Trailing East Tennessee 54-52 with 5.6 seconds left in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, UNCG had one last chance to move on to the championship game. Ije Ajemba looked on as her teammate, Te’ja Twitty, drove into the lane and hoisted a last second attempt that missed. With that, the game was over and the run for the Spartans in the SoCon tourney had ended. That also ended the superb season that was turned in by graduate transfer Ajemba. Nearly a month removed from the heartbreaking loss, Ajemba has had some time to reflect on her stay in Greensboro.
Getting to Greensboro did not happen in the traditional way for Ajemba. She attended Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland and starred as a three-sport athlete. In 2013, Ajemba committed to playing basketball at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When asked about choosing UNCG as the spot to finish her college playing career, she did not hesitate with her response.
“It was Coach Patterson” said Ajemba.
After spending three years with Coach Patterson, who was on the staff at Old Dominion during Ajemba’s time there, the two had formed a strong connection.
“I really wanted to go home and play in front of my family, but the relationship I had with Coach is why I knew I needed to come here. I just wanted to be happy,” said Ajemba.
Unfortunately the Spartans were not able to build on the twenty win season from 2016-17. This year saw their record fall to 13-18 overall and 6-8 in conference play. However, that did not stop Ajemba from piling up record-breaking stats in her one season at UNCG. She played in all 31 games for the Spartans, averaging 12 points and 12.5 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. That was enough to earn Ajemba second-team SoCon all-conference, alongside teammate Nadine Soliman. Ajemba was also honored as a first-team selection on the SoCon All-Tournament Team, after averaging 13.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in the two-game run. Her performance in the tournament capped off the single-best rebounding season in Spartan history. Her total of 386 total rebounds bested the previous record of 379 set by Renee Coltrane over thirty years ago.
Ajemba seems to be happy with her decision to attend UNCG.
“I’m happy with the decision; our team record was disappointing, but I feel like I accomplished a lot of goals” said Ajemba. “The losing record hurt honestly, but we fought hard and I’m proud of us. I’m also proud of myself for becoming more of an offensive player,” Ajemba continued.
As she tried not to focus on the overall record, Ajemba pointed to some of the seasons highlights.
“Breaking my own record when we beat Wofford with 22 rebounds. It was a tough fight and a great game,” added Ajemba.
Her teammates will be sure to miss Ajemba’s joking personality. When asked if she could beat anyone on her team in a game of one-on-one, Ajemba couldn’t help but start laughing.
“Let’s just say I have a great deal of confidence in myself. If I did lose, I wouldn’t admit it.” said Ajemba jokingly.
She also made sure to mention how helpful Graduate Manager Ka’Lia Johnson was in developing her game.
The experience Ajemba had at UNCG could be used as a recruiting pitch for the program.
Admitting that she did not get out that much due to her time commitments with basketball, Ajemba spoke glowingly about the community that surrounded her.
“Greensboro has great scenery. It’s also probably the safest place I’ve ever been. When I was walking around Norfolk, it did not feel as safe as here. I felt safe out and about, from early in the morning to late at night in Greensboro.” said Ajemba.
From feeling at home in the community and the experience with the coaching staff, Ije Ajemba was very grateful for everything UNCG offered her and she will certainly be missed next season.