Bryant University men's basketball junior Ikenna Ndugba makes an impact on every facet of the game when on the court for the Bulldogs.
Ndugba is the NEC's top returner in assists, while ranking in the top 10 in points, steals and minutes, providing a veteran presence on the court for the Black and Gold this winter.
Back home in Boston, Ndugba's presence off the court is even more impactful.
Ndugba spent the last Thursday before returning to campus for his junior season at the Massachusetts State House, hosting an open mic event for teens and young adults to use the spoken word to express their passions and challenges in the local community.
Around 35 people attended the event, ranging from teenagers to young adults. Ndugba, motivated by his own experiences growing up in Boston, used the event to give a platform to others going through similar times.
"I want kids who are dealing with certain issues to be able to speak about it," said Ndugba. "I went through some challenges being in an area growing up that had a heavy presence of gangs, and I wanted to have a way to express that."
Those who participated in the event received a copy of Tupac Shakur's The Rose that Grew from Concrete.
Ndugba attended Boston Latin Academy from seventh through ninth grade before going off to prep school at the Brooks School, where his success on and off the court led to playing at Bryant.
"When I went to prep school, I was able to gain an appreciation for a different way to express yourself, as opposed to going about it the ways that I was going about it," said Ndugba.
Ndugba's drive to assist others off the court goes beyond one event. His roots in Boston have inspired him to use his time at home during summers and vacations to mentor the teenagers of the city that have come after him.
In his efforts to impact his community, Ndugba has had a strong ally in Massachusetts Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, who has represented Ndugba's home district for 15 years.
"I often run into young people interested in social missions," said Sanchez. "Ikenna was drawn to my work, expressed interest in getting involved, and most importantly, followed through."
Sanchez, who attended the same grammar school as Ndugba – a few years apart – recognizes Ndugba's investment in his community while in his college years is a special trait.
"He's the real deal," said Sanchez. "Change doesn't happen by talking but by doing. He's followed his heart and is doing things. He really wants to make a big difference."
Smithfield and Boston are separated by about 50 miles, which has allowed Ndugba opportunities to return home during some downtime. In that time, he has worked to mentor teens on everything from the college application process to organizing events in some of Boston's housing projects. He has kept in touch with some of them remotely while back on campus, lending advice and guidance.
"Kids gravitate to him," said Sanchez. "He's become a mentor. There's a bigger world outside the neighborhood, and Ikenna's been able to expose them to that."
Ndugba is back in Smithfield this fall, preparing for a junior season in which the Bulldogs look to rise in the NEC under first-year head coach Jared Grasso. The marketing major is excelling in the classroom as well, earning ECAC President's Honor Roll distinction for a 3.71 GPA in the spring.
With the majority of his time devoted to schoolwork and basketball in the coming months, Ndugba's trips home will be limited. But if his track record is any indication, he will still be making an impact from across state lines.
On and off the court, Ikenna Ndugba assists his teams in Smithfield and Boston to success in basketball and in life.