Fellow teammates Ataira Franklin and China Crosby have referred to her as "an athletic freak of nature." Three days before the start of the season, head coach Joanne Boyle offered an extremely accurate prognostication.
"She is a tremendous athlete, but very raw. So much potential. When the lights come on and the fans are there, you are going to see some things we weren't able to do last year on the boards and running in transition and hustle plays."
When the lights turned off at John Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 9, sophomore forward Sarah Imovbioh had crashed the boards to the tune of 10 rebounds and had hustled her way to 22 points, tying the most ever by a rookie Cavalier in the season opener.
"At that opening tip, I was really, really nervous," Imovbioh said. "I think it took the first five minutes to get it out of my system. When I got it out, I just started playing. It seemed normal, just like in practice. When I got the rip-n-go and I went to the basket, I could hear the crowd and the support and that made me really really excited."
Imovbioh's debut was delayed a year after the NCAA ruled that she had to sit out last season because of a gap in her high school enrollment while living in Nigeria. She moved to Charlottesville when she was a 16-year-old sophomore, leaving behind her parents, two brothers, and a sister to pursue the opportunity to play in America.
"It's really hard because I really miss them a lot. I can't wait to
go back and see them," Imovbioh said. "I communicate with them
mostly through Facebook, or at least my sister. My mom is not into
Facebook, so I talk to her on the phone a couple of times a week."
Imovbioh has only been home once since coming to America. It was, ironically, the thing that originally took her away from her home country that gave her the opportunity to go home.
"Two summers ago, I was playing for the Nigerian national team and I got to go home for seven days," Imovbioh said. "We went to France after that to compete, but it was nice to see them for a little while."
The Nigerian national team was training in Washington, D.C., prior to their brief stop in the homeland and subsequent trip to Europe. Imovbioh plans to train with them again this summer, probably in Florida or possibly again in Washington D.C. She is hoping that the team will again head back to Nigeria.
Aside from her family, she also really misses the food of her home country, especially pounded yams, banga soup, Nigerian stew, and plantains. It didn't take long, however, to find new American loves.
"The first thing I fell in love with in America was McDonalds," Imovbioh said. "I landed in D.C. and I was hungry and the driver took me to McDonalds. I was like "WOW!!!!!!" I love the fries. Every day. Every night I had French fries straight for a month. They had to stop me. I love the French fries."
The transition to living in the United States was not an easy one. With English as her self-described "seventh language" (she is fluent in multiple Nigerian dialects including Benin, Edo, Hausa, Ibo, and Yooba as well as knowing a little bit of Arabic), it took her awhile to adjust. Once she did, Virginia became her top choice for college, not wanting to leave her beloved second home.
She credits her host family and guardians, Julia and Phil Stinnie, for giving her the support and acceptance she needed to make it through the transition. She also credits them for introducing her to her other love: the Olive Garden.
Thompson Starts Laying GroundworkWomen's Basketball6/20/18Summer practice started Wednesday morning for the Virginia women's basketball team, which has a new head coach, Tina Thompson.Huff Looking to Make Up for Lost TimeMen's Basketball6/19/18A 7-1 forward from Durham, N.C., Jay Huff hopes to carve out a role in Virginia's frontcourt as a redshirt sophomore in 2018-19.Nus Traveling Road to RecoveryMen's Soccer6/18/18Rising senior Sergi Nus, an All-ACC defender who's recovering from a torn ACL, expects to be ready for Virginia's opener in August.
Director of News Content
A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
Jeff White: Thompson Starts Laying Groundwork
W. Basketball | 6/20/2018
Summer practice started Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena for the Cavaliers and their new head...
Virginia to Face Michigan State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge
W. Basketball | 6/11/2018
Virginia women's basketball to play Michigan State for just the second time as part of the 2018...
Thompson Inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
W. Basketball | 6/10/2018
Virginia head women’s basketball coach Tina Thompson was inducted into the Women’s...
Jeff White: Thompson Hits Ground Running
W. Basketball | 5/30/2018
Tina Thompson, who had a Hall of Fame playing career, took over last month as head women's...
Seven Teams Earn NCAA APP Public Recognition
W. Basketball | 5/16/2018
Virginia Athletics had seven teams earn Public Recognition for academic excellence after scoring ...
Jeff White: Thompson Ready To Lead From Front
W. Basketball | 4/18/2018
The mood was celebratory Wednesday afternoon at JPJ, where Tina Thompson was introduced as the...
Tina Thompson Introductory Press Conference
W. Basketball | 04/18/2018
Hear from Virginia head coach Tina Thompson in her introductory press conference.
Jeff White: Thompson Era Begins for Cavaliers
W. Basketball | 04/18/2018
Tina Thompson will be introduced as UVA's head women's basketball coach Wednesday afternoon at...
- Online Stores