Former NBA player Hakeem Olajuwon once said, “I’ve now been in this country for thirteen years, since I was seventeen. So this is my second home.”
Houston Cougars‘ commit Valentine Sangoyomi shares a similar path to that of Olajuwon, and one special connection.
The game of basketball means a lot to Sangoyomi. “It’s like what is giving me joy whenever I am sad about something. I can always find joy on the basketball court.”
After committing to the Cougars after a stellar JUCO career, Saangoyomi is “On the Brink” of stardom in the NCAA.
Sangoyomi grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, which has a population of 5.2 million people. Similar to the path Olajuwon took, Sangoyomi came to the United States when he was seventeen years old, and attended Erie First Christian Academy in Pennsylvania.
Struggles come with any sort of change, especially when you are moving to a new country as a teen. Reflecting back on his home, Sangoyomi says that there are certain parts that he misses about Lagos.
“I miss my family so much, my friends and the food,” said Sangoyomi. “It’s hard living thousands of miles away from my family, but it’s something I am kind of used to now cause, you can’t expect greatness to come to you wherever you are, but you have to chase after it in other to be great in life.”
“In other words, nothing comes easy.”
Adjusting to the cuisine in America has been a big change for Sangoyomi, and food that his mother used to make for him and his family is something he misses the most.
“The food back home I miss a lot cause all my mom ever does when she comes back from work is cook homemade meals for us,” said Sangoyomi.
“Rice with stew , pounded yam, beans with casava flakes. We never go to restaurants like McDonald’s or any fast food to eat cause we don’t have that kind of money to spend.”
After his high school career finished, Sangoyomi would enroll at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. As a freshman he averaged 6.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, while shooting 54.0% from the field and 53.3% from the free throw line.
As a sophomore in 2015-16, Sangoyomi improved his overall production, despite seeing his field goal percentage dropping below 50.0%. He averaged 6.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per contest while shooting 45.3% from the field and 59.4% from the free throw line.
After two strong seasons with the Mavericks, Sangoyomi picked up interest from several schools at the Division I level. Ultimately, Sangoyomi would sign with the Houston Cougars, to play for head coach Kelvin Sampson.
He picked Houston over the other colleges who recruited him because of the family approach of the coaching staff and the Sampson family.
“I picked Houston because the coaches and the Sampson’s are really good people,” said Sangoyomi. “They treated me like part of their family, and ever since they started recruiting me, they talked to me almost everyday.”
“Plus, I sat and discussed every bit of it with my family, and they also feel like it’d the best place for me to be.”
Sangoyomi continues to follow a similar path to that of Olajuwon. Both were born in Lagos, moved to the United State at the age, and now will both have worn a Houston Cougars’ jersey.
“I’m really blessed to be playing the same place where Hakeem played. No one ever thought I will make it this far. By the grace of God almighty, many good things are still coming my way.”
Sangoyomi will have two seasons of eligibility when he suits up for Houston in the upcoming 2016-2017 season.
He doesn’t play the game for selfish purposes. Each time Sangoyomi puts on his jersey with his name on the back, he plays for the people who have been behind him since day one.
“First of all, I am thankful to God for this opportunity, thankful for Jack Whitehead, my uncles back in Buffalo, New York, uncle Lee and uncle Booke,” said Sangoyomi. “I am thankful for my coaches, my high school coach Phil Gernovich, and my college coaches, coach Donnie Jackson and Jason Hinson.”
“I am thankful for my host family, Sharon and Rob Hess. Lastly, I am thankful for the Fox family, Tammy fox and Grandma fox.”
Sangoyomi has a lot of excitement when he will get the chance to meet his idol in Hakeem Olajuwon.
“I am gonna ask him to teach and lead me in the right part of the game of basketball.I can’t wait to meet him in person when I resume to Houston this coming summer.”
Life isn’t all about basketball for Sangoyomi, and finds passions outside of basketball, which is all a part of the life as a student.
“My passions off the court is my school work, I really do take that serious as well,” concluded Sangoyomi. “Then, I like making friends and impact them in good ways.”
All of Sangoyomi’s success ties back into a quote from his mother that he holds near and dear to his heart.
“I was always told by my mom it’s where your fate is leading you to which has been so good so far.”
Fate has been good for Sangoyomi so far, and by the look of things, it’s only going to get better from here.