Growing up in Nigeria, most kids dream of playing for the nation’s famed soccer team, the Super Eagles, or their female counterparts, the Super Falcons. Anuoluwapo “Anu” Bamijoko, a two-year starter on the Montgomery College women’s basketball team, was no different.
“I started playing soccer when I was four. Soon, I was competing with the boys—and they never chose girls to play on the boy’s team!” Bamijoko says. “By the time I was eight, I was playing as a goalkeeper, and eventually moved to striker on my primary school team.”
Another team sport soon piqued the interest of Bamijoko. While it may not have Super Eagle or Super Falcon popularity, Nigeria is rich in basketball talent. Nigerian-born Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon paved the way for other Nigerian players, including one of the game’s bright young stars, Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. His jersey is among the highest-selling apparel in the NBA, a testament to the rapidly growing international appeal of the game.
“Unfortunately, we never gave as much regard to basketball [as we did soccer] or to those who played it,” Bamijoko said. “But since I had always watched my brother play, he said I should give it a try. I ended up loving the game.” She earned MVP honors for her high school team.
Bamijoko is an athletic rebounder and a tenacious defender for the Raptors, currently ranked fourth in the nation in the NJCAA Division III poll. Bamijoko’s career average is 7.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and almost four steals per game. She has posted 10 career double doubles. She had a season-high 19 points against Frederick Community College on November 15, and pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds in a lopsided Raptors’ victory over rival Prince George’s Community College.
Bamijoko convinced her mother she could fulfill her dream of someday playing professional basketball by coming to the United States. Montgomery College is the first stop in her journey to earn a four-year degree and to fulfill her professional dreams.
“Anu is the example of a true student athlete,” said Raptors Head Coach Tarlouh Gasque. “She has a GPA higher than 3.0—and is very focused on getting better at basketball and her studies. She is very coachable and is one of the most athletic players in the conference.”
“The way my parents brought me up was quite strict, but it has made me a better person today,” she said. “I’m grateful for that because it made me understand that things are not just given to me… I have to work hard and have a good attitude to achieve whatever I want to achieve.”