Festus Ezeli, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound center from Marysville, Calif., verbally committed to the Vanderbilt basketball team Monday and signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday, The City Paper has learned.
He will be eligible to play during the 2007-08 season but is expected to redshirt. He will be one of six incoming freshmen in VU's class of 2007.
Ezeli, a native of Nigeria, graduated from high school in his native country at age 14, then moved to California, where he has recently been attending a community college. He became a hot commodity this summer while playing for the AAU NorCal Pharaohs.
Florida, Ohio State and UCLA were among the schools interested in Ezeli. Vanderbilt had one available scholarship this year, which worked in its favor. Ezeli had stated publicly that he was considering a year in a prep school before enrolling at an NCAA school next year had he not been academically cleared by the NCAA.
Rivals.com this summer ranked Ezeli as the nation's 138th-best prospect for the class of 2008.
"Festus is real defensive minded as he really knows how to play post defense, but I think his offensive game has evolved," Ezeli's AAU coach, Jason Barton, told Rivals.com. "We have worked on a lot of back-to-the-basket moves, and obviously with his athleticism Festus is able to get a lot of offensive boards for dunks and things like that."
Joining Ezeli as Vanderbilt newcomers this season will be center Andrew Ogilvy of Canberra, Australia; guards Keegan Bell of Hazel Green, Ala., and Charles Hinkle of Los Alamitos, Calif.; and forwards Darshawn McClellan of Fresno, Calif., and Andre Walker of Flossmoor, Ill.