Six years ago, Joel Adese had little knowledge of basketball. Today he is playing college basketball as a forward for Benedictine.

Adese is filling in as one of the backup forward roles on this year’s basketball team. He is showing off his strength and defensive skills during practice and in games. Junior Eric Krus has noticed.
“Joel brings a lot of hard work and commitment,” Krus said. “He brings the same high energy day in and day out.”

This was not always Adese’s plan, and the road to a spot on the men’s basketball team was a journey.

Adese grew up in the capital of the Asaba, Delta State Nigeria, where he was approached by a basketball coach on his walk to school.

“The coach said, ‘wow you’re tall, why don’t you check out basketball?’ I was hesitant. I said, ‘Ok, I’ll give it a shot,’” Adese said.

Soccer was the main sport that consumed Adese’s early life. He loved the sport and playing it with his friends, but basketball soon changed his life. Nervous about playing, two weeks later he showed up to the gym in Asaba.

The first time Adese showed up, he stood there tentatively just watching the action unfold. He would leave the practice and come back a week later; Adese was all in on this new sport.

Adese showed up to the gym for his first day of real basketball training, but he forgot one important tool.

“I had no shoes on,” Adese said, laughing.

Adese would go through the crash course of basketball from the rules to the fundamentals. He learned how to jump-stop, pivot and catch the basketball. Prior to this day, Adese only played with his feet while playing soccer. The coaches had to teach him how to catch and react with the use of his hands.

The culture of being at home and around familiar people made the time so fun for Adese, but there were some challenges.

“It (Asaba) was a combination of struggle and fun,” Adese said. “Some people can’t really afford some stuff, like clean water.”

Although basketball was important, education was the biggest priority to Adese. In 2014, Adese was looking to the west for his next opportunity as a student.

In Asasba, Adese’s coach was friends with a coach in Illinois. The coach in Illinois was part of La Salette Academy. Adese’s priest in his hometown was also friends with the chaplain of La Salette in Georgetown, Illinois. These two connections led Adese to hop on a plane and embark on a new adventure as a high school student in America.

Since Adese had never left Africa, he had to adjust to many different cultural changes when arriving in Illinois. The school officials of La Salette picked Adese up at the airport and bought him an American delicacy.

“They got me my very first burger,” Adese said.

Adese started his high school career as a sophomore at La Salette. He grew to love the place, making great friends and teammates along the way. Soon, it was time for Adese to choose to go back to Africa or continue with American schooling by going to college.

“I was open to any door that would open for me, whether it was to go back home or go to college,” Adese said.

Adese applied to two colleges in Nigeria just in case his plans with American schooling fell through.

“Everything being equal and everything going well, Benedictine offered me a scholarship and that is how I ended up here,” Adese said.

Adese has only been playing basketball for six years, but he feels he is not at a disadvantage in comparison to others. He relies on his love for the sport.

“I am the type of person that really wants to learn something new,” Adese said. “I love basketball.”

Adese was given some valuable advice from his parents and he continues to live by it.

“My parents brought me up that I have to have goals. In life, you have to have goals no matter how big or small,” Adese said.

Adese has much bigger plans than securing that rebound or giving the perfect outlet pass. He is double majoring in accounting and political science and intends to use his political science degree in the future.

“I plan on going home to use my political science degree to go to law school,” Adese said. “I want to be a lawyer back home.”

Adese is thousands of miles away from home, but he is living his life with joy. He is working hard at becoming a better student while still learning the game of basketball.