May 20, 2024

In a recent chat with top Nigerian Basketball blog ReboundNG, ace Nigerian- American shooting gaurd Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi drops an insight on his journey to stardom.

Explore the inspiring journey of Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi (elite two-way player) from the streets Chicago to the Hardwood spotlight in this exclusive interview.

Discover the challenges, triumphs, and aspirations that shaped his remarkable path in this compelling narrative.

Enjoy the read!

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your early years and how you first got into playing basketball?

A: I didn’t start actually playing basketball serious until I was around 12-13 years old when I started hanging around at Clarendon park.

All my friends in the neighborhood was playing all the time so I just joined them.

Also my older sister Helen Ogunjimi was a basketball star at the time so that kinda influenced me as well

Q: Who were some of your early influences or role models in the world of basketball?

A: My sister Helen, and NBA stars like Paul Pierce, Chris Paul and Allen Iverson.

Q: What was the turning point or significant moment in your youth that made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in professional basketball?

A: I had a few. In highschool when I lost in the city playoffs to Whitney Young and I cried the whole way home on the bus but everyone else didn’t care and looked at me crazy, that’s when I knew this was more than just a game to me and I had to treat it as such.

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Also when I expressed my dreams of playing professional basketball to a friend and he laughed in my face and basically said you’re not good enough.

So that lit a fire in me that made determined to make my dreams come true

Q: Can you share any challenges or obstacles you faced on your journey to becoming a pro player?

A: I had a lot, starting basketball later than usual so not being skilled like the rest of the players.

Attending 6 different schools in 9 years to try and find a home to finish my college career.

Having to deal with several friends passing away due to gun violence and balancing all that out with seeing family struggle financially.

Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi

It was tough, made you want to quit and breakdown. I remember in 2015 having a great game and excited to share the news with everyone and hearing that one of my friends was killed.

It was tough on my mental and being so far away that I could not even attend the funeral.

Q: How did you balance your education with your basketball aspirations during your formative years?

A: I was never the best in school but my mother was strict when I came to academics, and she would make sure I would not play if my grades were slipping so just working hard on both ends to balance it out.

Check out Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi Highlights here

Q: Were there any specific coaches or mentors who played a pivotal role in your development as a basketball player?

A: I had a football coach named Coach Cruz and he instilled confidence in me and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself regardless of my size.

Also my Highschool basketball coaches at Sullivan, Coach Mike and Coach Stames.

Q: What is your favorite basketball-related memory from your childhood or teenage years?

A: Playing varsity my sophomore year and we had a big matchup, I didn’t score much but I shut down the star point guard on their team and made a stop on the final possession and everyone cheered for me and praised me.

It felt good because just earlier that year I was trying to prove that I belonged on varsity team.

Q: How has your background and upbringing influenced your approach to the game and your career as a whole?

A: Coming from a Nigerian background my family always preached hard work, seeing how my parents work ethic was it made me work hard in everything I do.

But being raised in Chicago it helped me become tough, relentless and never let anyone walk over me and I took that to the sport side. Which helped progress my game.

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Q: Can you give us some insights into the local basketball scene in your hometown and how it contributed to your growth as a player?

A: A lot of talent, tough and very physical. Chicago to me is the Mecca of basketball, a lot of greats came from there and playing in that environment day in and day out turned me into a different type of beast that wherever I went I was never phased by anything.

Also having to play the talent that come from the city also helps evolves your game.

Having to defend against guards like Jeremiah Moore, Derrick Randolph and Robert James daily who were all pro talents it made me the defensive specialist I am today.

Q: Congratulations once again on your new contract! How does it feel to be a part of your new team for the upcoming season?

A: I really appreciate that! It feels good, 5 years in playing professionally sounds really good and a lot of people can’t say that, especially with everything that I have been through to get to this point I take nothing for granted and still grateful that I can continue my career.

Q: What are your personal goals and expectations for the upcoming season with your new contract in place?

A: Personal goals would be to increase my stats from the last season, and expecting a new challenge everyday because it never gets easier and I know obstacles will come daily it’s just being physically and mentally strong to get over them while continuing to succeed.

Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi

Q: How do you see your role evolving within the team with this new contract?

A: I always ask the team/coach what is it that they expect out of me, if that’s being a scorer, defender, playmaker etc then thats what I will do.

I always want to help the team win and however I can do that I will do it. It looks better when your team is successful.

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Q: Can you share some insights into the improvements you’ve made in your game during the off-season?

A: Shooting, that was my main focus, last season I wasn’t consistent with shooting so that kind of took away from my game but shooting, shooting more and shooting in different types of angles, footwork, also while getting bumped and hit etc.

Q: What kind of impact do you think this new contract will have on your career, both on and off the court?

A: Each year I feel like it is solidifying my career.

A lot of people thought my first contract was a fluke, so each year putting in work showcasing my skills whether I’m playing in Europe, Africa or the States shows that this was not a fluke and I’m here to stay.

Q: What advice do you have for young athletes aspiring to reach the professional level in basketball?

A: It may sound cliche but never let anyone tell you what can’t do. God put that vision in your heart for a reason, you can accomplish whatever it is you want.

I’m a living example, even when the odds are stacked against you. Put the work in and it’ll definitely show.

But don’t cry or complain about the work you did not put in.

Q: How important is the support of your family, friends, and fans in your journey to this point in your career?

A: it’s been a huge help! Being overseas you get lonely so that additional support you get from family, friends, fans etc are always helpful.

Encouraging words, care packages with food, pictures, visits etc. like the African proverb says “If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want to Go Far, Go Together.”

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Q: What message do you have for the fans of your new team who are excited about your new contract?

A: You’re always going to get me, hard working, smiling, personable, dedicated, fun, but focused me. And I’ll never give you anything less.

Q: Are there any specific games or matchups in the upcoming season that you’re looking forward to?

A: Not really, interest every game the same and show up the same regardless of who I’m playing.

Here’s more Kevin Olalekan Ogunjimi highlights 

Q: How do you plan to maintain your physical and mental conditioning throughout the season?

A: Taking care of my body, eating right, doing in season workouts, keeping my conditioning top notch, also watching film, my daily prayers and meditation and just focusing on positive things.

When you focus on good, good will happen. When you focus on bad that’s when bad things happen.

Q: What’s your ultimate career goal in basketball, and how does this new contract fit into that vision?

A: My ultimate goal now I would say is to play a season in the BAL and also wear the Nigerian Jersey across my chest and play for the Nigerian national team just like my Sister Helen Ogunjimi and my cousin Graham Olatunji did.

I have to fulfill that dream, and having a great season here and just continuing to show up every day will put me in the right place to possibly get called up by management by Gods grace.

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Image Credit: BBKash

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