Bolaji Emilagba, `The Floor General` as he fondly called was part of the Hoops & Read team that finished third in their debut season in the Kwese Premier Basketball League. In the past months, he has won the Eko Basketball League trophy with Hoops & Read, emerging as the tournament Most Valuable Player. Without a doubt, he is a rising star in the Nigeria. For someone who did not start playing basketball until he was 16, this is not bad at all.
“I did not get to see a game of basketball until I was 14. So I started really late. I did not play basketball in secondary school until I left, so I started playing when I was 16.”
In his interview with Victor Komonibo on the `Flat Out with Komo` podcast, Emilagba shared his journey starting basketball, becoming the player he is now and his experience so far playing in the league.
“It was very hard and tough for me because I met a lot of people in the game that were already good. I met a couple of guys that were really good at that time, people like Jide the point guard from Unilag (Ogunsemore). These guys really inspired me - their ball handling skills, their speed. When I saw them, you know, they were like my age mate, so I thought if they can do it I can do it too.”
Luckily for him, he was raised in Lagos and had access to the Lagos State Sports Council (Rowe Park) where a lot of young kids have learnt and are still learning to play basketball, and where most of the basketball camps at that time were held. He started with Adopt-A-Talent camp, and then the Olumide Oyedeji Basketball Camp, but the most memorable for him was the Top 50 Camp.
“I think I remember the first time I played in the Top 50 Camp, it was in 2014. Then you had to compete to make the camp, people will come from different states. You’d see a lot of people in the screening trying to make the camp. You just had to be outstanding. If you leave that camp and you don’t get better at basketball, I don’t know where else you’ll get better.“
He played for Hoops & Read in Division One, and has since played for clubs like Dodan Warriors and most recently, Lagos Islanders. And he has grown from a young basketball camper to a most valuable players. He attributes this growth to an advise he received from basketball legend, Tunji Awojobi.
`Tunji Awojobi called me into his room and he asked; “Young fella, I see you can really get buckets but what else can you do? Can you defend, can you play on both ends, can you get your teammates going”. I was young and I thought all basketball was about, as long as the ball was going through the hoop but he enlightened me more about being the point guard.`
The Floor General is surely one player to look out for in Nigeria, and a future star in the Nigeria league.
You can listen to the full podcast here
Images - Sule Itopa/Dolphins