VUT Basketball

Ayodele adds the right ingredients to his skills-set

“I would like to be remembered for my high-flying athleticism and defensive intensity”

KOLA Ayodele from the Vaal University of Technology talks to The Big Tip Off about his basketball journey and reveals what he misses about Nigeria.

BTO: Where and when did you develop your love for basketball?

KA: It was in high school. I went to a good basketball-oriented school, Dansol High School in Lagos, Nigeria. I was 15-year-old when I started playing basketball.

BTO: Who played a role in your development as a basketball player?

KA: A lot of people played major roles in my development. Coach Ganiu of the Nigerian national U16/U17 team and coach Dimeji, who coached me at my former university, Babcock University Ilishan Remo before I came to South Africa. Finally, coach Yves Dekom who accepted me into the VUT basketball team in 2015.

BTO: What are the strong aspects of your game?

KA: Firstly, my athleticism and my dunking ability. I recently added a 3-point shot to my offensive repertoire.

High flying
Kola Ayodele in action for VUT during the inaugural Varsity Basketball tournament. Pictures: THEBTO

BTO: What aspects of your game, do you feel need work?

KA: I feel I need to work more on my patience in the game. Try not to take the first shot as soon as I get the ball. And working harder than I already do on the court.

BTO: You have experienced basketball in Nigeria and South Africa, what would you say are the differences in the styles of play between the two countries?

KA: Well, I would say playing back home is way different in the aspect of physicality and height difference. In Nigeria, we have bigger and stronger players which makes it tough to compete. South African basketball is also great because there is just unlimited talent. There is also frequent use of set plays in the teams I have played for here (South Africa). In my first year under coach Yves, I had to memorise over eight offensive and five defensive plays, which were all new to me.

BTO: What has been the highlight of your basketball career here in South Africa? And why?

KA: Highlights… I would say winning the 3×3 dunk contest in 2016 hosted by Click Media, winning the GUBL 2015 championship, and the 2015 and 2018 USSA tournament. I could go on but I believe those were very memorable victories.

BTO: What was your lowest moment in basketball? And why?

KA: I would say missing a wide-open dunk at the Ashraf Loedewyk tournament at Wits in 2015. That event haunted me for a while, but I worked harder afterwards and it’s nothing more than a bad play. I suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in the knee in 2017 and it took a while to recover. It hurt watching from the bench and cheering my team (but I guess I did a great job cheering them to win).

BTO: Who is the best player in South Africa or Nigeria? And why?

KA: My favourite player I would say was a young man called Issiachar (Easy). He had the best crossover in the game, no cap. Professionally I would say veteran player Abubakar of the Kano Pillars in Nigeria. In South Africa, several players are really exciting to watch: Neo Mothiba, Kagiso Ngoetjana, Angelo Quinn, and my teammate Anthony ‘Tony’ Chukwurah.

BTO: Who is the toughest player, you have faced on the basketball court? And why?

KA: There isn’t a specific player. I would say facing the Jozi Nuggets team is quite the mission. Most other games never really stress me as much.

BTO: Who is your favourite teammate? And why?

Third Pic
Kola Ayodele has added a 3 point shot to his game.

KA: My main man from the VUT team, Anthony Chukwurah. And then Bandile Nsele and Khama Hadebe are really great. On my U16 and U17 Nigerian team, it was Sammie Nwawolo (Indomie) lol. 

BTO: Who is the best coach, you have played for? And why?

KA: Coach Thabang Kgwedi, hands down. He gives me the freedom to express myself on the floor. He has tutored my teammates and I, individually and as a collective, on the aspects we needed to perfect. Much respect.

BTO: Who is your favourite basketball player?

KA: Lebron Raymone James ?.

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball kicks?

KA: Lowcut Kobe’s in 2012.

BTO: Which kicks are you rocking now?

KA: I have a number. I must say my favs have to be Lebron Soldier 10’s. Currently, I use Kyries.

BTO: Where do you see yourself going with basketball or an alternative career?

KA: I would love to perform consistently at the highest level in the country (South Africa). Hopefully, things get better for basketball as there’s a bright future for the game here, if everyone works together.

BTO: How have you been keeping fit during the lockdown?

KA: Lockdown has been tough, but I have kept myself fit by jogging, doing home exercises and lawn tennis. I bought a few home exercising equipment which has helped a lot.

BTO: If you were not a basketball player, what would you be doing?

KA: I would have ventured into entrepreneurship full time or gone back home after completing my studies and pursued a career in the entertainment industry.

BTO: What are your hobbies?

KA: Playing basketball firstly, taking long walks, driving on the highway, listening to music, meditating ??‍♂‍, and watching NBA games or playing NBA 2K.

BTO: What do you miss about being away from Nigeria? And way?

KA: My parents, friends and I miss the food ?. Ingredients are harder to find and more expensive here. 

BTO: What is your favourite sport or general life quote?

KA: My favourite quote has to be a Latin philosophical statement “Cogito Ergo Sum”, which means “I think, therefore I am.” In broader terms , I interpret it as “we cannot doubt our existence while we doubt the meaning of our existence.”

