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Untitled Document
WE PRESENT YOU: AUGUSTINE OKOSUN
30 november 2018

 

Augustine Okosun is one of the new players in Tundja Yambol basketball team this season ( 2018/19). He is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound player with a lot of experience. Okosun has played in eleven different countries on four different continents. He is familiar with Asian, Latin American, African, and of course North American leagues. Okosun has previously played professionally in Bahrain (Sitra), China, Lebanon (Homenetmen), Qatar, Romania, Spain, Chile (Universidad de Concepcion), Dominican Republic (Sameji, Dosa, Pueblo Nuevo, Reales de La Vega and Rafael Barias), Egypt (Somouha) , IBL (Santa Barbara B. and Santa Monica J.), and The Basketball Tournament (Team 23). Okosun won Dominican Republic La Romana League championship title in 2014. He was called to Nigerian Senior National Team this year.

You can read below what he said in our lengthy interview for the site .

 

 

So, tell me about yourself

 

Augustine : My name is Augustine Okosun. I was born in Nigeria, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. My mum and dad had 9 kids and I am the fifth, the fifth kid out of nine. That's why I wear the number 59 (I am number 5 out of 9 kids). Grew up in the suburban area in Nigeria, in Benin City, till I was 14 years old. Right before I turned 15 I moved to the USA, been there basically my whole life.

 

You moved to US by yourself or with your family?

Augustine: By myself. I lived with a foster family there. I was there for few years and three universities. Then my mum moved there, later my brother moved there and that's home now.

With the basketball. I started playing basketball right when I came to America, so the first 15 years of my life I didn't play basketball. I was playing soccer.

 

Oh, ok! I didn't expect that, because of your background. Your mum was a basketball player, so I was expecting you to be pretty much born and raised with a basketball in your hands.

Augustine : Yeah, but the thing is she played competitive for the state she grew up in: Nigeria. She was really good and then she was selected to play for the national team, for Nigeria's national team back then I think in the mid 60's. And they won the third place in the African cup, which is basically the Olympics of Africa. She had this trophy, this little emblem that they put on your neck. When she quit basketball, she put all that stuff away, focused on her education, became a high school principal, and that's what she did her whole life. We knew she played basketball, but we never really talked about it. One day, right before I left to the US, I saw that trophy and I wanted to follow her footsteps, like I really want to do this. And besides everyone's telling me I'm so tall that I shouldn't play soccer, I should play basketball. I'm super tall. I'll be in the soccer field and I'll feel like everyone is super short next to me. So, I followed that passion, when I was 14 years old. When I moved to the US, I had to play basketball, because it's America and will be like a sin to be that tall and not play basketball there. So, I had scholarships all over the place, lot of schools wanted me and I just started playing the game, learning the game. It came easy for me actually, because I had high agility. I think I still do, from the years I played soccer I learned to run and move quickly for my size and a lot of teams like that. I finished my last year in high school, went to prep school, went to university and graduated

 

Majoring in management?

Augustine: Yes, business management. You did your research.

 

I did, indeed.

Augustine: So, I did that and I start playing professionally oversea after that. Played in Spain, my first year overseas was in Girona, Spain and I played in LEB Gold there. Then played in Romania as well. I was in Medias and Sibiu. Played in NBA D - League

 

NBA draft?

Augustine: Yeah, I was in NBA draft too. After college. I played in different places in China, Japan, Dominican Republic, Middle East's countries. But then the economic crisis appeared in 2011 and 12 and 13, which meant less money in Europe. So I spend like 4-5 years in Middle East and now this is my return back to Europe.

 

And how did you come to play in Yambol actually?

Augustine: Agents. I mean the world is so small these days, thanks to the Internet. And you can find anybody anywhere in the world if you just do your work. So, I had agents, they shout to me on Facebook that there is a Bulgarian agent and he offered me a job. He said there is a team that would love to have me there if I want to take the job and we talk about it for a while and I said Why not?

 

How do you feel here? Do you feel comfortable and welcome?

Augustin e : Yeah, absolutely. I feel good. The people, everyone is very nice here. Everyone just seems so nice, friendly and welcoming. When I first got here everyone would look at me like : W ho' s this tall black guy?, you know, like I am the only black person in the whole city.

 

No, you ' re not.

Augustin e : No?

 

No, but you are probably the tallest one.

Augustin e : The tallest, yeah. You know, it was really strange actually but I got used to it and all of the kids love me, they come to me all the time with their bicycles and they're always friendly. Everyone is just so welcoming and nice, so I feel comfortable right away.

 

You are always so positive when you ' re on the field, encouraging your playmates.

Augustine: You have to be. Cause we affect people with the energy. And basketball is a team sport and energy is everything.

 

It wouldn't be wrong if we say that your mum was the person you go t the inspiration to start playing basketball, would it ?

