Ugbaja cousins keep in touch despite college split

Every so often, Chiefy Ugbaja will sift through a boxscore from a game his cousin Jiday Ugbaja has played. He'll make a quick assessment, and send Jiday a text, often tongue-in-cheek. “Hmmm … I see you got a doughnut.”

As he recounts this, Chiefy sits in the media office at San Francisco State University, where he is a freshman on the men's basketball team. On Saturday, the 6-foot-3 swingman made his debut in an exhibition game at Maryland, chipping in with two rebounds and an assist in nine minutes of action. Jiday, a freshman point guard for Sacramento State University, added a steal against Holy Names on Tuesday.

The Ugbajas were first-team All-West Catholic Athletic League performers at Riordan High School, helping the Crusaders to back-to-back runs in the CIF Division III playoffs.

“They were a joy to coach,” Riordan coach Rich Buckner said. “Their senior year, we could run things without me having to put my fingerprint on every play. They just knew where the other one would be.”

Jiday played three-plus years for the Riordan varsity, after being brought up in midseason as a freshman. As a sophomore, he was behind talented Crusaders guards Geru Mabrey and Frankie Ferrari on the depth chart.

“But he watched them closely,” Buckner said. “He learned how to be an extension of the coach on the court. It helped him grow.”

After a sensational performance for Pan Africa at the Nike Global Challenge (both Ugbajas are of Nigerian descent) the summer before his senior year, Jiday became a force for Riordan.

“He really was a dynamite leader for me the past year,” Buckner said. “Now we're seeing his effect in the returning players this season. They want to be like Jiday, on and off the court.”

Chiefy transferred to Riordan from Oceana High School in Pacifica before his junior year, and Buckner remembers his penchant for displaying one way to play: straight-ahead, with incredible toughness.

“The biggest thing I challenged him with was improving the range on his jumper,” Buckner said.

Paul Trevor, the coach at San Francisco State, hailed Chiefy's feel for the game. As he keeps working on his skill set, he has the chance to develop into a great player at the NCAA Division II level.

They grew up seven houses away from each other, and always figured they would play together in college. Though that dream didn't materialize, they still see each other often, and keep exchanging those banter-laden texts.

“They're the yin to each other's yang,” Buckner said. “It was a pleasure to coach both of them.”

Good Gators: The San Francisco State men's soccer team finished its season in thrilling fashion last week when Gators sophomore midfielder Emmanuel Serrano scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute to defeat Sonoma State 1-0. In coach Matt Barnes' first season, the Gators (8-7-3) amassed the most wins since 2010, and the first winning season since 2005.

Dons doubles falls: USF seniors Bernardo Saraiva and Nils Skajaa's historic trip to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York was a brief one. The doubles team, the first to win a Northwest Regionals title, was bounced in the first round of the national tournament Thursday, losing to Kevin Metka and Ralf Steinbach of Ohio State 6-2, 6-4 at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center.

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By John Krolik Special to The Examiner