Nov. 27, 2006
By Joe Greenwich
Alvin Mofunanya isn't your regular, run-of-the-mill college basketball player. In fact, he almost wasn't a college basketball player at all; his organized basketball career started just five years ago, during his freshman year of high school. Despite his late start, the Saint Joseph's sophomore has developed into a solid contributor on the court, in addition to being a well-rounded young man off of it.
Mofunanya originally hails from Bronx, NY. His family moved to Englewood, NJ, when he was in third grade, and he has lived there ever since. Mofunanya's playing career started relatively late - he did not play organized basketball until his freshman year at Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood. At that time, he was still something of a raw talent. "I automatically made the freshman team because I was taller than everybody else. I really wasn't skillful or anything like that," the 6'8", 245-pound Mofunanya joked. "I just blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, those kind of things."
He credits the older players that he battled against in pick-up games with teaching him everything he knows about playing basketball. Apparently, the "older guys back home," as he referred to them, knew what they were doing, as Mofunanya quickly developed into an Associated Press Second Team All-State selection by 2004. He helped lead his team to a league championship and both state and county tournament final fours before making his way to Hawk Hill for the 2005-06 season.
In obvious ways, Alvin Mofunanya is not a typical college sophomore. That comes with the territory when you play for a Division I basketball program steeped in tradition like Saint Joseph's. For the most part, however, Mofunanya is just like his fellow Hawk undergrads. He counts among his favorite non-basketball activities the most basic of college standbys - eating, sleeping, and watching television. When asked about his favorite foods, he smiled, "Anything that tastes good," he said. He later confessed to a fondness for the cuisine of McDonald's.
Maybe he is a typical college student after all.
Mofunanya sees his family as his biggest off-the-court influence. He counts his mother, Constance, as his biggest supporter, despite her inability to attend most of his games.
"She calls me everyday before my game, after my game, checks up on me...I know she has to work...I'm not mad," he said, displaying a sense of maturity and understanding not often found in people his age. His maturity is also evident in the fact that he considers earning a college scholarship to be his biggest accomplishment in life to date.
Athletically, Mofunanya has made the most of the opportunities that scholarship has offered. He called playing for Hawk head coach Phil Martelli "demanding," but he feels that he is most certainly up for the challenge. In his first season at SJU, he certainly showed glimpses of great potential, appearing in 20 games over the course of the season. Filling in for an injured Dave Mallon, Mofunanya started two games and made an immediate impact. He scored a career-high 13 points and pulled down four rebounds in his first career start, an 82-51 win over St. Bonaventure at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.
"His biggest strength is that he IS strength," commented sophomore Hawk forward Ahmad Nivins. "Have you seen him? He's like a brick wall." In addition to his athletic endeavors, it is clear that Mofunanya values the academic side of the coin as well. He is a fine arts major, a course of study dictated by his enthusiasm for drawing. His favorite subject to reproduce is something near and dear to the heart of any basketball player: sneakers. In fact, you could say he's preparing for the future every time he puts pencil to paper.
When his basketball career is over, Mofunanya says he would like to design his own line of sneakers. His teammates seem to be the beneficiaries of Mofunanya's talents both on the floor and on the drawing board, as he has apparently already designed a shoe for one of them.
"Edwin's nickname is E-Lash," explained Nivins, referring to sophomore guard Edwin Lashley. "He drew a sneaker with a big `E' on it. He's a funny guy."
Nivins also revealed that Mofunanya has already started courting his teammates as future clients. "If any of us make it the NBA, he said, `Forget Nike, forget Reebok,' he's going to design our shoes." Nivins smiled. "I'll take one," he admitted.
It is apparent that Mofunanya, Lashley, and Nivins have become great friends in their time on Hawk Hill. The three sophomores room together on campus, and as student-athletes, share many similar experiences in their daily lives. Mofunanya certainly sees positives in rooming with teammates.
"We can talk about the games, we can go back to the room and watch film...there's a lot to talk about," he shared.
Alvin Mofunanya has come a long way in his short career. From the Bronx, to New Jersey, all the way to Hawk Hill, he has worked hard to improve his skills both on and off the court and hopes to play professional basketball after graduating from Saint Joseph's. If the right opportunity does not materialize, however, he would be more than happy designing sneakers and seeing his shoes on the feet of some of his current teammates on basketball courts all over the world.
Just like he drew it up.