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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Mourn the Passing of Ademola Okulaja

Jed Jacobsohn- Getty Images

Earlier this afternoon, Tar Heel basketball confirmed the unfortunate passing of former forward Ademola Okulaja at the age of 46. Okulaja was a member of the Tar Heel basketball program from 1995 to 1999.

In his four seasons with Carolina, Okulaja was a major role player, never playing less than 26 minutes per game in a season. He averaged at least 6.0 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 1.0 steal per game and shot at least 41% from the field in each of his four seasons in Chapel Hill. He finished his Tar Heel career averaging 9.0 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game, 43.8% field goal percentage, 37.4% from deep and 68.0% from the line.

Okulaja was a part of two Final Four teams at Carolina, including Dean Smith’s final team in 1996-97. Okulaja’s career year, though, came as a senior in 1998-99 following the departure of star teammates Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams. He led the team in scoring (13.9), rebounds per game (8.4), steal per game (1.4) and three point shooting (43.1%) on the way to first team All-ACC honors. He helped lead the Tar Heels to a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but unfortunately the team was upset by Weber State in the first round.

Following his career at Carolina, Okulaja went undrafted and made his way overseas to play in a multitude of European leagues, spending the majority of his time in Liga ACB and Euroleague. In his ten seasons overseas, he never finished a league year or tournament with less than 7.6 per game or 42% from the field. His best season overseas came in 2000-01 with Casademont Girona where he finished tied for third in points per game (20.0), eighth in rebounds per game (8.3), fifth in steals per game (2.1) and tenth in effective field goal percentage (54.0%).

Okulaja was a member of the German national team alongside of Dirk Nowitizki, participating with team at the European Championships in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001 and earning a bronze medal with the team in the 2002 FIBA World Basketball Championship. He was also apart of the squad in the 2006 FIBA World Basketball Championship that fell in the quarterfinals to the United States.

Following his playing career, Okulaja was as a basketball analyst for the German channel Sport1. He would later serve as the agent for current Houston Rockets guard and German national player Dennis Schroder.

Many of Okulaja’s former teammates took to social media to express their condolences for their fallen Tar Heel.

From everyone here at the Heel Tough Blog, we wish Ademlo’s loved ones the best during this extremely difficult time.


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