By Mike Max


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Zeke Nnaji started his early life wanting to play baseball.

“I used to be more of a baseball guy when I was younger, but then I just got taller and as I got old I felt like baseball – there wasn’t enough action,” Zeke said.

So he tried soccer, where he learned a lesson.

“We started with soccer to help his footwork but I said, ‘If you’re gonna play this game, I’m gonna support you, but you’re not going to waste my time, so you better give 110 percent,'” said Apham Nnaji, Zeke’s dad.

He changed sports again, but applied the attitude dad asked for to basketball, becoming a 6-feet-11-inch force.

(credit: CBS)

“I love practicing, I love working out, I love hanging out with the team, love watching games,” Zeke said.

He plays so well he had to choose between big-time colleges – ultimately picking the University of Arizona.

“I can go to business school right away because my goal is to study finance, so I just think overall they’re just a great program and I love the coaching staff,” he said.

A big guy who can shoot is a rare commodity.

“He’s a kid that has discipline and concentration. He is going to work at it,” said Ken Novak, Hopkins basketball coach. “A lot of people, a lot of the kids we have, everybody has, they all want to be good but there’s a few that will really pay the price.”

There’s something you might not know about Zeke and his family. They’re all tall. His sister is also a freshman prospect. And oh yeah, they love something besides basketball.

“My daughters can all sing. I had a band when I was in college, my mother-in-law had a group that she sang in a capella,” Apham said.

Which brings us here, where Zeke Naje becomes the 6-feet-11-inch concert pianist.

“It’s just incredible. It blows my mind,” said Janel Nnaji, Zeke’s mom. “Even just hearing him play last night blew me away.”

“I’ve loved music ever since first grade, I think that’s when I started playing piano,” Zeke said.

“I just turn the TV off and everything, I just want to listen and absorb it,” Janel added.

And so he plays and even composes his own music.

“They’re two different things because basketball is aggressive – you’re giving it your all – but piano is more cerebral,” Zeke said.

Mike Max

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