Nigerian basketballer Michael Olalekan Ojo has died aged 27 years.
According to an official statement by his club, Crvena Zvezda of Serbia, Ojo slumped after training and died shortly afterwards.
News of the death of US-based Ojo has been greeted with shock by members of Nigeria’s basketball family and members of the Nigeria Basketball Federation have also reacted to the sudden demise of the one-time national team D’Tigers invitee.
NBBF President, Engr Musa Kida bemoaned the sudden demise of the 27-year-old expressing shock at the loss of a budding Nigerian talent.
“This is another flower that unexpectedly withered at such a time it was expected to start blossoming,” Kida told the Federation’s news channel.
“After a sterling college career in the United States of America and after securing a professional deal in Belgrade, it is so sad that the basketball world has been robbed of this emerging talent who has been described as one of the tallest to play basketball in Serbia.”
In his reaction, the Federation’s Vice President, Babs Ogunade said: “I met with him in February at the FIBA Women’ Olympic qualifying tournament in Serbia. I watched his match against Partizan Basketball. He was such a calm and unassuming personality.”
The North Central Representative on the board, Isah Umah described the late centre, who won the 2019 Serbian Professional League with Crvena as humble and hard-working.
Umar who was D’Tigers Team Manager when the team was preparing for the 2011 FIBA Afrobasket when Ojo was invited to the National team revealed that he was a true Nigerian who bled green and white.
“He was excited to be part of team Nigeria and gave his best at such a young age. He did not make the final cut, but he was excited to have a chance to play for his fatherland.”
During the 2019–20 season, Ojo appeared in 22 EuroLeague games with Crvena Zvezda, averaging 4.1 points and 3 rebounds per game while appearing in about 108 games for his club before his untimely demise as teams were preparing for life after the covid-19 global lockdown.