Okonkwo primed for success after basketball career

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Okonkwo has the 12th most points in program history. Photo by Heesoo Yang

Amy Okonkwo is always looking to understand how.

How she can be most effective on the court for a Horned Frog team having their best season in nearly a decade.

How she can utilize the resources around her to have an impactful career after graduation, on and off the court.

Whatever it may be, the senior’s curiosity is a major reason why she has found so much success over the last four years in Fort Worth.

The California native will finish her masters and graduate in May with more than 1,000 career points and numerous awards. Last season, she was named the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year after leading the team in scoring despite not starting a game.

Okonkwo has made back-to-back All Big-12 second teams. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

She is also a three-time Academic All Big-12 selection and earned a 4.0 grade point average this year. Twice, she has been one of 15 student-athlete delegates representing in the NCAA’s annual autonomous governance process.

“She doesn’t just see this four years at TCU about how much can I get from TCU, its how much can I give back to TCU,” head coach Raegan Pebley said. “To our program, to the department, to other student athletes, to the campus. She’s done about as good of a job of that of any student athlete I’ve coached.”

“A queen on the chessboard”

While her academic success and ability to take advantages of opportunities like the NCAA conferences have prepared Okonkwo for a career after basketball, she has no intentions to stop playing the game she loves after graduation.

“I know for some people this might be their true last game playing basketball, but I know for me I want to keep playing and I know there is more games coming and I just cherish the moment I’m in,” she said.

At 6 feet 2 inches tall, she has the size to be effective in the post but can also stretch the floor and shoot the three, a versatility that coaches covet in the modern era of basketball.

Okonkwo is as effective from the three as she is from the post. Photo by Heesoo Yang

“She’s an example of a position-less player that has a lot of interchangeable parts so that I can move her in a lot of ways,” Pebley said. “A queen on the chess board.”

Okonkwo has been named to consecutive All Big 12 second-teams, averaging double digit points despite starting less than a third of the games she has played in. Her scoring efficiency and ability to score from all areas of the court will lead to minutes wherever she winds up.

Coaching Aspirations

Once her time on the court ends, Okonkwo and those around her believe she will ultimately end up as a coach.

The team announced that Okonkwo was accepted into the 17th annual “So You Want To Be A Coach” program that is offered yearly by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She will attend the conference on April 3-5 in Tampa, Florida, after being nominated by Pebley.

Teammates look to Okonkwo as their vocal leader and teacher on the court. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

“I know that I want to be a coach,” Okonkwo said. “Whether that’s right after I’m done playing or going to administration and finding my way to it, I know in the end that’s something I want to be doing.”

Junior Kianna Ray said she couldn’t see Okonkwo anywhere else than the sideline, saying she already coaches her fellow teammates on the court.

“She does a lot of on-court coaching, pulling us aside after a rep,” Ray said. “If she sees something, she is going to explain what she saw to you.”

Ray added that Okonkwo approaches her teammates in a way that is unique to each player, a skill critical for any successful coach.

“She knows how to approach us, how to talk to who, she’s very deliberate in how she speaks to people so that’s really good,” she said.

Okonkwo was one of just 12 Power Five athletes to be selected for the program.

Leaving home

All of these opportunities stem from one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make, the decision to transfer to TCU in 2015.

Okonkwo was named the Inland Valley Conference player of the year during her time at Etiwanda High School. Photo courtesy of The Press-Enterprise

Okonkwo starred at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Ranked as the No. 92 prospect in the nation, she decided to stay home and committed to play at USC.

She averaged 7.1 minutes in 27 games during her lone season as a Trojan.

“I was going to school an hour away from home, and I had to make a decision to leave everything that I’ve known and learn how to figure myself out and be in a new space,” she said.

Once in Fort Worth, NCAA rules forced her to sit out a year, something she looks back on as critical to her development on and off the court.

“I think it was necessary,” Okonkwo said. “I got a chance to learn the program, learn my surroundings, learn the school, catch up in anything and just be able to make myself better so when I was able to play that I knew exactly what to do.”

Wherever she lands next, Pebley knows she will be successful at it, stemming in part from the curiosity she has seen in countless conversations over the last four years.

But for now, Okonkwo is focused on ending her career the only way she knows how: with a ring.

The Horned Frogs reached the 20-win mark in the regular season for the first time since 2010-2011 and look primed to reach their first NCAA tournament since the 2009-2010 season.

Okonkwo was honored on the teams senior night against Texas. Photo by Heesoo Yang

The team lost their regular season finale to Texas, putting their tournament hopes on ice and making it critical they have a strong performance at the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City.

“This is not the end of us, this is just the beginning,” she said after the loss to the Longhorns. “We’ve got a lot more of our story to write, so we just have to take it and run with it.”