Many people possess talent but what differentiates greatness from being good is dedication, willingness, and, most importantly, consistency. Fope Okuyiga is an example of such characteristics. Okuyiga is slowly but steadily making his name global through basketball. For most, it’s a game, but for him, it’s more than a game; it’s the unison of soul and passion.
The poetic statement wasn’t conjured up to please his supporters but to portray a person who didn’t succumb to life’s challenges. Okuyiga survived every wrecking ball life kept throwing at him. Okuyiga proves that maintaining a positive mindset will call you back on track no matter how frustrating and challenging it gets.
Okuyiga left his motherland, Nigeria as a young kid. He was already having a hard time adjusting to boarding school, and shortly after, he left Nigeria for Canada. It was quite a challenging phase for him as a young child.
Before making his life-changing trip, he took an interest in basketball in Nigeria while watching his favorite stars like Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry, and Micheal Jordan. After completing his high school education, he decided that to grow his skill, he needed to change the environment. He chose to leave Hamilton, Ontario, to go to the U.S to study on a basketball scholarship. Okuyiga began to benefit from basketball.
He received a scholarship to join the Roberts Redhawks during his first year in college. His skills and exquisite qualities on the court bagged him an award as the Freshman of the year in 2019 by the U.S Basketball Writers Association. Okuyiga possessed a great prowess that distinguished him from the other players. For him, basketball is all about rhythm; once you find yours, everything else will come naturally.
“My greatest strengths as a basketball player are my versatility and ability to play above the rim. I’m specifically known for how well I dunk the ball. I’m also really versatile in that I can play multiple positions on the basketball court. At 6’6 height and a nearly 7 ft wingspan, my size, length, and athleticism make me a threat on the court,” says Okuyiga.
His mother imbibed in him good character and a greater approach to experiencing life. Such lessons have greatly helped the player and show how he handles defeats and other challenges. Okuyiga always persists. He keeps pushing, notwithstanding his setbacks. And this is an admirable trait he hopes every aspiring basketball player should focus on.
“My mom was big on respect and discipline, which shows in my approach to the sport and life in general. My grandmother also instilled religious beliefs in me and the importance of having faith in God. All my successes are through the grace of God, and I look forward to what God has planned for my future.” says Okuyiga.
Aside from playing on the court, the 6’6′ player is also passionate about his community and how he can contribute positively. One thing about the multi-talented basketball player is that he has a heart for the community.
Coming from a middle-class family, where some days were rough, he couldn’t imagine how underprivileged kids were surviving. And so he wants to advocate and educate kids in Nigeria who have athlete skills and wish to develop their talents. Okuyiga hopes to have a community where kids can access anything basketball in the next five to ten years.
He hopes to partner with non-governmental organizations to alleviate and improve the basketball industry, primarily in Nigeria. Most kids need an opportunity to brighten their basketball skills, and without a strong support system, they give up. Okuyiga explains that without the opportunity to join the team based on a scholarship. He reiterates that the kids are like him and everyone. They also need a chance to shine.
During his time off from basketball, he engaged in certain community service, like teaching the youths basketball in Canada. Through going through his basketball skills training program, he also rejuvenated himself. He ignited his passion for basketball. Every skilled basketball player must go through a conscious soul experience.
His time made him more self-aware of his environment and the factors influencing his basketball skills. His quest to volunteer for society isn’t based on fame or to gain popularity for the camera. From his experience, a little can go a long way when giving back to society. If he is given a chance to prove himself, he is also keen on giving people a chance to prove themselves.
“Giving back to the basketball world is one of my major goals. Either through being professional and inspiring others or setting up camps and clinics for kids, providing help with coaching, and teaching people the game. I love basketball, and basketball has done a lot and played a major role in my life, so I will give back any way I can and for as long as I can,” says Fope Okuyiga.
Written in partnership with Luke Lintz
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