In the Iowa State men’s basketball 87-53 blowout victory over the TCU Horned Frogs, many would look at the box score and look at all the reserves that came in for the Cyclones. Some would disregard freshman guard Nkereuwem Okoro’s four minutes and 3-point shot he made late in the game. For “Kerwin” and the Cyclone fans, the shot meant so much more.
This was the first game that Okoro played in since December. As a reserve, the player has spent time dealing with two tragedies in his family. First, his 72-year-old father died of a stroke, and two months later his 28-year-old brother, Idiongo, died of colon cancer. This game came shortly after returning from his brother’s funeral in New York.
With Kerwin and his father becoming distant with “family matters in Africa,” Idiongo stepped in to help raise the eight-year-old. Wanting to be a basketball star himself, Idiongo suffered a torn ACL in his senior year of high school. Instead of pursuing the dream himself, he pushed Kerwin into the sport.
Once the offers started coming for Kerwin, that’s when Idiongo became sick. He unfortunately lost the two-year battle with cancer.
“One of the last things my brother told me before he passed was, ‘God forbid anything happen to me. I don’t want you being weak,'” Kerwin said in an AP article.
Kerwin is handling it the best he can, seeing the Cyclones “like a family” that he can have the healing process with. When he hit the 3-point shot in the closing minutes of the game, the crowd at Hilton Coliseum rose up and cheered for the shooting guard.
“It really meant a lot, getting a standing ovation and seeing my teammates, how excited they were for me,” said Kerwin. “I know this is more than a basketball program.”
While it’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride seeing this Iowa State team with their ups and downs all year, it’s always a story like this that shows all of us there’s more than just winning and losing with a basketball program.
Quotes from Associated Press article.