By Dan Gudino and Bryce Ronquillo
Men’s basketball had great success the past two seasons and it continued in the off-season with sophomores Richard Bivens and Arinze Anakwenze committing to NCAA Division I programs on May 22.
Bivens is committing to Florida International University in Miami. He was part of the 2014-15 season that reached the state championship and finished as a runner-up.
His decision to go east, away from home and family, stems from being comfortable away from home.
Bivens is from Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield and has spent time away from his family since attending East Los Angeles College as a freshman.
He found ELAC through his uncle, who knows basketball head coach John Mosley, which made the transition away from home easier.
“I’m so excited for Rich (Bivens). Florida International is getting a great young man. He was part of our state run and our conference championship. So it’s well deserved because he’s been grinding really hard in the classroom,” Mosley said, “We’re truly going to miss him on and off the court.”
Coach Mosley played a big role in Bivens’ attendance at ELAC. For Bivens, deciding on a school came down to where his skills, schooling and comfort level would best fit.
“My mother was really happy about my decision, that’s for sure. The campus was super nice, the people there were cool and obviously, coaching played into the situation. I’m not going to go somewhere where I don’t like a coach or I’m not comfortable,” Bivens said.
Bivens will look to start at FIU right away as a junior.
The distractions of Miami, according to Bivens, will not be a factor in his overall goal of taking his game to the next level and hopefully to the NBA.
“I’m strictly focused on just pursuing my dream and nothing else at all. Distractions are everywhere, not just in Miami, and I’ve done it right,” Bivens said.
The 6-foot-10 forward brought a lot of excitement to ELAC as this program improves every year under Mosley. ELAC finished the 2015-16 season with its best record in school history at 26-4.
Bivens will be joining the likes of Aaron Cheatum from Cal State San Bernardino, Marcus Romain for Mississippi Valley State, Primitivo Gomez from UC Riverside and Marquise Salomon from Utah Valley University as one of many who transfer out of ELAC.
Assistant coach Darren French mentioned that players who move out of ELAC to the next level is becoming the norm.
“We’re really excited about these guys moving on and that’s what it’s all about. It’s pure joy seeing (it). It’s awesome for the program, it’s awesome for the school and it says that East L.A. is a great place, not just as an athletic department, but as a school,” French said.
Anakwenze is committing to Mississippi Valley State University. MVSU is located in Itta Bena, Mississippi and is a part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Anakwenze said he was really attracted to the tight community of MVSU.
“It’s a college town. Everyone in the community looks out for you. I always like to play in an environment where the town is there to support. I’m really looking forward to it,” Anakwenze said.
Anakwenze was being recruited by multiple Division II schools as well as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools. He said he picked MVSU because he felt comfortable that he could go in right away and make an impact on the court.
Anakwenze comes from a good background. Both his parents are doctors and he grew up in Palos Verdes. He graduated from John Muir High School in 2014, averaging 11 points per game and earning second team All League honors. He played a season at Allan Hancock College before transferring to ELAC.
“There is a winning culture at ELAC,” Anakwenze said, “Coach Mosley made sure we played as (a) team. If you are selfish, you won’t be able to play for him.”
Coach Mosley said Anakwenze was able to add to the Huskies’ system of play and fill-in the missing holes of the squad.
“Initially, I recruited him (Anakwenze) a year prior, but then he transferred back in. He came here to ELAC with an intention to grab a full-paid scholarship and he got it. He came in for an opportunity and excelled. In and out of the classroom, Arinze stands out,” Mosley said.
During his lone season at ELAC, he averaged six points and four rebounds per game. Although his statistics weren’t great, he earned a starting position and was one of the hardest workers on the team.
“Arinze used to be an over-worker. On rest days, he would seek extra training or weight lifting. We (the coaching staff) had to tell him to slow down and take days off. There was a big improvement in his game once he started to rest,” assistant coach Ken Hunter said.
Anakwenze kept up his work ethic throughout the season, but he wasn’t always such a hard worker.
“When I was younger, I was very lazy. I took school for granted, I wasn’t the best student. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I started asking myself what I wanted to do,” Anakwenze said, “I didn’t want to be in a situation where my back was to the wall and I didn’t have options.”
Anakwenze said to be successful at MVSU, he needs to become a better jump shooter.
“At the (Division I) college level, everyone needs to be able to shoot the ball,” Anakwenze said.
After college, Anakwenze has his eyes set on playing professional basketball.
“Once I’m done with these two years of college ball, my plan is to play overseas at a high level. The ultimate goal would be to play in the NBA, but I know I have to work really hard for that,” Anakwenze said.
The athletic department’s push to promote the school as top-tier program is aided by the commitments of Bivens and Anakwenze.
“We couldn’t be happier. We couldn’t be prouder of these great couple of kids who played for a great coach,” Athletic Director Al Cone said.
Bivens and Anakwenze are both active on campus. They just completed their program in the Male Leadership Academy. Its purpose is developing males academically and personally, through activities and mentoring. Those interested in joining the MLA can sign up online at elacmla.splashthat.com.