American-born Nigerian basketball star Arike Ogunbowale has revealed how her father drove taxi just to make ends meet when he moved to the United States at a young age, Completesports.com reports.
Ogunbowale, 23, made this known on Tuesday at a programme held at the Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General, Lagos, entitled: “Empowering Women and Girls through Sports”.
The programme was held in commemoration of Women’s History Month.
Speaking to female student athletes, professionals and journalists all the way from Turkey via skpe, Ogunbowale who plays for the Dallas Wings in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), spoke about her mum’s influence in her career, plans about a basketball camp in Nigeria, and advice to upcoming female basketball players about the importance of education.
“My dad left Lagos, Nigeria and went to the United States at the age of 18. To make ends meet my dad was a taxi driver.
“After leaving Nigeria he had to start like from the very bottom in the United States just to be where he is now.”
“My mum was my first coach and was also my biggest critic. Sometimes she would not even talk to me when I don’t do well. So I would say I got my competitiveness from her.”
“I have never been to Nigeria since I was born, all my life has been in the United States,” she said.
“But hopefully I will one day be in Nigeria and maybe organise a basketball camp in order to help upcoming basketball players there.”
And on the importance of blending education and basketball, she said: “If I didn’t get good grades in school I wouldn’t get to college and have the opportunity to play basketball. So it is very important to take school very serious. You have to be dedicated and work hard because that’s what will take you to anywhere in life.”
Speaking further, Ogunbowale, the youngest of three children (two older brothers) said she wears the number 24 because of late NBA star Kobe Bryant.
“I wear number 24 because of Kobe Bryant. I had the opportunity to meet him when he invited me to his office. I never thought that will ever happen.”
The American women’s national team player, who revealed she use to play football before eventually settling for basketball, said she would love to meet Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.
“I would love to meet Ronaldinho. He was someone my elder brother and I use to watch whenever he played. So I will really love to meet him.”
And on who she normally support whenever Nigeria take on the United States in basketball: “Whoever wins I’m cool with it, I don’t take sides.”
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Ogunbowale averaged 11.4 points per game in her freshman season at Notre Dame as a reserve player, and became a regular starter the next year.
In her junior season, Ogunbowale helped the Fighting Irish win the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, making game-winning baskets in the semifinal against UConn and in the final against Mississippi State.
Shortly after the end of the 2017–18 school year, the Atlantic Coast Conference named her as its female Athlete of the Year across all sports, sharing honors with men’s winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville football.
In her next and final season at Notre Dame, she again helped them to the final of the NCAA Tournament but despite contributing 31 points through that match and a tournament average of 22.8 points, she missed one of two free throws in the final seconds against Baylor, with her miss providing the final one-point margin.
Later that week, she was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA draft, joining the Dallas Wings for her rookie professional season.
By James Agberebi
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