A former Omaha high school basketball star died in a Dallas suburb last week, shot as he apparently tried to break into an apartment.
Nedu Onyeuku, 29, died the morning of Nov. 21 in Plano, Texas.
Plano police are investigating the shooting as a possible homicide that occurred during an attempted aggravated robbery, said Officer David Tilley, a police spokesman.
Onyeuku came from his native Nigeria to Omaha as a small child. He played basketball at Creighton Prep until his 2002 graduation, then played college ball at Iowa Western Community College and Illinois State University. He went on to play professional basketball in a handful of countries.
Onyeuku had recently accepted a spot on an Iraqi team. His agent, Adam Prossin, spoke to him the day before the shooting to discuss details of his new assignment. Onyeuku was supposed to leave Texas a few days later.
Prossin said the case is “shocking” in relation to the soft-spoken, down-to-earth ballplayer he knew.
“I know Nedu as being a pretty-straight-laced nice guy,” Prossin said.
A man told police that Onyeuku and at least one other intruder shattered the glass patio door and broke into his Plano apartment about 3 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving. The door opened onto to the master bedroom, where the man lay next to his shotgun.
The man said he shot at Onyeuku multiple times.
The other person or people who were with Onyeuku ran away. Police have not identified them, Tilley said.
“We believe this is more than just 'an unknown subject breaks into your residence to commit a burglary,'” Tilley said, but he declined to elaborate.
Texas, unlike Nebraska, has a “castle doctrine” law, which gives people some latitude to use deadly force against intruders in their homes.
Onyeuku aimed to play in the National Basketball Association. He was living in the Dallas area to try to get into the NBA Development League there, hoping that would lead to an NBA spot.
Onyeuku previously played for German and Libyan teams and the national team in Nigeria.
Prossin said Onyeuku was a talented player. “He would surprise guys with this athleticism and his leaping ability, as well as his ability to just shoot the lights out.”
Onyeuku was playing for the Libyan team in 2011 when the civil war began, Prossin said. The team was based in a relatively safe area but eventually left for Egypt. Onyeuku joined the Nigerian team later that year for the African Championships, where it took third place.
The Nigeria Basketball Federation released a statement saying Onyeuku's friends and teammates will miss him.
“Nedu's passion for playing ... was deep-seated and he will be greatly missed,” it said. “The federation joins his family and teammates to mourn a departed son, father, husband and great patriot.”
Onyeuku is survived by his two sons, Isaiah Jeremiah Onyeuku and Chinedu Jeremiah Onyeuku Jr.; their mother; his companion, Tiaira Erwin; his parents, Josephine and Saul Onyeuku; and two sisters, Kelechi Onyeuku and Ozioma Onyeuku.
Prossin said Nedu Onyeuku was proud of his sons and would often post videos of their football games on Facebook. Once, he even skipped the first part of a tryout to watch one of his sons play football.
“He made the decision that it was more important to go to his son's football game,” Prossin said.
A wake for Onyeuku will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Omaha's Fort Street Church of Christ, 5922 Fort St. A visitation at the church will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by services at 1 p.m.
Plano police asked anyone with information on the Onyeuku case to call Crime Stoppers at 877-373-8477. Tipsters could be eligible for an award of up to $5,000.
World-Herald staff writer Jonathon Braden contributed to this report.
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