|Catching up with Former Redbirds: Dinma Odiakosa|
|Written by Scott Gleeson, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 23 February 2011 22:54|
During the fall, Dinma Odiakosa found himself in unfamiliar territory.
He was playing basketball in a country far from home and away from friends and family, while learning a new culture.
But Odiakosa knows the situation all too well.
Five years ago, the former Redbird forward was a freshman from Nigeria adjusting to a new lifestyle in the states.
A few short years later and Odiakosa became a menace for Missouri Valley Conference foes and as a senior, finished as the Valley Player of the Year runner-up and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Earning the reputation as “one of the hardest workers ever” from ISU men’s basketball coach Tim Jankovich during his time in Redbird Country, Odiakosa has taken his work ethic and the skills he developed over his career, to the professional level overseas.
“Illinois State prepared me to be mentally tough, and without that, it’s impossible to play,” Odiakosa said.
For many basketball players, making the adjustment to a whole new way of living does not come easy. For Odiakosa, he takes the “been there, done that” mentality.
Odiakosa inked a one-year contract with UB La Palma, based in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands. The team is a member of the Spanish LEB Gold division.
La Palma currently holds a 10-13 record and Odiakosa is averaging 11.2 points a game and 6.1 rebounds a game through 24 minutes a game.
“I wanted to play in Spain because of the level of competition,” Odiakosa said. “It is a beautiful place, so far I cannot complain about my experience.
“Spain has a great culture and I am getting to know a little Spanish so I can communicate. It’s different than in the states in so many ways. From the way people dress, the music, the language, even to the size of a coffee cup at McDonalds.”
The 6-foot-8 Odiakosa noted that the major changes he’s noticed have come on the basketball court.
“The fact that it is a job makes it different,” Odiakosa said. “In college, you expect to do better the next year for the seniors. In the pros, it’s less of a guarantee trying to get better as a team so it’s a different mentality.”
Prior to his stint overseas, Odiakosa was a member of the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2010 NBA Summer League. He said he still plans to pursue a professional career in the states after hearing positive feedback from NBA scouts.
“I want to keep working to play at the highest level that I can,” Odiakosa said. “I am doing well…but I have to keep getting better.”
Looking in the rearview mirror, Odiakosa reflected on his Illinois State career and credited much of his development as a player and person to many in the Redbird community. In May, his five-year period with ISU came to a culminating close at commencement. When Odiakosa graduated, he saw his parents for the first time since coming to the states to pursue his degree and basketball career.
“It’s hard to describe seeing my parents after years,” he said. “There were a lot of emotions. Overall, it was one of the best days of my life.
“My time at Illinois State helped me to be the man I am today.”
“I miss it a lot,” he said. “No other basketball level is as unique as college basketball. Because of the loyal fans, the entire atmosphere. Nothing compares to it.
“Not even a paycheck.”