Ade’s Fast Track: From Obscurity to London

Former Husker Ade Dagunduro helped Nigeria qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

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By Randy York

Yes, Ade Dagunduro (pronounced ah-DAY dah-gun-der-oh) took the fast track from relative obscurity to the Olympic Summer Games in London, but it didn’t take long for the former Husker basketball guard to glean some national attention from his recent heroics in Caracas. “Odd Olympic stat is Nebraska will have two former Husker hoop players in London with Ade Dagunduro (Nigeria) and Aleks Maric (Australia),” tweeted Andy Katz, a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com and a regular sports analyst on ESPN’s College GameNIght. Nebraska Coach Tim Miles had some fun with Katz. “Not odd AK, just the beginning!!! Go Big Red and Congrats to Ade and Aleks,” Miles tweeted. Katz then acknowledged Miles’ tweet and told his 188,583 followers on ESPN that Miles said “this won’t be an anomaly.”

Count me among those pulling for Nigeria to qualify for its first ever Olympic basketball tournament after Dagunduro joined the effort just before its amazing run that included wins over two of the world’s top five-ranked men’s basketball teams – Lithuania and Greece. Nigeria then beat the Dominican Republic Sunday night to qualify for the Olympics. I enjoyed watching Dagunduro. He was a caring, compassionate, vocal leader at Nebraska. I remember him being all about his roots in Nigeria, yet still talking about people who were born and raised in Inglewood, Calif., like he was.

"I just want fans to remember me as a competitor," Ade told me before his last home game as a Husker in 2009. "I tried as hard as I could – on and off the court – to represent my heavenly father, my family, my coaches and my teammates." Ask any Husker teammate or coach, and they will tell you that Dagunduro succeeded on all fronts. “I look up to him like he’s my older brother,” fellow senior Paul Velander said, adding that Ade is a hard worker, a spiritual person and a competitor who loves his family so much that he talked to his brother (former Husker defensive lineman Ola Dagunduro) almost every day. “If Ade respects you, he’ll do almost anything for you,” then fellow senior Nick Krenk said. “He’s amazing to be around, and I’m proud to call him one of my very best friends.”

Dagunduro must have been a catalyst for the history-making Nigerian team, using the same attitude he exemplified at Nebraska. “We’re a group, and no one deserves any more recognition than anyone else,” he said of Krenk, who walked on and played sparingly. “Nick is my brother for life. He’s the ultimate competitor. The way he gives himself up in practice is something to see – unbelievable really. I’ve never seen anyone give so much to help someone else get better. It’s a tribute to his character and a testament to his family.”

I remember Ade playing hard on both ends of the floor and making third-team All-Big 12. I remember him scoring 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a game against Kansas when the Huskers trailed by only one point in the final 30 seconds. I remember him going 5-of-6 from the field and 10-of-10 at the line in a road win at Texas Tech. I remember him beating Creighton with the game-winner with only 2.7 seconds remaining.

There have been so many fond memories, but my favorite was beating Oregon at the Qwest Center my junior year because no one expected us to win,” Dagunduro recalled. “Oregon came in ranked 15th in the nation, and our fans traveled through all that snow to get to Omaha. It was the first time our fans rushed the court, just like they did for the Texas game on Jack Moore Day. That was great, too. Our fans are so great, and I’m so glad I came to Nebraska. It was the perfect choice for me. I love the atmosphere and how much a player can grow here. When you can mesh with the coaches and play as hard as we do, it’s only a matter of time before we become as well known in basketball as we are in football.”

This is simply a guess, but I’m betting Tim Miles would agree with Dagunduro on that one, too.

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