Throughout the day, we'll take a look back at iconic figures — one per school — from Big Ten's basketball past. The 10th installment:
Whatever happened to ... Penn State’s John Amaechi
Then: England native moved to Toledo, Ohio, during his high school career and began playing basketball. Originally signed by Vanderbilt, he left for Penn State after one season. He helped Bruce Parkhill’s Nittany Lions to a third-place finish in the NIT, a rare basketball success for the football school. An All-Big Ten first-teamer as a senior, Amaechi averaged 15.6 points and 8.8 rebounds during his Penn State career.
Now: Undrafted by the NBA after his senior season, Amaechi was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He made the team and played five seasons with three different teams. In 2007, after his retirement from pro basketball, Amaechi talked on ESPN about being a gay athlete and also released a successful book, “Man in the Middle,” about his experiences. Amaechi lives in England, where he is an organizational and performance consultant, psychologist and motivational speaker.
What they’re saying: “He was a really versatile player. We played him inside most of the time. I think playing with your back to the basket is kind of a lost art. John was good at that. He gave us a strong presence in there. He had really good timing, and he played bigger than he was. He could rebound well. He was a heckuva student. Growing up in England, he didn’t have much of a basketball background. He really worked to develop his skill. He made tremendous progress in a relatively short amount of time. He was definitely one of the best guys I coached. He was good to coach because he really thought things out. He had a goal to play in the NBA. After practice, he’d have dinner, then he’d go back and shoot hoops for a couple of hours. Basketball to John was kind of a means to an end. He wanted to be good and he was good, but it wasn’t the end of the world for him. He had other interests way beyond basketball. He was the consummate student-athlete.” — Bruce Parkhill, former Penn State coach