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Once upon a time, there were two talented, young basketball players growing up in Lagos, Nigeria.

Considering the population of Lagos is 14.3 million people, the two hoops prodigies weren’t acquainted with each other.

They went their separate ways.

The oldest of the duo became very well known in the world of youth basketball and eventually attended St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio, Texas, for his first two seasons of prep basketball.

Next, he transferred to the Aspire Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. He actually graduated a year early from that school and reclassified into the 2018 NCAA recruiting class.

Then, he shocked the country by signing with Western Kentucky University.

Meanwhile, the younger of the talented pair had concentrated on soccer until leaving Nigeria after his eighth-grade year and enrolling in Chapmanville High School in southern West Virginia.

He was a tremendous athlete with obvious physical gifts and over the next four years his skills on a basketball court grew and grew. He led the Tigers to Class AA state championships in both 2018 and 2019.

During those four years, his sponsor family in Chapmanville — Douglas and Tammy Killen — grew to care for him so much, they legally adopted him.

So, when it came time for him to choose where he wanted to pursue his education and basketball career at collegiately, he chose Marshall University so he could be close to his adopted home.

What an interesting tale of two talents.

But wait, there’s more.

The defining chapter of this cultural and basketball saga will arrive at 5 p.m. Friday when Marshall University plays Western Kentucky in E.A. Diddle Arena at Bowling Green, Kentucky.

That’s when the Hilltoppers’ Charles Bassey will meet the Thundering Herd’s Obinna Anochili-Killen for the first time.

So, will the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Bassey and the 6-8, 200-pound Anochili-Killen go head-to-head?

“We will probably use you,” said veteran Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni with a laugh during a Zoom meeting. “We are probably going to have to use everybody. We’re going to be active around him.

“We’re going to see what Goran (7-foot sophomore Goran Miladinovic) can do. And, then, we’re going to have to be active as hell. When we start getting active, then you’re talking about quick players that have to maybe double-up on him and force him to be a little quicker than he wants to be.”

That easily could include the extremely athletic Anochili-Killen.

“I am kind of excited to play against them,” he said. “Marshall and Western Kentucky have been a rivalry before, I guess. I don’t know. I heard they have a little bit of rivalry in them. I’m excited to play them.”

“You always like the rivalry games because that’s the game that you always want to win. At the end of the day, that’s the game that you’re going to talk about — we beat Western Kentucky. It was just like Chapmanville and Logan. It was just all about the win, so you could talk about it.”

The intriguing part, however, is Bassey & Obinna.

“Oh, Charles?” said Anochili-Killen. “He is an NBA Draft big man. When I watched him play the other day, he’s a big guy who can pretty much do everything. He can put the ball on the floor, shoot, he’s strong in the post ... he’s just a great big man.”

So, in review, we have two athletic big men from Nigeria, playing in the United States for colleges that are both members of the same league (Conference USA) and are, in fact, arch-rivals.

How coincidental can this get?

Well, as it turns out, a little more. Although Bassey is a junior at Western Kentucky and Anochili-Killen is a true freshman at MU, their ages are only a year apart. Bassey was born on Oct. 28, 2000, while Obinna was born on Sept. 27, 2001.

Yet, they never officially will meet until Friday night.

So, this matchup has been a long time and a long way in the making.

It took 5,943 miles, to be exact.

--30--

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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