Over three months removed from participating in the 2015 FIBA 3×3 All Stars, Ola Adeogun still hears the ecstatic chants of the many Filipinos which flocked the stage in Doha, Qatar.
He says he can still recall the entire experience — from visiting Filipino communities in Doha, to seeing the bright lights flood the venue, to hearing Q-York provide music all event-long, and to getting draped in the oohs and ahhs of the partisan crowd.
— Adeogun Olaide (@AdeogunOlaide10) December 10, 2015
He still feels thrilled when he remembers the thunderous dunk thrown down by teammate Bright Akhuetie when they defeated the Qatar U-18 3×3 team.
Speaking after watching a PBA game to enjoy his time off from basketball, Adeogun still refuses to give away an important souvenir from that event: the Pilipinas jersey he wore.
“Yung jersey ko, i-la-laminate ko nga eh. Hindi ko ibibigay sa iba,” Adeogun shared. “Baka yun na yung last ko maglaro eh. I-ke-keep ko yan. It is a good opportunity to play against the rest of the world and have the Filipino side, hindi lang yung sa San Beda, support. Iba talaga yung pakiramdam.”
Adeogun, whose remarkable journey began seven years ago when left his native Nigeria to pursue a basketball career in the hoops-crazy Philippines, will finally be able to brag — rightfully — about a key moment in his career.
“Yung experience iba talaga. Ang daming Filipinos diyan, grabe yung suporta nila. Sayang lang hindi kami naglaro sa mismong competition, exhibition lang,” he said.
Adeogun was still a teenager when he thought of moving to the Philippines to play basketball. It had always been what he wanted to do, despite earlier disapproval from his father, who’d had other plans for him.
The 6-foot-9 center traversed thousands of miles, and once he set foot on Philippine soil, he had to weather various challenges — from homesickness, to adapting to his new surroundings, to racism. His perseverance, though, never faded, and it has translated to multiple NCAA championships for his San Beda Red Lions as he copped many individual accolades along the way.
The 3×3 moment Adeogun had in December, though, was a far more special one given how the odds had been stacked against him. He has never represented the country given his status, though he has expressed willingness to be naturalized in the past.
The door opened for Adeogun when it was announced that the FIBA 3×3 was taking a Philippine squad to play an exhibition game for the FIBA 3×3 All Stars. Given the discipline’s loose and informal — for a lack of a better term — nature, Adeogun, along with Perpetual Help’s foreign student athlete Akhuetie, and collegiate basketball stars Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng, formed the team.
— Adeogun Olaide (@AdeogunOlaide10) December 10, 2015
The Philippines went on to defeat Qatar, 18-11, in a game Adeogun will forever cherish.
“That’s like the highlight of the event. Even the organizers, they wanted us to be part of the competition because when we played, the stadium was so fueled up. Pagtapos nung game namin, may championship game pa, pero parang wala nang nanood ng game. Nag-empty na yung stadium. Sinabi pa nila na you guys, just stay around until the championship is done. So it was a great experience talaga. The Filipinos there, festive talaga. First time ko pa sa Qatar yun,” he said.
While the immediate future is not yet certain for Adeogun, he is grateful to have been given a chance to make the country proud.
“Philippines, they love basketball. And basketball is my passion. So, I will give it any chance to prove myself or show my talent, kahit anong jersey. That is why I am so happy because of the way they love basketball,” Adeogun said.
Adeogun is graduating from San Beda in April, and he intends to pursue a Master’s degree after. He is currently playing in the PCBL too. Moving forward, the big man has many plans in store for himself. He wants to take it little by little.
“Pinayagan naman ako magmaster’s after graduation. Pero ako, gusto ko maglaro muna kasi prime ko to. Kung may magandang offer sa basketball, kukuha ako maski two to three years. Kung hindi masyado, baka ituloy ko kaagad yung master’s ko. Baka magtrabaho na lang ako dito,” he added.
“Ngayon gusto ko lang mag-invest sa future ko. Basketball is not forever eh. Gusto ko rin maglaro sa FIBA, sa Nigeria, pero kailangan mag-focus rin ako sa future ko na long-term.”
Adeogun still has many goals he wishes to achieve in life, but at this point, he is just happy to have something tangible to keep: his Pilipinas jersey, which has pretty much immortalized his remarkable, larger-than-life Philippine basketball career.
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