RECORDS & AWARDS
JOEL OKAFOR HAS HIS GOALS FOR THE FUTURE
June 13, 2012Richmond High School
KELCI BAKER, EIHSS SPORTS
Joel Okafor may only be 15 years old but his basketball game is that of a guy who's been perfecting his game for years. His earliest memories of the game came from being back in his home country of Nigeria. Okafor and his brother would play with a simple woven basket as goals. The interest was sparked early but the real desire came later at one of his brothers’ basketball games. Okafor says "Right now he's (brother) in the United States and attends the University of Indianapolis. His was the real encouragement to start playing. When I started playing it wasn't all that difficult to learn because everything I was around was basketball."
His life revolved around the sport and he made sure to work at it. His fondest memory coming in his 8th grade year in school when he won his first championship. Throughout most of the tournament, people began to underestimate the team he was on. Okafor says "We fought through every game we played." Fight they did but by the 2nd quarter they were already down by 25. They continued to push and scrap away at the deficit. By the fourth quarter, Okafor says he took over the game, ending with a win by 7 points and the championship. Fond memories of the team and that championship are something he'll always remember, as well as his time as a Richmond Red Devil this past season. Coming in as a freshman, Okafor, not only made varsity, he also started and dominated the court alongside Bola Olaniyan. The two came from the same village in Nigeria and flew to the States together after being spotted at a basketball camp. Okafor may have been the youngest in the camp but he was a standout. A coach from North Carolina offered the two Nigerians a scholarship to play but once they visited the southern state, they decided it wasn't for them, Okafor says "A lot of people ask me why I chose Richmond of all places to go. To those people, I just tell them that they don't know what they have. When you have something on your hands and you don't take care of it then you'll lose it. I saw plenty of opportunities here." A big influence in his decision was looking at previous RHS graduate Dominic James who’s’ basketball dreams took him to Marquette University.
Okafor says “Here in Richmond, my teammates and coaches are there for me when I need it, as well as the support from the crowd makes things exciting for me. Okafor added "We had a good last season and I want to stay here for my last 3 years and get a good education and play basketball here." Not only was he getting an education in the classroom, but he had to learn the American style of basketball which is vastly different from what he learned back in Nigeria. He says “The American version is much faster than the way he played the game back home where we are forced to work the plays more direct than what he's done here.
Adjusting to life in America was hard, but interesting for Okafor. He says that our technology is far more advanced and things here are made to be easier. Drive-thru’s were an anomaly and it was odd for him to see a sophomore in high school able to drive a car while in Africa you wouldn't even see a senior doing it. We think getting gas is hard here, try waiting in long, drawn out lines in Nigeria to fill up your tank.
Plans to go back home this summer were pushed back because he's decided to take the opportunity to play AAU basketball. But after high school he hopes to go back home for awhile. After that, get ready for college in the United States. Even though it's three years away, Okafor hopes that his college career will keep him in the state of Indiana. "I want to be able to stay in touch with my coaches and my teammates. Just trying to keep my relationships not just in high school but still have them around me when I go to college”, says Okafor.
We'll see what Joel Okafor will do for the Richmond Red Devils and for himself in the next three years. Keep your eyes on this special player. Fans of the Red Devils hope to see him strive and continue leading the team.