It’s a unique name, one he figures to make more popular in the near future, and Goodluck Okonoboh smiled when asked about the story behind it.
“I’ve got to explain that a lot,” he said.
His father, Sylvester, had just moved from Nigeria to Boston with his mother, Justina. His first job was as a taxi driver.
“When he came to America, I was in my mom’s stomach,” Goodluck said Thursday, launching into storyteller mode after playing in the adidas Super 64 tournament at Rancho High School.
He said his dad reported for work, picked up three guys in his cab and sensed his luck was about to turn bad.
“He knew something was wrong that day,” Goodluck said. “When he got to the destination, it was a dead end. One of the guys shot him in the chest. He was in the hospital, and it was not looking good. My mom put him on life support.”
The next day, his dad’s condition miraculously improved, and, “The next week, I was born, so he named me Goodluck.”
Some of the nation’s top college basketball coaches were in the stands at 9 a.m. Thursday, when Okonoboh’s team from Boston, Mass Rivals, took on Dream Vision Elite from Las Vegas.
UNLV’s Dave Rice arrived early and was surrounded by Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Memphis’ Josh Pastner and others.
Okonoboh was not the only big-name player in the game. Stephen Zimmerman, a 7-foot junior from Bishop Gorman High School, headlines the Dream Vision roster. Rivals.com ranks Zimmerman the nation’s No. 2 prospect in the class of 2015.
“He’ll be a good player,” said Okonoboh, a 6-9 forward ranked No. 32 in the class of 2014. “I look forward to games like that.”
Zimmerman showed off a smooth left-handed jumper and deft passing skills. He occasionally drifted out to the 3-point line but didn’t shoot often, scoring only six points in Dream Vision’s 72-62 victory.
Okonoboh, an explosive athlete, did most of his work near the basket. He had a shot blocked by Zimmerman before responding with a dunk on the same possession. Both big men can run the floor, and both are high-priority recruiting targets for UNLV.
The Rebels’ coaches have been “pretty aggressive” in courting him, said Okonoboh, who will be a senior at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass.
UNLV has a connection to Okonoboh that could prove valuable. He said one of his friends is Khem Birch, the Rebels’ junior forward from Canada.
“I’m still learning about a lot of programs,” Okonoboh said. “I’m open to everybody. I don’t have a list. I have no favorites.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino is hot on Okonoboh’s trail. He also has offers from Duke, Indiana, Ohio State, Syracuse and several other elite programs.
Rice is aiming high and recruiting nationally with success. UNLV received a commitment in the spring from Dwayne Morgan, a 6-7 forward from Baltimore ranked No. 12 in the senior class by Rivals.com.
Okonoboh knows all about Anthony Bennett, who was lured to the Rebels partly through his friendship with Birch. Last month, the Cleveland Cavaliers made Bennett the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, and high school stars pay attention to those kinds of things.
After scoring 17 points in his team’s loss, Okonoboh walked out of the gym and ran into Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, who stopped and greeted him.
Okonoboh’s dad now works with mentally challenged kids. He quit driving a taxi after getting shot.
“He was done after that,” Goodluck said with a smile.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.