From Hackney to lockdown defender in the ACC - with Olu Babalola - Ep. 82 -

From Hackney to lockdown defender in the ACC – with Olu Babalola – Ep. 82

For Episode 82 of the Hoopsfix Podcast we sit down with former GB Senior international and more than decade-long pro Olu Babalola.

Olu, who retired in 2016, is one of the most physically dominant and talented junior players to come out of the UK, coming through the great late Joe White’s programme before having an esteemed high school career at St Augustine’s Prep where he made multiple All-State teams whilst winning State titles, and scoring more than 1000 points.

He was recruited heavily, ultimately choosing to go to Clemson where he was a three year starter and one of the best defenders in the ACC. Turning pro in 2005, he started his career in Italy and Sweden before returning to the UK where he spent the majority of his career in the BBL, winning 9 titles whilst also receiving a couple of call up to the GB Senior Men’s squad in the run up to 2012.

A passionate chef, he is now based in Sheffield, and runs The Wing Kings, a chicken wing company serving Yorkshire.


00:00 Intro
02:12 Interview start
02:32 Starting Wing Kings, his catering company he transitioning into after basketball
06:03 How he first got into basketball
14:48 Whether he had natural raw talent or it was something he had to work at
16:22 Where his size comes from, being 6’6″ 296 at 17 years old
18:02 If he lifted weights
18:48 Being the strongest despite not lifting
19:38 The impact Joe White had on his life
22:33 Why players sought Joe White’s approval
25:34 Top players of his generation he played with and against
28:28 How his move to the States happened and how good Dajuan Wagner was
31:18 The transition to the US
31:58 How good Drew Sullivan was in High School
33:59 How college turned Drew and Olu into defenders potentially taking away from their offensive game
37:00 Some of the future NBA players Olu was guarding at college
38:36 Going to high school with both Andrew Sullivan and Pops Mensah-Bonsu
42:03 A crazy story from Pops at a 7/11 in Jersey
43:51 The recruitment process and being chased by almost every program in the US
46:00 False rumours that he had committed to Villanova
48:36 His tough freshman year at Clemson and wanting to leave
52:30 The two players who left Clemson that opened up minutes for him
54:49 How confidence he was he could make the NBA
56:10 His standout memories from Clemson
1:00:44 His 22, 7 and 5 game vs Virginia
1:01:13 Whether there is footage floating around of his college career
1:01:53 Playing for the American football team at Clemson after his Senior year
1:07:11 The transition to being a pro and his rookie year
1:14:01 Leaving Italy for Sweden
1:16:55 Why he played in the BBL for the majority of his career
1:18:48 Basketball players being humans and having to take other factors into account in their decisions
1:26:38 Whether he feels the BBL has progressed and the need for a player’s union
1:29:02 Players still playing in the BBL and barely getting paid
1:30:34 National team and why he didn’t feature more heavily for GB
1:33:42 His favourite basketball teammate
1:34:05 Best coach he has ever played for
1:34:59 Best British junior player he’s ever seen
1:35:17 Best player he’s played against
1:35:48 Standout basketball memory from his career
1:36:42 What he wants his legacy to be

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