouts and qualifying tournaments.
"He told me he's played well and hopes to earn some more playing time, but the core of the Nigerian team has been together for some time and he is new," Cromer said.
Nigeria is in the same pool for the Olympic tournament as Team USA. It will play Tunisia in its Olympic opener on July 29. The United States plays France later that day. Nigeria and the United States will play Aug. 2.
In a prepared statement from his collegiate alma mater, Oruche said, "Not many people get the opportunity to go out there and play against people you kind of idolized growing up in your career. People who gave you the passion to play the game. We want to do something big with this opportunity we've been given."