By Joseph Staszewksi
Jasmine Nwajei will get a chance to do something most players only dream of.
The Murry Bergtraum guard and Rockaway Park native was told through the recruit process by the Wagner College staff that they wanted her to be the face of the program and build around her moving forward.
It was too much for her to pass up and the former Mary Louis star signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday to play women’s basketball at the North East Conference school. She chose the Seahawks and first-year Coach Lisa Cermignano over Stony Brook and Farleigh Dickinson. No school showed the same kind of interest as Wagner, she said.
“How many people do you know are the face of a college?” the 5-foot-7 Nwajei said. “Good players go to college, but do they play their first year? Do they play their second year?”
She visited Wagner, which is rebuilding, last weekend not ready to commit. Nwajei, a combo guard who plays her travel ball with Positive Direction, left feeling different. She said her parents’ opinion reinforced her feelings after the visit. Nwajei has also developed a good relationship with Cermignano. Sheasked her future coach what type of player Cermignano wanted her to be, pass-first and a scorer and Nwajei was told to just be herself.
“From there on, I knew it was for real,” she said. “This is where I want to go.”
Nwajei, who wants to study psychology, is one of the city’s most explosive scoring guards. She was having an All-City first team caliber season, before having to leave Mary Louis for Bergtraum for financial reasons.
She has always been rich in talent. Nwajei even had to play with the boys at the ages of 8 and 9 because she was too advanced for the girls’ teams. As time moved on, she built on that base, working on her shooting and ball handing and committing to be a better defender.
“She worked out the last few summers to try to improve different aspects of her game and even the mental part,” Positive Direction Coach JoAnn Arbitello said. “She has matured tremendously over this last summer.”
Nwajei was joined at the commitment announcement by her parents, brothers and grandparent along with numerous members of her the Positive Direction family at St. Claire’s in Rosedale. She hopes she could be an example to many of the program’s younger players, many of whom were on hand.
“It’s good for the young kids growing up playing ball to see it is a happy ending if you work hard,” Nwajei said.