BTO: Who is the biggest influence in your life, off the basketball court?

KA: It’s my dad. Mr Ade Ayodele who has always supported and showed me love. He has always encouraged me to stay focused and be happy while doing it.

BTO: Which team are you supporting to win the NBA championship?

KA: I would love the Los Angeles Lakers to win. It would be a great way to honour the late Kobe and also a great achievement for King Lebron James.

BTO: How would you like to be remembered firstly as a person and secondly as a basketball player?

KA: I would like to be remembered as that one generous person who seems hard to approach but understanding and accommodating when you get to know me. As a basketball player, I would like to be remembered for my high-flying athleticism and defensive intensity.

 

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VUT scholarship a win for Eswatini and Lubasi

Playing in the BAL would be an amazing feat for Lubasi

VAAL University of Technology player Richard Lubasi talks to The Big Tip Off about his basketball journey, the crowning moment of his career and his ambition.

BTO: Where and when did you develop your love basketball?

RL: In Eswatini, about nine years ago. I’d shoot hoops and play scrimmages after school till 5 pm every day.

BTO: Who are the people that helped to shape you as a basketball player?

RL: I’ve got a couple: my older brother Matt Lubasi for setting a high standard, since he was a great player in his own right, coach Andile Thwala for developing my game and teaching me key fundamentals, and other top Swati coaches who were always willing to share tips and encouragement.

BTO: What are the strong aspects of your game?

RL: Shooting and scoring.

BTO: What aspects of your game do you feel need work?

RL: I could improve my physical game.

BTO: How would you describe yourself as a basketball player?

RL: I can shoot the ball and create my own shots consistently. Not only am I competitive, but I’m also versatile and can play multiple positions. I’m also willing to give my very best for the team.

Richard Lubasi
Richard Lubasi makes attempts a lay-up against UP-Tuks during the Varsity Basketball tournament. Pictures: THE BTO

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball game? Can you describe it?

RL: Yeah. I was all over the place. Didn’t particularly have a good game, because I made so many mistakes, and my team lost dismally. It was a great learning experience for me though.

BTO: What has been your biggest achievement in basketball so far?

RL: Being awarded a basketball scholarship at VUT. I felt like that was big for Eswatini Basketball in that it put us on the map.

BTO: In the 2018 USSA finals against Wits you made a clutch free throw that helped your team to win the final. Can you describe the pressure of that moment? And how it felt to emerge victorious?

RL: I remember that moment like it was yesterdayIt was immense pressure for sure. The energy from the crowd was electric. It was nerve-wracking for me, especially since I came off the bench! However, I was confident that I’d make at least one free throw and doing that on the biggest stage and clinching the title was sensational. I cannot express that feeling in words. It was also a defining point in my basketball career. 

BTO: What was your lowest moment?

RL: Losing to Wits in last year’s Varsity cup. I felt like we deserved to win and we were victims of an officiating blunder that saw them awarded free points. And when we scored, our baskets weren’t counted. But hey, mistakes do happen.

BTO: Who is the toughest player you have faced on the basketball court? And why?

RL: Tsakani Ngobeni. He can simply do it all. One moment he’s playing point guard and making plays and the next moment he’s on the post down low. And he’s doing all of that at a high level of efficiency. 

BTO: Who is the best player in South Africa? And why?

RL: Neo Mothiba. His work ethic is second to none and it’s evident every time he steps on the court. 

BTO: Who is the best coach you have played for? And why?

RL: Coach Thabang Kgwedi. He is a great reader of the game and has a very high basketball IQ. I learnt a lot just playing under his leadership.

Richard Lubasi
Richard Lubasi during the Varsity basketball tournament.

BTO: What is the difference between basketball played in the Basketball National League (BNL) and at the varsity level?

RL: Experience! Basketball in the BNL has a lot more experienced players than at varsity level.

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball kicks?

RL: Yeah, Kobe 2 Lite.

BTO: Which kicks are you currently rocking? And why?

RL: Hyperdunks. They are very comfortable and light

BTO: What is your favourite sport or general quote?

RL: “Look in the mirror… that’s your competition”.

BTO: Where do you see yourself going with basketball or an alternative career?

RL: There are no limits, but playing in the Basketball Africa League would be an amazing feat.

BTO: If you were not a basketball player, what would you be doing?

RL: Playing football ⚽️. It’s the first sport that I was introduced to.

BTO: Who is the biggest influence in your life, off the basketball court?

RL: My mom. She’s the strongest woman I know.

BTO: How have you been keeping busy during the lockdown?

RL: Apart from schoolwork, I’ve been jogging and doing home workouts to maintain fitness. 

BTO: What words of encouragement do you have for people during this time of COVID-19?

RL: These are tough times we’re living in and what is happening is real. Let’s prevent colossal damage and protect each other because nothing is guaranteed in life and anything can happen. Let’s stay safe and adhere to the regulations. 

 

 

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