Hoops & Read basketball team, based in Lagos is owned by former D’Tigers captain, Olumide Oyedeji. The team made its debut season in the 2017 Kwese Premier Basketball League season finishing third. The Lagos based club was awarded 10 million naira prize money for their third place finish while the finalist, Gombe Bulls got 15 million naira, champions Kano Pillars won 20 million naira. They paraded talented players who in every game gave fans reasons to watch them play because they were a joy to watch. Bolaji Emilagba is one player part of Hoops & Read success story, played actively and contributed immensely to the club’s debut season.
Emilagba is from Lagos Mainland born on January 15, 1999. He attended Tolulope Day nursery and primary school on the Mainland and from there went to Lornford International school. Emilagba is still working on getting into the University and intends to study Computer Science.
A point guard for the Hoops & Read team based in Lagos, he would love to attend a higher institution in Lagos because of his team. According to him “In the US that’s how they do, you go to school and you play basketball, that’s why I’m trying to stay in Lagos so I’ll be able to play basketball and at the same time go to school.”
On how he started playing basketball, the Lagos born was introduced to the sports in secondary school.
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“I started playing in 2012, I was still in secondary school, when I started. I saw basketball for my first time in SS1, my house came to me asking me if I would love to join them for the inter-house basketball competition because they didn’t have enough guys, so I said okay even when I didn’t know how to play, and never played it before. I was committing all sorts of blunders, traveling, you know double dribbling, though I found the game interesting and wanted to play. Afterwards, I searched around Lagos Mainland and looked for a nearby court, I walked up to some guys who could teach me how to play at Rowe Park. I fell in love with the game, developed quickly, and then I got into Zion basketball Academy at Rowe Park, who helped my game get better.”
Emilagba’s career in Nigeria basketball league took a little while and he is glad it did because he took time developing himself till the time was right. In 2014, Owner of Hoops & Read, Olumide Oyedeji became interested in him after watching him play at Rowe Park and asked if he would like to join his team.
“He asked me to join his team because they will be going for division one that year and I said yes why not, that’s an opportunity for me, I want to play. So we went to Abuja in 2014, that was like my first national competition …Although I was jittery, after a couple of minutes in the game I got myself together and I think my first game I had like 22 points, and that attracted the attention of many people telling me I’m a prospect, I can develop in the game, I should just keep working, a lot of people kept encouraging me, but I didn’t stop working I just stayed humble and hungry,” he said.
“We came third at the end of the division one. In 2015, our club President wasn’t around so we didn’t go for the division one, then 2016 we went for the division one and went unbeaten. But after we failed to gain promotion in 2015, Doldan Warriors basketball club called me, and asked me if I wanted to play for them, I accepted though I didn’t get to play a lot of minutes because I was a rookie.
The 18 year old turned down the opportunity to play for the Africa Basketball League the following year with Warriors and he explained his reasons.
“It was my decision, it was my decision not to play in the ABL because I know I’m still growing in the game and ABL is a professional league, if I say I want to play I might not get to play a lot of minutes, so I did some calculations which I realized would not permit me play in the national division one at the end of 2016 if I had played in the ABL. Fortunately, I played division one with Hoops & Read and we went unbeaten.
Apart from playing basketball, Emilagba played football though doesn’t play as much as before. He loves table tennis, playing scrabble a lot. Just like other basketball players, he shares same opinion about going to school and playing basketball.
“I don’t think that you have to leave education because of basketball. We have lots of legends that played the game and they are not playing anymore. Apart from the fact that they made a lot of money playing basketball they still have to go back to doing something, and if you don’t have education, there’s nothing you can do with your money you are just going to keep spending, so to me education has to come first.”
He also disclosed one of the objectives of Hoops & Read to have their players go to school and play basketball.
“Most of us are in school and some are graduates, some are still trying to get into a school. The owner is trying to help some guys with their tuition, place some on scholarship and if you are ready to go to school they are ready to play their part to get you through school.”
“For me I want to take basketball to the next level because I’m still young and still ready to play, even if I graduate from the University with my BSc, I still want to play basketball.
Unlike many basketball players who make a living through basketball, Emilagba said he is there to have fun, develop himself and gain more experience. He expects to see the standard of the league improve especially the welfare package for teams while commending the sponsor of the just concluded 2017 league season, Kwese Sports for improving the game of basketball in Nigeria. Despite finishing third in the just concluded season, Emilagba describes it as a successful debut season not ruling out a move to another.
“lf Hoops and Reads is not good for me, next season I might go to another team but for now Hoops and Reads is good and I don’t think I want to go to another team. You know playing basketball and you have a team that has the same uniform, shoes, they still give you guys whatever gear you want, ankle guard, when you have a team that does all these things for you, you just want to give them a hundred percent. It’s always good to look good as a basketball team, it’s like oppressing the other team, and secondly when you are together when you are uniformed, obviously it looks like you are on the same page.
The Lagos based player favourite food is amala, ewedu and gbegiri also loves rice too. He loves fictional movies, action movies and sometimes comedy. He loves local music especially before a game and YCee is his favourite among the guys.
But how does a young talented player like him deal with the distractions that come his way?
“Obviously playing in the highest level of basketball in Nigeria and putting up numbers like I’m doing, you will surely get girls come to you. Hey, I love the way you play. It doesn’t matter how many girls that come and say they want to be your friend, it’s left to you, you have to know where you are going. They love you but they can still love someone else, so you just don’t get distracted you have to stay focused.
Does Emilagba party? Yeah, I go to party, not a lot. Like I don’t join my family when they want to go for a party and my parents dislike it when I do that, instead I’ll just pick up my shoes and go to the basketball court. But if I really want to go party with my friends, I go to maybe birthday party or a house party.
When asked if he was in a relationship, he laughed and said no but has lots of admirers. Though once had a girlfriend, both parted ways based on mutual understanding with no hard feelings.