When Efe Balfour decided to attend Bridgewater College to play basketball, he set his sites on being an immediate contributor.
The Eagles were bringing in seven other freshmen with a new coach, so the former Chapel Hill High standout figured his chance would be good to become a starter.
Balfour’s confidence in his ability proven to be right. The 6-foot-5 forward has played in all 17 of the team’s games with nine starts.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised at what I’ve done,” Balfour said via cellphone earlier this week. “I knew I could do it. I’m pleased at where I’m at right now.”
Balfour is the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 7.8 points per game and the top rebounder at 5.9 per contest at the NCAA Div. III school in Virginia.
A three-time all-region player during his time at Chapel Hill, Balfour was overlooked by the larger schools because of his size. He had a guard body but the skill set of a post player.
But Balfour is not complaining about where he has landed in playing his college basketball.
“When I was making my decision, I was looking for a place that I felt comfortable and could help build something,” Balfour said. “We have a lot of young players on the team so I’m real excited about the direction of the program. My entire approach during the summer before coming here was to push myself to be a good player that could make an impact.”
So far, he looks to be accomplishing that goal.
Eagles first-year coach Shawn Postiglione seems to be pleased for by the effort of his talented forward.
“Like all freshmen there is a learning curve for players to adjust,” Postiglione said. “We really like his effort and enthusiasm that he has brought to the team. We know he and the team are going to get better as they keep competing. He has a very high ceiling and we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what he can do.”
This time last season, Balfour was the centerpiece of the Chapel Hill team, which went from an eighth-seed in the region tournament to earning a playoff berth. The Panthers lost to six-time state champion Miller Grove by only three points on the road.
Balfour creates his time at Chapel Hill at helping shape him into the type of player and person he has become.
“It really helped me understand that I can be a leader,” Balfour said. “We learned that anybody can lead as long as you continue to do the right things.”
Learning to become more physical is one of the biggest adjustments that he has had to make on the college level. He will probably look to put on more weight to his 200-pound frame.
“It is much more physical on this level,” Balfour said. “Size is a big factor as you are going against a lot of stronger players that are bigger than you are. You just have to find ways to get to the bucket.”
He has mastered his studies in the classroom just as hard as on the basketball court. Balfour finished the first semester with a 3.3 grade-point average.
“Being so far away from home hasn’t been that bad,” Balfour said. “I did get a little homesick when I first got here. I really like the campus and the people here at Bridgewater. It has been a good transition for me.”
And Postiglione likes Balfour’s potential.
“The best is ahead for him,” Postiglione said. “I’m excited for him. When you need a rebound he can get it for you.”