Senior Osasumwen Osaghae leads the country in blocked shots. It is quite the accomplishment for a kid who did not even like basketball growing up.
“I was very much against basketball,” Osaghae says, overlooking the palm leaves and blue waves that decorate the court of the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. His arena may look like paradise, but the Miami native’s journey here was anything but comfortable.
By the time Osaghae turned 16 years old, he had never touched a basketball. He preferred soccer. However, his growing six-foot frame was naturally built for hoops. His parents pushed him into playing for Miami Southridge High.
Osaghae was on the team for about two years and began to appreciate the game. After graduating, he wanted to play college ball, but a major obstacle stood in his way. Osaghae was obese, weighing nearly 300 lbs.
“I had a coach tell me I was pretty much never going to play Division I basketball. When he told me that, it made me really upset. It made me want to chase my goal even more,” Osaghae said.
So Osaghae stopped munching chips and candy. For five months, he ate mostly natural meats and vegetables. He lost 60 lbs before enrolling at FIU to study business management.
As a freshman, Osaghae successfully walked on to the university’s team and appeared in four games. He played more in his sophomore season, but averaged less than four points per game.
Heading into his junior season, Osaghae wanted a scholarship—like every walk-on player does—but sensed that new head coach Jeremy Ballard and his staff were purposely avoiding the subject. Osaghae left a meeting in the summer of 2018 in despair, thinking about transferring and leaving his home city to pursue a better situation, crying while running to his car.
The next day at practice, Ballard surprised him with a scholarship.
“I can’t even describe the feeling I felt. I was at a loss for words,” Osaghae said.
The new head coach offered Osaghae more than financial help. He gave him confidence. During their first meeting, Ballard told Osaghae that he could become the best defender in the nation.
“It took one meeting with him to tell that he had unbelievable spirit, unbelievable ambition, and was willing to put in the work to be great,” Ballard said.
And here Osaghae is today, the NCAA's leader in blocks.
What has his journey taught him?
“It just tells me you should never let a man tell you what you can or can’t do,” Osaghae said. “Opinions are just what people think, and the only ones that matters are your own.”