Augustin e : No. We were doing all this cleaning one day and I saw the trophy. I didn ' t know she had that.

 

She never talked about it?

Augustin e : She never talked about it. She brought it out and she was like Yeah, just back in the days we got this stuff, went to this place. I was like: W hat?! And you never talked about it?, It was so funny. And she told us the whole story and you know, she was showing us pictures, and they used to wear these really short shorts back then and she was so tall and lanky. And I was like: that was you back there?! It was this funny moment we had but I never forgot it, it made me . I had people tell me before that I have to play basketball, but that moment really gave me the push. I wanted to be like her and to do what she done. So I started training a little bit, and then I went to the US and I just dedicated my whole life to this, just commit to it. So, yeah, thanks to my mum. She was the motivation.

 

You had played both in US and Europe. How does the European basketball compare to American basketball?

Augustin e : The difference is technicality. Here they are focused more in technical. A merican s focus on technical as well, but a lot of times you just naturally go with a bunch of guys together and everyone can jump and run and do all these athletic t hings so frequently that, subconsciously you don ' t pay attention as m uch as people do in Europe. In Europe you ' re technical. You have to do shooting drills everyday, you have to do marking drill. It ' s like text book. You must do that if you ' re gonna play basketball in Europe. In America you kind of do it. You make up for it in other ways. So I think that ' s the major difference. And the rules are a little bit different. When you dribble the ball you can ' t ask sweep, you have to bounce it before you move. That's another aspect of it. And in the US the speed is faster than in Europe. And here it's more of a team sport. You know, like in America we went for being more like Lebron James. He would have the ball like a few times and he is doing this and then he ' s shoot it. In Europe that rarely happens. It ' s pass, pass, pass, pass, you know, and a lot of people are touching the ball before it goes in the basket, which is a major thing all over the European countries. In America it ' s there, but it ' s not an emphasis. So, those are some things I can remember right now I think are different.

 

And which style of play do you like more?

Augustine: I'm more of a team guy, so I wanna mix both. But if I have to pick one, I will go for the European style. Because in the way they are changing it now, since last year they changed some of the rules, lot of rules, so it's getting, it's becoming very close. I like it.

 

Best piece of advice given to you by a coach or another person that you would like to pass on?

Augustine: My coach in the university was this crazy guy that we couldn't understand, but we loved him. And I played my best basketball playing for this guy. He was here, in your face everyday, saying some mean things to you and will tell you: Yeah, I want you to quit. It's kind of like telling you like You're never going to quit, I want you to push. But he used to tell us all the time if you wanna do something, do it like you're gonna die if you didn't. If you don't want to do it, don't touch it at all. Like if someone put a gun to your head and said I'm going to shoot you, don't do it, don't touch it. You're set, you're not gonna do it. So bring that idea to basketball, if you wanna play this game, play like your life depends on it. And that talked to me. My second year in the university, which in America we call sophomore, that's when I went to the school and this guy changed how I play basketball. I used to be more flashy and just relaxed, but playing for this guy you had to be an animal. Just run, high energy, play hard, get after it and I've always been that way. That talked to me basically like, just like if you're gonna do it, do it like your life depends on it. And it's not always going to the way you want it to, you're gonna lose sometimes, but you can leave with the fact that you played hard, that you gave effort, that you communicated with the game, that you give good energy, and that you give good passion into it. This coach is big on passion. He only recruit guys that had that fire in them, you know. He'd tell us that it's like I don't want to go to a street fight with just someone, only with a guy who's ready to swing first. He knows he's gonna lose but he wants to take the first swing. He's passionate about himself, he has pride. And he wants to show you that he's got something. That was his personality and he recruited guys that were like that. And that was the reason he took me, cause when I played, I was just- I was talking, I was running, I was jumping and I was getting everybody together while I was doing my job at the same time. So he loved that about me.

 

And that coach was in Northwood university?

Augustine: No, was in Seton Hall University, it's a catholic university. That was before I went to Northwood. I went to three universities in four years, all scholarships with basketball.

 

And what about this NBA draft in 2009?

Augustine: I was the number 3 shot blocker in my conference, the BIG EAST conference, and that was a big deal, like to be one of the three best guys that block shots. I was passed on by few teams, because I wasn't very offensively skilled at that time. My focus was just defence. And we had a bunch of offensive guys that the coach wanted to score. And it was like If you get the ball here and there, put it in, but usually these are the guys that are gonna score and you just make sure those people will score on us. So, it was positive and negative. It was positive for the team, because I did a great job defending for the team, but was negative for me, because I was passed on teams. I said these guys gonna come into NBA team and they're gonna play defence, but we need them to be able to score too. And I didn't have that at that time. I wasn't really skilled. Catch the ball, 1 on 1, and make it move and score as I am now. So, I was passed up on that, and that was a bit hurtful, but there are basketball places you can play in other countries, and I was really highly recruited in Spain, which is like another big basketball country. So, I went there and played. I was missing home like crazy, cause that was my first time really leaving US, so I came back and played NBA D-League for few years after that.

