Winter 2017

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Northwestern is the quarterly alumni magazine for Northwestern University.
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From Nigeria to Northwestern

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Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah never considered playing Division I basketball while growing up in Nigeria. Now she's poised to become one of the Big Ten's best.

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah never considered playing Division I basketball while growing up in Nigeria.

Pallas Kunaiyi-AkpanahThe junior forward’s journey to the United States began in a gym in her hometown of Abuja, the country’s capital. Kunaiyi-Akpanah was getting shots up when Mobolaji Akiode, founder of Hope 4 Girls Africa, spotted her and was intrigued. Akiode’s Lagos-based organization is dedicated to giving underserved young African women an opportunity to play organized basketball.

Akiode believed Kunaiyi-Akpanah could “potentially excel at a higher level” and connected her with Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a college prep in Georgia, where Kunaiyi-Akpanah averaged a double-double.

Kunaiyi-Akpanah was recruited by several schools, but she decided Northwestern’s academics and athletics were too enticing to pass up.

“I really wanted to be around people who are creative,” says Kunaiyi-Akpanah, a communication studies major. “That definitely had a part to play in my decision to come here.”

In Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s freshman year, the 6-foot-2 forward started 20 games, averaging 7.8 rebounds per contest and shooting 53.7 percent from the field. While she didn’t play as much last season, head coach Joe McKeown thinks Kunaiyi-Akpanah is still a contributor.

“Pallas has been a great addition to Northwestern,” McKeown says. “We are really excited for her as an upperclassman because she has a chance to become one of the best players in the Big Ten. Her work ethic and determination will give her a great chance to succeed.”