Adeogun’s long wait finally over

Ola Adeogun finally made his NCAA debut last July 19. (NPPA Images)

San Beda's Nigerian recruit Olaide Adeogun finally set his foot on an NCAA hard court yesterday after two and a half years.  He helped the Red Lions overwhelm the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals, 81-65, in their NCAA match-up last July 19, with numbers of nine points, 14 rebounds, including four offensive boards, and four blocks.  Suspended by the league for four games for his involvement in a fracas during an NCAA volleyball game at the San Beda gym late last year, Adeogun missed his team's games against Arellano, Lyceum, Perpetual Help and St, Benilde.  The Lions defeated the Chiefs, Pirates and Blazers but succumbed to the Altas for a 4-1 card.

"It feels really great.  I waited two and a half years for this moment.  I just wanted to go out there and play.  It feels like I just got married.  That's how I feel," said an ecstatic Adeogun, who arrived in the country in late 2009 and was not able to enroll during the first semester of that year.  As a foreign student, he had to establish a two-year residency as required by the league.

"I felt good also after the game.  I helped my team defensively.  Even if I didn't score too much, it's ok for as long as my team wins," added Adeogun.

The Lagos native proved to be a major difference for the Red Lions especially in controlling the boards and swatting shots.  In their overtime loss to Perpetual Help, the Bedans were badly outrebounded by the Altas.  Now with Olaide patrolling the paint, San Beda may have found an answer to its major weakness.

Adeogun was referred to former Red Lions coach Frankie Lim by Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Bayno, who discovered the young Nigerian during the NBA's Basketball Without Borders hoops camp in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The camp brought together the best young players from different African countries.  Some of the personalities who facilitated the camp were NBA greats Dirk Nowitzki and Dikembe Mutombo.  Among Olaide's fellow campers from Nigeria were Godwin Okonji and Deji Egbeyemi, who now both play for the Loyola Marymount University Lions, and Temi Adebayo of the Philadelphia University Rams in the U.S. NCAA Division 1.

Adeogun was actually offered to play two years of high school basketball in the United States but opted to finish his secondary education in his home country.  He was also enticed to play by several club teams in Lithuania, Montenegro and Qatar but was prevailed upon by his father Taiwo to pursue a college degree.  Before coming to Manila, the 6'8" product of Bolade Grammar School almost went with the Nigerian Under-18 national squad to a FIBA Africa tournament in Egypt.  He was already training with the team and was even being groomed as the starting small forward.  But before he could play in an official tournament wearing the national colors, the call to play for the Red Lions became hard to ignore.

"The most important thing for me is school.  I made the decision after consulting my family and former coaches.  We agreed that playing in the Philippines while getting free college education is the best option.  I looked up San Beda College in the Internet and saw that a fellow Nigerian (Samuel Ekwe) played there.  That's when I decided to come.  And since I arrived, I never regretted coming here.  The country, the people, and the school are all great.  Everywhere I go, people who don't know me care about me.  I don't think there is any other country like this.  And basketball is so competitive here," explained Adeogun.

The bubbly Olaide, who just turned 21 last July 15, actually learned the ropes of the sport late in his childhood.  Soccer used to be his sport, just like most Nigerians.  But after attending several basketball clinics, Adeogun slowly developed a passion for basketball.  In the Milo Basketball Clinic in Lagos, he won several awards including Most Promising Player, Best Defensive Player and Best Slam Dunk.

Olaide is the eldest of four boys — Yemi, 15, Samson, 11, and Samuel, 8.  His mother Taibat is a garments and jewelry trader, while his father is a mechanical engineer in a government-run firm.

Adeogun adapted quickly with the team even during his first few weeks in San Beda.  He is a quick learner and can almost speak fluent Filipino.  Being a generally friendly fellow, Adeogun has been collecting friends everywhere he goes.

Since the unfortunate incident last year that led to his suspension, Olaide has learned his lessons well.  "Now my mindset before each game is to stay calm.  I know I will be the target of many enforcers.  But I will try to always clear my head and just walk away," said Adeogun, whose claim of a racial slur against him by members of the San Sebastian men's volleyball team led to the ugly brawl last year that cost Lim and SSC volleyball coach Roger Gorayeb a two-year ban in the NCAA.  Ola accused the Sebastinians of calling him "unggoy", which he understood.  But he was not physically involved in the melee itself.

Adeogun can still play three years for the Red Lions if he chooses to.  The Red Lions next face dangerous Letran.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.