July 29, 2021

Former CEU player named Boston Celtics head coach

Ime Udoka played at College of Eastern Utah from 1995-97 where his team went 28-5. He also played with Eddie Gill who also was drafted by the NBA and now works for the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

Former College of Eastern Utah athlete, Ime Udoka, was named Boston Celtics head coach last week.

After nearly a decade as an assistant coach, Udoka, 43, is the the 18th coach for the Celtics and sixth Black coach, in the franchise’s illustrious history.

Most recently he served under Steve Nash for the Brooklyn Nets and was a forward in the NBA five teams from 2003 to 2011. He embarked on a coaching career in 2012 with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Nigerian American, whose father, Vitalis Udoka, emigrated from Africa’s most populous nation before Ime was born, is the first person of African origin to serve as a head coach in the NBA. (Nash, who just completed his first season in Brooklyn, was born to Welsh and English parents in Johannesburg.)

Udoka, a former Golden Eagle “small” forward (6 feet 6 inches), had a successful career with seven years in the NBA before becoming an assistant coach.

His first two years of college basketball started at USU Eastern in 1995-97 where he averaged 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a freshman and 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as a sophomore. He also recorded the first triple-double in the college’s history with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in a game, eventually earning All-Conference honors for the Scenic Western Athletic Conference.

Head coach Guy Beach recruited Udoka from Portland, Oregon, to play his first two years of college. Junsie Cotton was his assistant coach who also played at Eastern and Utah State University before joining the coaching ranks.

Udoka was joined on the CEU court that year by Eddie Gill and Harold Arceneaux who helped the team win the SWAC with a 28-5 record. That record is displayed on one of three flags hanging in the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center: one earned by the 1964-64 team under coach Curt Jensen; one earned in 1996-97 by coach Beach; and one earned in 2010 by coach Chris Craig.

After graduating from Eastern, Udoka moved on to the University of San Francisco for a year, before transferring to Portland State University where he had to sit for a season before playing again, due to NCAA Division rules.

In his senior year at PSU, he earned First Team All-Big Sky honors when he led the team in scoring with 14.5, rebounding 7.3 averaged per game and 13 blocked shots and 38 steals. He was ranked ninth for scoring, third in rebounding, and fifth in steals in his conference. In that year he posted three double-doubles, narrowly missing a triple double with 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and 9 assists verses Cal State Northridge. He started all 22 games he appeared in.

He made the jump to professional ball by playing a season for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez, the following year in the International Basketball Association. Two years later, Udoka was drafted into the NBADL by the Charleston Lowgators as the 39th overall pick. He played the full 2002-03 season with the Lowgators, averaging 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in the 50 games he played in.

The next season, he finally got his NBA debut when the Los Angeles Lakers called him in the 2003-04 season, appearing in four games, later finishing the season with the Lowgators ranking third in the league with scoring, averaging 16.9 points and seventh in rebounding, with 7.2 rebounds per game.

After a stint in Europe with the French ProA League, he returned to the states and once again drafted in NBDL. This time by the Fort Worth Flyers, he was drafted third overall in the 2005 NBDL draft. He averaged 17.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game with the Flyers.

Udoka was invited to his hometown Portland Trail Blazer’s training camp before the 2006–07 season. He impressed the coaching staff there with his defense and professionalism, and made the team. Starting all 75 games, he played an average of 28.6 minutes per game. Posting numbers of 8.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.9 steals a game.

In 2007, Udoka signed a two-year contract with San Antonio and played in 73 games, averaging 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18 minutes. On his second season with the Spurs, Udoka played in 67 games, averaging 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.4 minutes.

Following the 2009 season, Udoka became a free agent, eventually signing with the Sacramento Kings. He played 69 games with the Kings, averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.7 minutes.

For the 2010-11 season, he rejoined the Spurs, but after playing in 20 games, he was dropped from the team. He went back to Europe to play with the ACB League in Spain on the UCAM Merica. The next year he got a call from his old coach from the Spurs informing him of a coaching position they would like him to fill. Udoka accepted, leaving an offer to return to Spain and play ball.

Boyd Lainhardt contributed to this article.

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