By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
North Carolina alumnus and successful player in Europe, Ademola Okulaja has died. The sad news was reported by the German outlet BIG earlier Wednesday. The cause of death is not yet known.
A son of a Nigerian father and German mother played college basketball in North Carolina from 1995 to 1999. His NCAA run was highlighted by earning a spot in the 1998-99 All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team.
Moving back to Europe, he competed in the EuroLeague as a member of Alba Berlin, FC Barcelona, Unicaja, and Brose Bamberg, and also enjoyed EuroCup stints with Valencia and Khimki Moscow Region. Back in 1994-95, he was part of the Alba Berlin team coached by Svetislav Pesic that edged out Stefanel Olimpia Milano in the double-legged Korac Cup Final to lift the trophy.
In addition, he represented Germany in two FIBA World Cup and five EuroBasket tournaments, and along the way become captain. He earned 172 caps at the senior level from 1995 to 2007. The biggest team accomplishment was capturing the bronze medals in the 2002 World Cup alongside Germany’s great Dirk Nowitzki in Indianapolis.
Despite multiple attempts early in his professional career, he was unable to extend his solid career into the NBA. Making the training camp squads of the Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz got him close from 2000 to 2003.
In 2008, Okulaja was diagnosed with a spinal tumor but managed to return to action and conclude his career in 2010. Following his playing days, he called basketball games for German television and was also an agent.
Photo Credit: FIBA.basketball