Favour Aire’s size has always been an asset when it comes to sports.
But up until recently, he had no idea that basketball in the U.S. would be his chosen path as an athlete.
As a soccer defender and goalie in Nigeria, Aire’s size and athleticism presented a substantial obstacle to opposing attacks.
Perhaps he would become an international soccer star?
Instead, Aire was noticed on the hardwood just over three years ago — and suddenly, everything changed.
Aire only took up the game of basketball in the 7th grade. Now in Maryland, he has traded in the cleats for sneakers.
Aire’s U.S. AAU basketball program (New World / Adidas) watched him play at a basketball camp in Nigeria. Soon thereafter, the raw talent was invited to move overseas to attend school and play hoops full-time.
What did New World see in Aire?
“Honestly I don’t even know. I’m guessing it was something they saw,” Aire told The Daily Hoosier. “They never even told me.”
New World’s eye for talent was spot on.
Aire packed up, left his family, and made the move to the Washington D.C. metro area.
Now 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Aire has developed into a top-100 talent in the class of 2022 in just three years.
As a sophomore, Aire averaged 14.4 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game to help lead Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md. A 4-star recruit, Aire is currently ranked No. 92 nationally and the No. 11 center in the 2022 class according to the 247Sports Composite.
Aire’s potential and his big sophomore season opened a lot of eyes. When coaches were able to call players in the class of 2022 directly beginning on June 15, Aire’s phone was quite active.
One coach that reached out was then UConn assistant Kenya Hunter, a well known name in the D.C. area, especially as it relates to developing big men. Hunter has of course since made the move to Indiana, but his recruitment of Aire continued and IU offered a scholarship in early September.
Aire confesses that he didn’t know much about Indiana when they offered, and doesn’t have any ties to the state, school or basketball team.
But his awareness of the program took a big step forward last week.
“I just had a Zoom call with them the other day, and they showed me a lot about the program. I know a lot now. The style of play and the lifestyle at the school stood out,” Aire told The Daily Hoosier about his main takeaways from the roughly one hour call.
Among other things, IU showed Aire video of how they utilized forward Trayce Jackson-Davis last year.
One thing Aire specifically likes is how the basketball facilities at IU are in close proximity to the housing for the players.
What initially attracted Hunter and other top programs to Aire was a skillset that looked a lot like a soccer star. As an underclassman Aire built a reputation as a player that could run the floor, protect the rim, grab rebounds, and score in the paint.
Able to focus on skill development during the pandemic, Aire believes his game has expanded over the last six months.
“My shot is getting a whole lot better, and I’m starting to slide my feet better as a perimeter defender, and my timing on my rebounds and blocks has improved,” Aire said.
Aire said he can make three-pointers but he hasn’t been shooting a lot of them to this point. Right now, the emphasis instead has been on pulling his defender out of the lane and knocking down 15 to 18 footers.
With Aire’s current skillset and projection, Jackson-Davis’ freshman season makes for an attractive comparison for the up-and-coming talent. Without a three-point shot in his game day ready arsenal, the IU forward was still able to achieve third team All-Big Ten in year one.
Although he is still a long way from making a college decision, Aire is looking for a program that can continue to fast track his development. He cited that and academics as the two biggest variables he is looking at right now when it comes to a good fit at the college level.
Aire is hearing from several high major programs. He named Maryland, Louisville, Georgia, LSU and Georgetown as some of the other schools that he hears from regularly right now. Those programs and other high majors have also offered scholarships.
Aire doesn’t expect a school’s proximity to the D.C. area to be a major factor in his choice, and that makes sense for someone already more than 5,000 miles from home.
Right now Aire seems to just be taking it all in, open to seeing where his journey goes next.
He learned a few years ago to take chances — and discover what is possible.
So far, so good.
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