North's Anyaorah brothers take different paths to similar success

SUWANEE - Only one year apart in age, brothers Eloka and Ebuka Anyaorah naturally have a lot in common - including a love for athletics.

However, there are many other qualities in which the two North Gwinnett seniors couldn't be any less alike.

In fact, their athletics fortunes at North can probably best be described by a famous quote from former major league baseball player Dale Berra regarding his famous father, Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

"Our similarities are different," the younger Berra once quipped.

The two Anyaorah brothers are certainly unique in their respective athletic endeavors.

In addition to playing different sports, they also have dramatically different body types and different skill sets.

One thing they do share is plenty of success.

Eloka just completed a strong career as a linebacker on North's football team, helping the Bulldogs to a school-record 13 wins and a Class AAAAA state runner-up finish by making 86 total tackles, including 91/2 sacks.

Ebuka is in the midst of a stellar senior season with the North basketball team. He is leading the Bulldogs and ranks near the top among all Gwinnett players in scoring (24.3 points per game) and rebounding (9 rpg) - including a career-high 43-point effort during the Powerade Basketball Festival over the holidays.

While each has carved out his own niche in the annals of North athletics by heading in separate directions, it hasn't always been this way.

"Coming up through the (Gwinnett Football League) and basketball youth league, both of them loved sports," North boys basketball coach Len Garner said. "Their eighth-grade (football) team won the county championship. Both of them have always been very athletic. One just took a liking to basketball, while the other one turned out to be a hoss at (football)."

The sons of Nigerian natives Emeka "Steve" and Uche "Martha" Anyaorah quickly turned to sports at a young age after coming to the United States from Austria where they were born while their parents were studying for their careers in medicine and nursing, respectively.

And both excelled at both football and basketball in those formative years, though it depends on who you ask as to which brother was better at which sport.

"In eighth grade, I was actually better than him at basketball," the 6-foot, 203-pound Eloka said with a laugh. "He was actually pretty good at football. I think he would've been a pretty good receiver."

But then a funny thing happened.

An insistence by their mother to budget their time to concentrate on academics prodded them to opt for only one sport.

The decision became easier for each when the two brothers, who up until that time looked so much alike, began to develop dramatically different body types.

"At the beginning of middle school, we were the same height," said the 6-4, 188-pound Ebuka Anyaorah. "By eighth grade, I began sprouting up. Since he was so short and ate so much, he chose football."

The brothers' decisions with sports that play in different seasons kept it easy for their parents to come watch each play without having to choose one's game over the others.

And while the brothers like to kid each other about how differently they developed physically, they remain very close - especially after they wound up in the same grade in school after the older Eloka was held back a year following sixth grade.

But as the two brothers began to assert their own individuality in athletics, they also began to broaden their horizon by making different sets of friends.

"We started hanging out with different people," Ebuka said. "He started hanging out with a lot of his friends from football, and I hang out a lot with my basketball teammates.

"Our relationship now is more competitive. We're always comparing what I do on the court with what he does playing football. But at the end of the day, we've still got each other's back. We've got love for each other and we support each other."

That includes the aspirations of each to play their respective sports at the next level.

Both are being hotly recruited. Eloka by the football programs at Central Florida, Western Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, Portland State and Troy. Ebuka by Division I basketball programs Tennessee Tech, Fairfield, South Carolina, South Carolina State, Georgia, Jacksonville (Ala.) State and Georgia State.

At the moment, Central Florida is the only school on both brothers' lists, which leaves open the possibility they could wind up staying together in college.

However, Eloka said both are prepared to continue in the separate directions they started four years ago.

"We've been talking about going to the same school since our sophomore year," Eloka said. "If not, we can't get mad. We'll just be glad to be making it to the next level. ... (And) we'll always be real close."