Melbourne United imports mother-inspired Caleb Agada basketball career

Caleb Agada has exploded for Melbourne United.

Susan Agada never liked basketball. Who could blame her?

The single mother was fleeing a situation of poverty in Nigeria in search of a better life and more opportunities for herself, Caleb Agada, 6, and her older sister, Justine.

The trio made their home in Canada, where Susan was dedicated to instilling strong values, education being paramount.

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It proved uncomfortable for Caleb as he became one of Canada’s most talented basketball players.

Instead of rebelling, however, the future Melbourne United importer used his mother’s worry as motivation.

“My mom, like most immigrant parents, focused on education first, so when she saw basketball taking me away from school she was worried and hesitant,” Caleb said.

“Mom was my motivation. (I’m trying) to help her have a better life and do whatever I can for her.

Caleb Agada has become a dominant force for United.  Image: Getty Images
Caleb Agada has become a dominant force for United. Image: Getty Images

Susan led by example.

“She has two master’s degrees, two undergraduate degrees and a doctorate,” said Caleb, who studied economics at the University of Ottawa.

“I said ‘Mom, I want to run after this basketball thing, I’m going to get my bachelor’s degree, but I don’t think I can keep pushing after that, you can graduate enough for both of us.’ “

Caleb said he had to push even harder to convince her he was on the right track.

When college recruiters came to call her and the praise was received, Susan finally realized that basketball could give her son the future she wanted and now she is “100% supportive.” “.

With Caleb making his name in Melbourne, the tight-knit family celebrated Christmas with a difference.

Susan returned to her extended family in Nigeria and Justine remained in Canada to continue her work helping the settlement of migrants and refugees.

Caleb was in Australia preparing to shred the Sydney Kings with 24 points and 14 rebounds – the most ever for a United goalkeeper – four blocks and four steals.

“We had a crazy Christmas, where mum was in Nigeria, my sister was in Canada and I was in Australia, so we just called each other. Everyone is doing well in their area and there is just a lot of love, ”said Agada.

The slow start of Agada in Australia is now history.  Image: Getty Images
The slow start of Agada in Australia is now history. Image: Getty Images

The haters fall on deaf ears

The 27-year-old broke with three consecutive 20-plus-point performances and was influential with 12 points and nine rebounds against the JackJumpers on Saturday – United’s fourth consecutive victory.

But all was not rosy.

Coach Dean Vickerman was forced to make a change after Agada struggled to adjust to the NBL and its referees during the preseason.

The versatile 196cm forward has been moved to the bench for United’s first two games as he worked with the coaches to avoid attracting fouls.

Skeptics have said United need another import to compete.

“I never really paid attention to anyone questioning me,” Agada said.

“No one at the club questioned or pressured me.

“I got to work. It’s something I do. I knew eventually things would start to click.

Click, it’s done. Agada is now seventh in the league with 17.33 points per game, tied for fifth in three points at 2.5 per game and among the top 20 in rebounds and steals. Exactly what United need from their one import.

Agada gets the better of Boomer Joe Ingles during Nigeria-Australia clash at the Tokyo Olympics.  Photo: Adam Head
Agada gets the better of Boomer Joe Ingles during Nigeria-Australia clash at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Adam Head

Point to prove

Stars Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding are now his teammates, but it’s not the first time that Agada has met the two Australians.

His Nigerian side have faced the Boomers twice this year, once in an Olympic warm-up and again in the group stages in Tokyo, losing both games.

“They waxed us, they killed us, so I kind of got a chip on my shoulder, like I really have to come here and show Nigerian basketball is not as sorry as what we have. shown, ”Agada said.

“I remember just seeing Chris do a bunch of shots – you know, doing what he’s doing now.

“I was like ‘brother, what? This guy right here is crazy. I haven’t seen anyone fire shots like this. ‘

It was not all gloomy for Nigerians, however. They beat the once-invincible Team USA, a victory that resonated across Africa. Agada led the way with 17 points.

