Nnamdi Amilo '12
As a student in the University of Connecticut’s highly selective Combined Program in Medicine – a direct entry program in which a post-graduation spot is reserved for him at UConn’s medical school in Farmington – Nnamdi Amilo '12 is continuing along the path of excellence he paved as a student at Avon Old Farms School. He graduated as the top scholar in his class, a member of the Cum Laude Society, and the recipient of the Order of Old Farms.
Now a sophomore in college, Nnamdi continues to thrive. "My time at UConn has been amazing so far. I’ve met a ton of great people, both friends and faculty, and have had an overall great time. Choosing UConn was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made," he shares.
The transition wasn’t easy for Nnamdi, however; the magnitude of the Storrs campus, which boasts more than 30,000 students enrolled, proved more than a little daunting. "I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers," he recalls. "Of people, of clubs to join, of requirements I have to meet. Soon enough, though, I found my niche, and the experience has been great ever since.
"I’m not going to lie, though; one thing I miss about Avon was the extremely close community," he continues. "It seemed like everyone on campus was one of your brothers and that is almost impossible to replicate in a place as big as UConn."
Nnamdi seems to be doing just fine, though, when it comes to finding new brothers: at the beginning of this year’s season, he walked onto UConn’s perennial powerhouse men’s basketball team.
While playing basketball at UConn’s rec center, he met a couple of other walk-ons and the managers, and they suggested he try out for the team. And, as he says, "The rest was history!"
"One thing I quickly realized was that collegiate sports is a whole different beast,” he notes. “Between practice, games, and travelling, the time commitment is incredible, and because of that I really had to learn to manage everything."
A typical day for Nnamdi this winter began at 7 a.m. with breakfast, classes until around 2 p.m., and basketball practice until 4:30 p.m., followed by a three-hour lab. "A pretty long day, if you ask me," he jokes. He’s taking it all in stride – an attitude that’s also reflected on the basketball court, where his teammates credited him with being the workhorse whose strength and persistence helped them improve dramatically.
"We just basically let him go wild in practice, let him push people around and get us ready," observed UConn forward Phillip Nolan. "We feel like trying to contain him in practice all year, we’re pretty ready for whatever. He makes everyone have to be on alert and bring their 'A' game, or he’s going to bully you."
Amida Brimah, a 7-foot freshman center, concurs: "You see how big he is? He always pushes you, makes you work harder. That’s how we got better, because he’s always in practice full of energy. Playing against someone like Nnamdi, someone who’s strong like that, always gets you better."
Nnamdi takes that role seriously. "From the beginning, I realized that I wouldn’t be effective if I didn’t bring energy to every play, so that’s the mindset I got into whenever I went to practice,” he explains. “Even though [the walk-ons] weren’t winning the games, by pushing and preparing the scholarship players we played a role in the team’s success."
That success, of course, has been pretty remarkable as of late, as the Huskies just won the 2014 NCAA national championship!
"It was amazing to be able to cut down a piece of the net and to stand under the confetti," he recalls of the title game versus Kentucky in Texas. "Just as good as that, though, was coming back to Connecticut for the parade. The sight of all those people coming out to support us made the magnitude of what I was a part of truly set in. I’m really thankful to have been able to be part of such a thing and it’s definitely the highlight of my time at UConn."
Photos courtesy of UConn Athletics