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This Worcester native will fulfill a dream after jumping from D3 to D1 college basketball

WORCESTER — When Aaron Nkrumah was starring at South High, he aspired to play Division 1 college basketball and that goal was something he discussed with Worcester State coach Tyler Hundley during the recruiting process, but, five years ago, Nkrumah wasn’t ready for that level.

After graduating from South in 2019, Nkrumah prepped for a year at Marianapolis, attended Quinsigamond Community College during the COVID year, and spent a semester at Nichols, before transferring at Worcester State.

The last two seasons with the Lancers, Nkrumah dazzled. He led WSU to back-to-back MASCAC championships and NCAA Division 3 Tournament appearances and won consecutive conference player of the year honors.

Following the 2023-24 season, Nkrumah and Hundley had another chat. It was time for Nkrumah to pursue his ultimate dream.

Nkrumah entered the transfer portal and after garnering interest from schools in all three divisions, he committed to D1 Tennessee State.

“It took some time to get where I wanted to be,” Nkrumah said this week. “It’s not really the typical route you see, but it’s cool to end up at this spot.”

The 6-foot-6, 180-pound Nkrumah, who averaged 20 points and 8.3 rebounds this season, heads to Tennessee State June 8 for the team’s offseason program.

Nkrumah is one of six transfers joining the Tigers, who play in the Ohio Valley Conference and went 18-15 (10-8) last year. Nkrumah has two years of eligibility remaining.

As a senior at South, Nkrumah averaged 16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists while earning T&G Super Team accolades.

“I was talented,” Nkrumah said, “but I wasn’t really that good to be at the Division 1 level.”

For Nkrumah, who grew two inches since then, the last two seasons at Worcester State were transformative.

“It took a lot of work to get my body right,” Nkrumah said, “training in the gym and getting better. Once I was able to do that, I was able to showcase my talent at Worcester State.”

In 2022-23, Nkrumah averaged 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds and helped lead the Lancers to their first MASCAC title since 1994.

This year, Nkrumah continued his dedication to work outside of practice, the mental game and persistent improvement. He was a D3 All-American.

“We always knew his size and athleticism were there,” Hundley said, “and the ability to play really hard on both ends. Putting the skill level with his physical attributes puts him in position to contribute at (the Division 1) level.”

Nkrumah said the first few days of the portal were crazy as D3, 2 and 1 schools reached out.

“It was all over the place,” he said, “but I was stuck on trying to get a scholarship at the Division 1 level.”

It came down to Tennessee State, Bryant and Radford.

“Tennessee State showed the most interest,” Nkrumah said, “and they thought I would fit well in their play style and their system.”

Nkrumah visited the Nashville campus April 26 and made his decision soon after.

“Long, athletic and smooth, Aaron can play multiple positions and can score on all three levels,” Tennessee State coach Brian “Penny” Collins said. “He is a winner with NCAA tournament experience and a high-level player.”

In the final 26 seconds of WSU’s overtime loss to Catholic in the first round of this year’s NCAA tourney, Nkrumah had a block, rebound and two baskets, including a 3-pointer that sent the game to OT. He finished with 32 points.

It took Nkrumah just 54 games at Worcester State to score 1,000 points.

“If he would have played four years at Worcester State,” Hundley said, “he probably would have been the best player in the program’s history.

“While we’re not going to be able to replace him,” Hundley added, “he definitely left the program in a better spot than when he got here.”

This week, Worcester State recognized Nkrumah as its Male Athlete of the Year, a most deserving honor for Nkrumah as he embarks on the next leg of his basketball journey.

“I couldn’t have done it without Worcester State,” Nkrumah said. “When I first came in, there were a lot of growing pains. There were things I needed to take in, experience I needed to gain before I could be a better player. Once I was able to put everything together, then I was able to give what was needed here. We got past the hump and won two championships. It was good. It worked out pretty well.”


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