Whenever the name Mustapha Oyebanji is mentioned, what comes to the mind of many is his spectacular game against Delta Force in the 2017 regular season where he scored 40 point, 33 of which were made from 11 three point shots. That game, for him, was the opportunity to make a point to other teams in the league who underrated the young Hoops & Read team and also to his coach that he deserved more playing time.
Mustee, as he is fondly called started his basketball training with the Warlord Academy in Ogun State under the tutelage of Coach Peter Akindele and played in the Youth Alive tournaments at Rowe Park. His skills earned him a spot on the Coach Ayo Bakare`s Comets team when they played in the Division 1, after which he joined Lagos Islanders in the inaugural season of the African Basketball League.
So when Olumide Oyedeji put together amazing set of young players including Mustapha Oyebanji to play for Hoops & Read, Mustee was ready. The experience was there. But while Oyedeji saw a set of talented players, other teams in the league saw a set of lanky boys with oversize and over-branded jerseys.
"Whenever they see us stepping on the court, they`ll be like `these boys`. The beef was obvious. I don`t know why. You`ll see guys coming from other teams outside the state to play in Lagos, and people on our home court will be cheering them up instead of us. We never got that support until we started beating those teams".
Mustee shared in his interview on the Flat Out With Komo podcast.
And if these external factors were not enough, Mustee had to deal with what was happening within the team. He was not a starting five and he felt he was not getting enough playing time.
"I think then, I always saw myself as the second option. No disrespect to anyone, you know coaches have their own favourite players and all that. So, I think I was getting a problem through that. Like, they were taking me as second option. I start off the bench and all that. But I didn`t let that weigh me down, so I just kept my head straight"
But his skills was never in question. Most times when he played, he`d finish with a double double. It was just difficult getting more playing time.
Then that faithful day came in Asaba, Delta State, and he got a chance not only to keep his straight but to put his chin up. The team`s starting five including Owen Ohiakhiri, Komo Omonibo was in foul trouble, and Mustee was needed to save the day. And boy, did he!!
"It was insane. I don`t know what came over me that day. Everything was just working for me. I think what really helped was that I don`t hold on to anything on my mind, even though I wasn`t getting the chance to play first five, I was still going to give my best"
The news spread across the basketball circle and his popularity grew. That game helped him validate the nickname "Tafa Buckets"
Mustee acknowledged all the people who have played a part in the development of his skills over the years. During his season with Hoops & Read, that person was the founder, Olumide Oyedeji.
"We learned a lot from Big Olu especially. His scouting report was excellent, and he showed us the way - the NBA way"
In the season that followed, Mustee left Hoops & Read for Kwara Falcons where he reunited with Coach Lateef Erinfolami, his former coach when he played with the Islanders.
Whether Mustee will break his own record of 11 threes or someone else in the league will, we can only wait.