Prime Time brings Ukah brothers together

BY KYLE MANN | JUNE 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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Senior Hawkeye forward Okey Ukah was in North Liberty on June 19 playing the first game in what could be his final Prime Time League season as a college athlete. On the opposing bench was a familiar face, brother and Kirkwood freshman Chike Ukah — and although the brothers have been around the leauge in the past, it will offer them a new experience this summer.

The elder Ukah has participated in the league each summer since joining the Hawkeyes, with his brother attending as a spectator. This season will offer something new to the brothers — they will both be players for the first time. 

“We’ve both been playing basketball for a long time,” Chike Ukah said. “But that’s the first time we’ve played against each other. It was pretty cool; hopefully, it happens again sometime.”

In limited minutes, Chike Ukah scored 2 points, making his lone field goal, grabbed 3 rebounds, and dished out an assist. Kirkwood’s freshman forward enjoyed competing with some of the Division-I players for the first time, but he especially looks forward to the training he’ll do with his older brother.

“He’s definitely trying to get me in the gym with him this summer. We have some stuff to work on together,” Chike Ukah said. “He wants me to go to Carver and shoot with him, so that’s what we’ll be doing the rest of the summer.”

Iowa’s Ukah is looking forward to bringing his younger brother to campus to shoot around together and also perhaps to lure him into some head-to-head competition.

“We’ll work on things. We’ll go into the gym and do some workouts,” Okey Ukah said. “But we’ll never play one-on-one. Chike refuses.”

Whether or not they participate in any brotherly showdowns, Prime Time season has brought the two together to improve on their games. Despite nursing a sore ankle, Okey Ukah is focused on developing his post skills and sharing tips with his brother.

“It seems like when I’m on Gold Squad or the scout team, I do a lot of post work,” Okey Ukah said. “I’m trying to move out my post game a little more and get experience playing the 4.”

“We aren’t the biggest guys playing the post,” Okey Ukah said, so his biggest piece of advice for his brother is to contest dunks. “But as long as he’s playing hard and trying his best, that’s all I can ask for.”

Chike Ukah put together a solid, mistake-free performance in his début, but his younger brother had impressed Okey Ukah before the tip-off.

“I’m happy for him,” Okey Ukah said. “I’m happy he got such a high [draft] pick; I wish I had gotten such a high pick when I started Prime Time. I’m very proud of him.”

Residents of Iowa City, the Ukah family has stayed close and supportive, and the brothers were able to play their first game against one another in front of their mother, who thinks she knows why it’s never happened before.

“They’re very close,” Cynthia Ukah said. “I think to maintain that closeness, they made it a point to never play … it was a wonderful experience.”

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