 

Do you have any role models? If yes, who and why?

Augustine: I was raised in a Christian family, so my faith is very big. I think my role model is God. The way he was portrayed to me and the impact he has on my life, I think that's really my role model. And probably my mum. And my dad. They were both relentless people. We had nothing growing up, you know, very poor family in Africa. But they had the core of what it takes to be successful in life. They had the belief and are telling us all these things that, looking at our lives then, were like why are you telling us all this stuff, we're in poverty. But we realised they're setting us up for what our lives would be in future which is something like I feel you have to be a special person to have that and my parents had that. So I always looked up to them for that. Huge role models in my life and something that I feel like is worth more than money, to affect someone's mind that good that when they're older they see everything they told them back then and couldn't make sense of, make sense now. And plenty of other things like I mentioned, but those are some of the reasons I think that my mum and dad for sure are huge role models in my life. But one person also is a big role model for me in basketball. It's a guy named Hakeem Olajuwon. He's Nigerian player. He's a legend! Played in the NBA for Houston Rockets. And played in NBA for I think like over 10 years. He's a Hall of Fame-r now. And he had huge huge impact in my life. I started watching basketball because of him. And my game is actually patterned after his game. You know, I am not in any way close to him, you know, with his level of skills and all, but I steal all my moves from him. And I learned the game and I wanted to be like him. So, I watched his video in the university and tried to mimic his spin move or, you know. He was like my size, but he wasn't a very strong guy, so he'd just catch the ball, open up to you and attack from there. Which is basically what I do. I try not to do the bang, back to the basket kind of thing, I wanna face you and attack the person head on. And I have the speed for it. He was the same way. So, I kinda stole my game from him and he made a huge impact in my life from a basketball prospective.

 

What was the most important game you played and why?

Augustine: In 2009, we were playing in Madison Square Garden, against Marquette University who were the champions in that league the year before. We're not favoured to win the game, we were going to lose like by 20 at least. We come out gun blazing, carefree, cause the pressure is not on us, pressure's on them to win. And we beat them by 20. And I had the best game in my life, in Madison Square Garden, one of the biggest arenas in the world. And to us that was the championship. That was like everything. I felt goosebumps, it was one of the best games I ever played in. And people come to those games to bet on the games, to see, you know, that team's going to win so they bet all their money for that team and 95% of people that bet against us, lost. And this people that give us a chance that we could win, these people came to the hotel and tell all of us We're gonna take you guys out. We didn't know why they are doing this, we though they were just nice fans. And they told us later that they made a lot of money. It was, think about the odds. And the odds went the other way for their favour. But that game was talked about for the rest of the season, the next season and the season after that. They were always referencing that game in Madison Square Garden. And, so to us for the championship, we won the championship in just that one game. That was one of the games for the books, that I'll always remember. And I was a defensive guy, so I wasn't looked up to score . So, the other team would just catch it and back off of me. I shoot it , it goes in. For some reason it just felt like the basketball ring was twice as big every time I touched it. I shot the ball like 10 times, I scored 10 times, I didn't miss one time. And my free throws were going in. It was just one of those days. It was meant to be. There were 14 000 people in Madison Square Garden.

Actually if you watch the highlight of my university, there is a picture of me hanging on to the ring wearing the blue uniform. That is that game, Madison Square Garden, and that was one for the books. And another one was in the Dominican Republic. That was the first championship I ever won in my career, whether college or professional. I won the championship in the Dominican Republic for this club. They brought me toward end of the season to help them improve their game, improve the team, and I played a big role in 15 games and the play offs. We lost the first 3 and everyone started doubting us, that it wasn't a good choice to bring this new guy, he's not simulating, he's not adding to the team the way he should, and they were writing in the newspapers about it. I took it personal. And I just doubled down of everything. I took everything out in my life, I wasn't talking to family or friends, or watch another video, I just focused on basketball for that 20 days that we had in the play offs. And I was having good numbers every game, every game like that being to the finals. And we won the game, the last game played at home, we won and I never felt, I never won championship before, so I didn't know the feeling. I've seen people just go crazy and had the big trophies, but I was that guy holding the big trophy, I was the MVP, I was the most valuable player in both teams, for having the most points. And people were coming to me, trying to take my clothes from me, it's like I just want your shirt, and Somebody just wanted to touch you, and I was sweaty and I've just finish the game. And the police led the crowd, they have police everywhere to block the crowd coming in, it's packed, they're like maybe 20 000 people in there, huge arena and everyone comes into the field, into the court at the end. It was just a surreal moment that I remember now. Then we party the night, of course. I didn't sleep for like 2 days. It was the adrenalin rushing to my body for 2 days. It just feel amazing. All the work you put in all these years and to have that one moment. I think every basketball player or every sportsmen need that one moment in their career. Just one. You sacrifice from this team, to that team to this team and ups and downs, and sweat and blood you go through, with practice and games, and pains and ache, you just want that one moment of feeling, you just need to feel it, I think is completely worth it.

