RECORDS & AWARDS
WHO IS THIS PLAYER WE CALL BOLA?
June 9, 2012Richmond High School
BY KELSEY BAKER - When you first see Bola Olaniyan you take in his 6'7'' stature with a craned neck, but it's when you talk to the recent Richmond graduate that you truly begin to understand him and where he came from better. Born and raised in Nigeria, Olaniyan was brought to America after scouts came and saw him at a camp and asked if he wanted to play in the states. The flight from Nigeria to North Carolina alongside fellow teammate Joel Okafor was a hard one, but Olaniyan says it was necessary for him to fulfill his dream. "It gave me the opportunity to come to the United States and get an education and still play the basketball that I love to play. I had no choice. I just had to do it."
And do it he did. Averaging 14.6 points and 11.4 rebounds for the season, he led the 2011-2012 team in steals and blocked shots. Olaniyan says he was very grateful to get to play for the Richmond Red Devils. In Africa, the basketball program wasn't as good and one thing he notes is the difference in fans. His basketball game was at its peak, but that wasn't the only thing Olaniyan had to work on. Behind the scenes, he was adapting to life in America. Learning English while he was in Africa helped the adjustment but it was still hard, especially once he discovered that his type of English wasn't the same. He was taught British English, a loose term that describes the kind of English found in the United Kingdom. The dialects, accents and slang are different than the American English we speak here, proving to be yet another barrier for him to work through. "I looked at how I was going to be with these people I just met. How am I going to talk to them because they speak different? How am I going to speak English with them or be their friend? That was the hardest part but I'm glad everything is fine now." Olaniyan has truly adapted and worked his way into American life and even though the season is over he continues to work out in preparation for the next step, collegiate basketball. Olaniyan has received interest from Division I schools including Ball State, Indiana State, Miami (Ohio), Missouri State, Toledo and Wright State.
He's closer and closer to reaching his dream but he's always thinking about his family back in Nigeria. "When it comes to something that you really want to do you just have to make sacrifices." His entire family is back in Nigeria and although they support his dream, they certainly miss him, especially his mother. Olaniyan is the youngest of his family, his oldest brother is a lawyer in Africa. "They call me about two times a week. My mom worries about me but my dad understands I can take care of myself." He plans on going back to Nigeria to visit his family but when, he's not sure.