“It was important for the African continent, which is very close to my heart,” he said.

“A lot of people texted me, told me how proud they were, not only of me, but of being Nigerians.

“Not even just Nigerians, people of all African origins were hitting me. I am very proud to be able to inspire and motivate people and to be an example.

“It’s one of the best memories I have in my life, winning this game.”

Agada mixes it up with big NBA and US team cannon Kevin Durant in Nigeria's shock victory.  Image: Getty Images
Agada mixes it up with big NBA and US team cannon Kevin Durant in Nigeria’s shock victory. Image: Getty Images

With great power comes great responsibility

Agada has a strong sense of a duty to give back and says he uses his position to educate and inspire.

“The world we live in, as sad as it is, is difficult,” he said. “It’s hard for people of color, it’s hard for minorities.

“People in Africa, their standard of living is much worse than that of people in the western world. I’m someone who was able to escape this and come and build a life outside of it, so I feel like it’s my duty to shed some light, or at least to be educated on the issue as much. as possible.

“I try to give my support to other people in my home and all over the world who are going through their difficulties and to be an example for them to keep pushing and stay motivated to keep working to change their situation. “

His unique story has become a connecting link with his teammates Ariel Hukporti and Jo Lual-Acuil, both of whom have emerged from wrestling.

“Jo and I really have a lot of contact because we share similar views on these types of situations,” he said. “Ariel understands this type of struggle as well.

“There is power in that. We come from similar backgrounds and we do something that we love because we were able to overcome our struggles or the struggles of our parents or our ancestors.

Brothers in arms Ariel Hukporti and Agada share a smile following United's victory over the Kings.  Image: Getty Images
Brothers in arms Ariel Hukporti and Agada share a smile following United’s victory over the Kings. Image: Getty Images

A new family

Agada and Germany’s Next Star Hukporti from United have become ‘brothers’.

“Big A is my boy, we’re still together. He’s a great boy, with a big heart, he has so much potential. The sky is the limit for him, he just needs to understand how good he can be. But he’s young, he’s 19. Me at 19, he is far ahead of me.

“I’m just trying to take him under my wing, to show him the tricks of the trade as much as possible.

“It’s family now.

“He is truly an amazing person and I am happy that he is in my life and he will definitely stay in my life in the future.”

That future is in the NBA, as the 213cm tall man sits on draft boards as a potential second-round pick.

Sheer joy as Agada celebrates Jack White's successful return from a serious Achilles tendon injury.  Image: Getty Images
Sheer joy as Agada celebrates Jack White’s successful return from a serious Achilles tendon injury. Image: Getty Images

But now it’s all about United and their unique team vibe.

“It’s not just Ariel, it’s most of the people like Smerch (team manager Stephan Semerci), the coaches, everyone – I’m just happy to be here,” he said. he declares.

“(Jack) Whitey, amazing, he’s been showing us around since we’ve been here, he’s been a great host.

“It’s a pretty tight group, but it’s more mature and everyone understands everyone. We’ve got a bunch of veterans and great guys… everyone has their own family, most of the guys on the team have kids or are married and stuff, so we can’t be as tight as a bunch of guys. of the University.

“But everyone comes together when the time is right.”

Summer challenge

Agada got a taste of the NBA and had an impressive run with the Denver Nuggets in this year’s Summer League.

He racked up 11.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals, while shooting 45 percent from depth.

Not that recruiters or CEOs noticed.

“Nobody really laughed at me, but that’s how it is sometimes,” he said.

So, is it bitter? No.

“That’s life. I was from the Second Division where it was tough and I had to really cringe, so now being in Australia I’m not going to be mad that the NBA didn’t give me luck, ”he said.

“It was my first time (in the NBA). I’m going to keep fighting for it and keep working every day and if I get there I get there, if not, I’m in Australia having fun.

” The weather is nice, here. I play basketball, I’m not upset with everything I don’t have, I’m thankful for everything I have.

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