 

So, you can consider yourself lucky to have not one, but two moments like these

Augustine: Yeah, I have two of those moments: one in college and one professionally.

 

What're you gonna do when you don't play basketball anymore?

Augustine: Good question! I wanna do something completely different from basketball.

 

Soccer?

Augustine: No, probably not. I am a different kind of person. My brain works like that: if I want to go right and everyone is going left, I'll go that way, because that's what I want to do. And I think that a few basketball players tempt to confine themselves like : I've done this my whole life, this what I know how to do, they feel the pressure they have to coach, when they finish. It comes in handy, it comes in easy, because that's what you've done, so it's just a transition. But I feel like anything you spend time doing you'll become good at. So, I don't mind starting over with something else and in five years, I'm gonna be really good at it again. But I can take the lessons and the work ethic and the passion from basketball and use it in that other thing. So I have a business degree and I'm doing my masters in business, so I see myself probably running my own company someday.

 

And it'll have nothing to do with basketball?

Augustine: No. If I wanna do basketball again, I think it will be with my kid. When he's 5 years old and will play basketball, I would wanna be, if I could be, the coach of his little league team, I will do that. I will go back to basketball for my kid.

 

So, you're not afraid to try new things or overcoming the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone?

Augustine: No

 

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Augustine: I was called to Nigerian Senior National team this year, this summer. Was a huge goal for me. Growing up in Nigeria, as a kid I saw these guys playing on the National TV, the soccer team and the basketball team were really big. And that was my goal, I was just imagine one day to be like that ! And the manager of the team was following me over the years and he really liked me, but recently this passed summer, you know in march this year, he was after me like some guys got older, so they move them from the team, from the national team. They are about 50 guys there in the national team at that time and they can take from that pool of guys, the amount needed for that specific competition. So they took some guys out and he was like We're looking to refill, some open spots that became vacant, based on some guys that left the national team based on injury, retirement and so on and I was one of the people considering to be selected and in the end, I was selected to the national team. So, I was like blown away when I got the official letter that I am part of the Nigerian National team and I could be called at any time, I just have to be ready, so I took that commitment very serious and made sure I was always in shape, signed the contract with the national team, then you gonna get payed for it, but money is not really the thing. It's just the pride of playing for your country. So, I represented Nigeria this summer in the FIBA qualifiers and we won all the games, played very well, family came to see me, people I grow up with came back, came from all over the country to see me playing on that big stage in Nigeria, and the games were on TV. Teachers, people that I knew from the church, people that I grow up with, old neighbourhood friends, everyone was after me on Facebook. It was just a surreal moment for me. Very humbled moment. I don't know how to explain it. You play for the club, you're getting paid for it, it's work. But to put my last name on my back and the country's in front of me gave me brought me to tears the first time I wore the uniform. And I am not a crying type, but that brought me to tears. I was like Wow, it's the country in front of my chest. Two hundred million people in Nigeria are watching me, play this game for them! So, I took it from that prospective and it was just an amazing moment. And my mum played for them before. I'm doing the same thing she did, just in a bigger stage now, cause then it wasn't that big as it is now, and with the social media, everyone sees over the world, so it was just great moment of pride for my country!

 

And the responsibility that comes with it.

Augustine: Yeah! So, it was an amazing moment, a big check on that list, like I did that. So one day when I will have my business office, I vision myself running my own company one day, dressed in a suit, and all those things will be on the wall, like yeah, that was me, I was that guy!

 

What's your goal for the season?

Augustine: The goal is just try to win. I hate loosing. I hate it more than I wanna win actually. That's the reason I play so hard and I try to get guys to play hard. But sometimes progress comes slow. So, I'm trying to encourage people on the team like, look at, for example, The Lakers, Los Angelis Lakers. They just got the best player in the NBA Lebron James and their progress is exact same as ours. This guy came to the city and everyone was screaming like The god of basketball is here and we just gonna get the trophy, just like that. Doesn't work like that. One plus one doesn't always equal 2 in basketball. It takes time sometimes. You have to be patient, work hard and believe it or not we're loosing those games, but I'm seeing progress. The feeling of winning is not the only thing. It's just about knowing you gave your all. The win will gonna come. We have the key. We have the pieces.

 

Thank you for taking the time to meet and talk with us!

 



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Untitled Document