Amber Igiede understands why people assume she excels at another sport.
“Everyone thinks I play basketball because I’m tall, but it doesn’t work that way,” Igiede said. “I can’t shoot a basketball to save my life.”
But St. Michael the Archangel junior sure can hit a volleyball. At 6-foot-3, Igiede towers over the competition and led the Warriors to a No. 2 seed in Division III going into the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Volleyball tournament that begins Thursday in Kenner.
St. Michael (29-4) helps start the LHSAA tourney, taking on No. 10 De La Salle (22-19) at 9 a.m. in the Pontchartrain Center.
Igiede enters the LHSAA tourney with 432 kills, 71 blocks and 59 digs. Already an All-Metro MVP for schools in Divisions III and below as a sophomore, Igiede drives home a key point — the three-day tournament isn’t about statistics for anybody on the SMHS team.
“St. Michael has never won a state title in volleyball,” Igiede said. “Coach (Rob) Smith told us what an awesome feeling it was to be in the final 10 years ago. We want that feeling and want him to have it again too. Our goal is to win it.”
Igiede’s route to volleyball wasn’t conventional. She didn’t take up the sport until she was a fifth-grader at St. Louis King of France Catholic School. That was after her older sister tried to convince her volleyball was too much work.
“I wasn’t involved in sports, but I did (volleyball) and I liked it,” Igiede said.
By the time Igiede was a freshman at St. Michael, her skills were developing. Smith didn’t play her in a varsity game until the Warriors faced rival Parkview Baptist.
“I told her she was just going to sit on the bench,” Smith said. “Before the match I put the numbers of the starters on a clip board. She looked at the lineup and then looked down at her jersey and realized she was starting. I think Amber had 10 or 12 kills that night. She is very coachable and wants to be the best at every position. She will set and ask to play libero at practice.”
Igiede’s star is on the rise in a sport her family knew little about. Her parents, Anthony and Lena, played other sports while growing up in Nigeria. The Igiedes came to the United States to attend college and settled in Baton Rouge.
Igiede's early scholarship offers include Southern, Alcorn State, Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State. An honor student who wants to be a pediatrician, Igiede has been contacted by several national powers, including Michigan State, Minnesota, Wake Forest and Stanford.
But he LHSAA tourney that could include a possible semifinal rematch with No. 3 Parkview is the priority now.
“We’ve worked to build team chemistry,” Igiede said. “We know what to expect because we played in it last year. We want this to be our year.”