To conclude the summer AAU cycle, The Circuit Championship at the Fantastic 40 brought together elite sneaker-affiliated and independent programs under one roof. Taking place at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, Pro Insight was on hand to cover the four-day event. In between games, we caught up with Francis Chukwudebelu of Greenhill School (TX) and Pro Skills (TX).
Being relatively new to the sport, Chukwudebelu has made major strides in terms of his feel for the game, offensive skill-set, and defensive upside. Standing at 6’10” tall with a 7’5” wingspan at 15 years old, Chukwudebelu has the tools needed to excel in high school and beyond. While he’s still tapping into his upside, look for him to be a name to remember in the class of 2025.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Chukwudebelu discussed his basketball journey, adjusting to the United States, what motivates him, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2025 prospect Francis Chukwudebelu, from Lagos, Nigeria:
Pro Insight: Can you talk a bit about your background?
Francis Chukwudebelu: I’m from Lagos, Nigeria and I came here in 2018 with my mom on vacation to hang out and I met Coach [Derrick] Shelby who took me in and helped me out with basketball and academic stuff. Back in Nigeria I didn’t play basketball until 2018 — it was my first time playing basketball ever in my life. It was a good struggle, but I got used to it and it’s kind of fun right now. I love the game of basketball, but like back at home I didn’t know basketball, at all. I was playing soccer, but right now basketball is my girlfriend. It’s pretty good, I love it.
PI: Does she treat you well?
FC: Yessir, you already know.
PI: What was that basketball journey like, going from Nigeria to the United States?
FC: Yeah, I met a coach in Nigeria that told me I looked tall and could be a basketball player and I was like, “nah I’m good, I want to play soccer” because I loved soccer so much. But he was like, “trust me man, I can take you to the USA to go play basketball” and I was still like, “nah I want to play soccer” but he was still like, “trust me man, you’re pretty tall for like 12 years old” and I was like “alright.” He told me to give him my mom’s number so I did and I don’t know what he did, but he talked to my mom and she was like, “okay, let’s trust him and do what he says.” Back in Nigeria, he first told me the basketball rules and how to play the game. I was so confused because it was my first time ever hearing about basketball stuff. He told me how to play the game along with the rules and stuff. I struggled with it a little bit, but as time goes by I get used to it a lot. I came here with Coach Shelby who stuck with me from the beginning — from like trash to like brushing me off to be good. Every day I would be in the gym, trying to dribble and get my stuff right with basketball, which was pretty tough, but they say that you have to feel the pain to be good at life. I was in the gym 24/7 trying to be great, trying to learn the basic stuff because I was bad. I couldn’t dribble or shoot a layup, but Coach Shelby was there for me the whole time trying to help me out. I appreciate him.
PI: You’re still learning, but do you feel the game has come naturally to you?
FC: It was a big struggle because it’s a tough game. But I can run, jump, and do all of that stuff so for me playing basketball wasn’t that much of a struggle, but it was still a struggle to do the layup line, dunking, dribbling, etc. You have to learn all the basic stuff. It wasn’t that much of a struggle, though.
PI: Did playing soccer help your game in any way?
FC: I would say I was born athletic. I can play other sports, I can play tennis, ping pong, soccer. I can play all of that stuff and I love sports a lot. God blessed me with good height, which helps me with sports, too.
PI: What are your current measurements?
FC: Right now I’m 6’10” and 212 pounds. My wingspan is like 7’5”, which is pretty long. I wear a size 15 shoe.
PI: Where does your height come from?
FC: My mom's side. My mom is like 6’3” and my dad is like 6’0”, but my mom’s dad is like 7’2”. He was pretty tall. I get my height from my mom’s side. I’m not the only tall kid in my family, though — my two brothers are pretty tall, which is kind of cool, too, man.
PI: Do they also play sports?
FC: They play soccer, too. I was trying to talk my little brother into playing basketball, too, but he was like “nah, I’m going to stick with soccer.” I was like, “trust me, man, you’d love it” and he was like, “nah, I’m good.” Alright man do you, bro [smiles].
PI: They’re all back in Nigeria?
FC: Yeah, my mom is here on vacation until December, but they’re all back in Nigeria.
PI: What has that adjustment been like coming from Nigeria to the United States?
FC: It was tough because when I came here I couldn’t speak English, or anything. It was tough to understand or to fit into the environment. It took some time, I couldn’t speak English or anything like that bro — it took time to understand. But Coach Shelby stuck with me and it was fun, too.
PI: Describe your game — what are your strengths?
FC: Well, people always think I’m just a big man, but I have a lot of stuff in my game. I can shoot, dribble a little bit, I can do all of that stuff. People always think I’m a big man, but when they see me, they will be surprised when they see me play. They’re like, “oh he can shoot, he can dribble.” which I love to surprise people with my height when they think I’m a big man, but I’m not. I’m a small forward or power forward, I love my game. When people go against me, though, they always leave me wide open to shoot, which I do and I knock my shot down. They’ll be like, “oh he can shoot, he can shoot.” The assistants will look down and be like “he’s a big man who can shoot and dribble” which is bad, inside me I know I can do all of that stuff which is pretty good for me. I’ve been working on that since I came here. I still have a lot to improve on, though. — on my dribbling, shooting, finishing in the paint, all of that. I still have a long way to go.