Adegboye Undaunted By 2011 Challenge

Destination Lithuania

Mark Woods

Every week, collaborator Mark Woods talks to players with a single travel destination in mind this summer, Lithuania.

Next in the series is Great Britain's Ogooluwa Adegboye.

Mark Woods writes on basketball for a number of British newspapers as well as broadcasting for the BBC and Sky Sports. He is also assistant editor of and can be found on Twitter @markbritball.

Two decades have passed since the doors of international basketball were opened to professional players from across the Atlantic, the USA's Dream Team showcasing the consequences of allowing the best of the best to take part, regardless of their bank balance.

Other sports have legitimised payments. Competition has become a legitimate career, not a past-time. The amateur era, at the highest level, has long since passed.

Almost. Last summer, Ogooluwa Adegboye was a boy among men, attempting to hold his own on national service.

Then just 22, not only was the point guard asked to play his part in Great Britain's Eurobasket qualifying campaign but to the surprise of many - himself included - he was handed a starting role.

The experiences of one year of American Division I college basketball at St. Bonaventure University in New York, plus another two in the junior college ranks, had toughened him up.

Still, he admits, it was a whole new ball game to face seasoned opponents who had come straight from the NBA and Euroleague.

Ogooluwa Adegboye (Great Britain)
The EuroBasket Qualifying Round games last summer allowed US-educated Adegboye to go up against pro players for the first time

"It was a huge leap," declares the Londoner.

"First of all, the European game is different to the college game. That brought its own challenges. But more so, it was playing against pros which was a big step.

"It expanded my mind. Basketball is a universal game but people play different kinds of styles, even playing the same position in different ways. Going up against different players, and different countries, helped me get new perspectives."

It also forced him to raise his game. Earning the trust of his team-mates, and of Britain's coach Chris Finch, Adegboye filled the playmaker position in varying spells, complementing the experience of NBA players such as Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu as the Olympic hosts booked their place at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania with a 6-2 record in their group.

The results justified the leap of faith taken by Finch in the absence of a number of proven performers.

College players including Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Devan Bailey were asked to prove their worth and despite the steep learning curve, they survived to offer a glimpse of their future potential.

Finch and his assistant Nick Nurse - currently facing each other in the NBA D-League Finals - were hard but fair, Adegboye states.

"They got on my case, obviously, when I made a mistake and rightly so," he confirms.

"But they pushed me and helped me see different things.

"What I did well, they helped me accentuate it. And they helped minimise my limitations. On and off the court, they were always talking to me. We watched a lot of film in training camp and during the qualifiers."


Bring On The 'Group of Death'

The European tour made Adegboye all the keener to continue his ascent.

During his final season at St. Bonaventure University, he averaged 11 points and 4 assists, developing himself into a reliable force.

Next month, he will graduate with a degree in psychology and then pack away his books and become a full-time pro. Europe beckons once more.

Where his first paid job comes will be in the hands of his agent.

A mid-level league, for starters, would be nice, he says. But Adegboye is ambitious to test himself.

"Everyone wants to play at the highest level, especially coming out of college," he proclaims. "I aspire to continue to grow as a basketball player."

If his education was enhanced in last year's qualification round, he will learn more in the EuroBasket Final Round, where men like Jose Calderon and Kerem Tunceri lie in wait.

Britain was placed in the 'Group of Death' with Spain, Lithuania, Turkey and Poland as well as a qualifier. There is no easy passage.

Adegboye heard the draw and felt an immediate reaction. "I thought: ‘great!'"

The young are fearless. And Great Britain, he warns, are not going as plucky amateurs. They full intend to hold their own.

"Whoever we play will be a tough game," Adegboye states.

"It's the finals. It's a chance to make noise. If we do big things in that group, we'll be Great Britain defying all the predictions. We have to prepare but at the same time, it's an opportunity to do something big.

"We're not going thinking: ‘let's just see.' We're preparing to do well."



20.11.2012 - EUROCHALLENGE
28.04.2011 - Destination Lithuania

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