Meet the man scouring Nigeria for the next generation of NBA and NFL talent
Flourish Sports Group co-founder Iseolupo Adepitan is one of the key people, along with New York Giants legend Osi Umenyora, responsible for creating a new wave of basketball and football talent in Nigeria.
In his football program, which works with Umeniora, seven players moved from hoops to nets and made it to the NFL International Tournament in London last year. ) Issue of 2023.
The basketball education program produced Emmanuel Okorafor, who last year played in the African Basketball League for Espoir Fukas and has since moved to the NCAA D1 team of the University of Louisville Cardinals.
adept Born in London and raised in Houston, Texas, he dedicated his career to finding African talent to fulfill his sporting dreams, while his own ambitions were left unfulfilled after he lost the sight in one eye as a child.
coat disease, a disease associated with the development of retinal blood vessels and causing retinal detachment, led to the fact that Adepitan became blind in one eye at the age of six. Although he held his own against healthy football and basketball players, he was never able to play at the highest level.
Adepitan nevertheless retained his love for the sport, doing his best to adjust to his limited vision of the soccer field, which was his home at the time, as he had yet to discover basketball.
He added: “I grew up playing football. [soccer]. Football was my first love. When I was in the UK I always played football and then I found basketball. I was more defensive [footballer] – anywhere behind the back line.
“I remember the first time I played football on the field. [with one eye], it was completely different because you go from using two eyes to using one eye. You go from full vision to half vision, so that was a big adjustment when you first played football.
“When I decided to play basketball because I’d never played basketball before, it wasn’t an adaptation – I just learned how to play.”
By this time, Adepitan was 10 years old and living in Houston, having previously spent three years in New Jersey (2001–2004). Houston will remain his home until 2015.
Of his basketball dreams, he added, “When I was in fourth grade and lived near a park. We always went there every day after school and played with my friends. it, so then I started to train more and played in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), played in high school, played in high school.”
READ: NCAA D1 hoops benefit from influx of African talent
Instead of playing in the NCAA, Adepitan entered the development program of current Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas. [John Lucas Enterprises] after school with his older brother Olutobi.
Along the way, he crossed paths with Mike James, the 2004 NBA champion with the Detroit Pistons.
“I met [Iseolupo] while he was pursuing his university career. He and his brother were really trying to get the opportunity,” James told Sportzshala.
“Coach Lucas allowed them to train in the gym. No one really knew who they were, but after playing with them, we realized: “These kids are really good athletes. They can really play basketball,” but that’s just like politics and nothing in life.
“Sometimes, even in the business world, what really matters is not what you know – you can always learn on the job – it’s who you know that can put you in that position. If you don’t have the right people to put you in your place, then your skill doesn’t matter if you can’t demonstrate it.”
He added: “Not everyone is allowed to train with us, so you have to be good enough to be able to get on the court with us and train with us. It just showed who they were.
“I think they could have gone to any well-known Division I college and played well at the Division I level – and probably even had the opportunity to play professional basketball, whether it was abroad, in Europe. [or] even the NBA. They had as good an opportunity or a chance as anyone else.”
In 2015, Adepitan returned to his family roots by moving to Nigeria in hopes of playing for the D’Tigers, the men’s national basketball team. However, seeing firsthand the lack of investment in development, he decided to focus on taking matters into his own hands.
Together with his brother, they formed Educational Basketball, which later became Flourish Sports Group when it expanded into American football.
Adepitan said “I feel like I’ve come pretty close [to playing for Nigeria]because he trained with coach John Lucas, he was the head coach of the Nigerian national team when I was in high school.
“Being able to connect with him and work with him gave me hope that this could happen. Unfortunately, when I came to Nigeria it just didn’t happen, so I just decided to teach instead.”
Okorafor, from Louisville, is the Adepitans’ most famous student, and he says training with the brothers is the foundation of his own success, calling it the most “intense” basketball training he’s had.
Okorafor, now just 18, told Sportzshala: “I got in touch with Izeolupo. [in] 2019. I was so young. He turned to my Instagram and [said] I had the potential and I had to train with him and his brother and develop my skills.
“I have always wanted to do this type of training – like one-on-one sessions or individual sessions with a small number of people so that I can work on myself, and that is how I joined Educational Basketball.
“It wasn’t easy when I first trained with them, their training was intense and they made me fight some guys better than me. They made me realize that it’s not just about talent, you have to compete and work hard. .
“They were the first to believe that I could be tall and still dribble so well. We worked hard on my pens and there have been a lot of improvements over time.”
Iseolupo and Olutobi Adepitan never achieved their D’Tiger dreams, and the former never succeeded in showing the world what he firmly believed in his heart – that he could hold his own against the best basketball players.
However, basketball and football fans around the world are likely to see the fruits of their hard work on the sidelines soon.