Success Stories

Bean lights up courts in Europe

Callistus Eziukwu (center)

Callistus Eziukwu was not supposed to be a basketball player. 

Born second and smaller than his twin sister Alexis in Muskegon, Eziukwu began playing sports when he was in the fourth grade. While he had no real skill set in basketball and not enough weight to play football, Eziukwu's height was the one thing that showed promise.

He looked like his nickname, "Stringbean," which was later shortened to "Bean," a name that followed him throughout his career.

After joining the basketball team in high school, Eziukwu had grown to a towering 6-feet 6-inches. Despite his height, he said his teammates and coaches still overlooked him. With support from a retired basketball coach, friends, and family, Eziukwu was able to drastically improve his basketball skills.

And he kept improving through college. After graduating from Grand Valley, Eziukwu drew interest from some NBA teams and eventually landed in the European league, playing for the Turkish team Usak Beleyide.

Back in high school, Eziukwu drew the attention of Terry Smith, Grand Valley's head men's basketball coach at the time. Smith offered him a scholarship. Eziukwu, who had never expected a college to even think about choosing him, accepted without hesitation.  

After being redshirted his freshman year, Eziukwu was excited to get back on the court. His excitement was short-lived, however, when he popped his heel out of place during a rebound, an injury that result in a subtalar dislocation. The injury was so rare that no one knew how to treat it, and Eziukwu was back on the bench. When Christmas came that year, Eziukwu received a special present: the opportunity to play. He took advantage of the opportunity and led the Lakers to the Elite Eight in 2006. He was later named the GLIAC Tournament's MVP. 

Eziukwu couldn't have asked for a better senior year. The Lakers were 30-0 during 2006-07, winning the Disney Classic and upsetting the Michigan State Spartans in an exhibition game. Eziukwu was named MVP of the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Tournament and, once again, led his team to the Elite Eight. 

Eziukwu definitely left his footprints on Grand Valley's court. He still holds the GVSU career blocked shots record with 329 blocked shots, which also makes him ninth among Division II leaders.

"My experience at Grand Valley was a very good one," Eziukwu said. "I learned a lot and matured as a person thanks to the faculty and coaching staff."

He graduated in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He began training with the Detroit Pistons, the Portland Trailblazers, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Grand Valley's coaches created a highlight tape and posted it on YouTube. The video drew international buzz, and the coach from the French team St. Vallier Basket Drome called. Eziukwu soon signed and began his career as an European basketball player.

Eziukwu said he would eventually like to make his way to the NBA, but is focusing on improving his game in Europe.

by Heather DeWitt

This story was filed with the tags: Impressive Jobs, Laker Sports, Undergraduate Alumni