HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Former University of Ottawa men’s basketball leader Caleb Agada has become a complete player. And his talent has been noted as he’s playing for his native Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics.
After excelling as a five-season, defensive star for the Gee-Gees from 2012-17, Agada added impressive offensive numbers during his fourth pro season (2020-21) in the Israeli Premier League, playing for Hapoel Be’er Sheva Basketball Club.
Averaging 27.5 minutes a game, he registered 22.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.4 steals. At the 2019 African World Cup qualifier, he averaged 10.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.7 steals in 14.3 minutes.
Agada’s overall play couldn’t be ignored by Nigerian officials, especially after he hit all three of his three-point attempts and finished with 17 points in a pre-Olympic 90-87 upset exhibition win over the United States.
Nigeria will play Germany on Tuesday and, if Agada, 26, comes off the bench, you can expect the outgoing, all-around 6-5 guard will be busy contributing in all aspects of the game.
In Nigeria’s opening game, an 84-67 loss to Australia, which crushed its same African opponent by more than 50 points in an exhibition match, Agada had two points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal in 14 minutes.
“As his season played out in Israel, he played at a high level,” said James Derouin, who coached Agada at uOttawa. “He had a breakthrough performance against the U.S. That put him in a good position to make the team.”
And the NBA has again taken notice as well. After the Olympics, Agada will travel to Las Vegas to play for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA’s Summer League. Agada has also signed to play for Strasbourg, France, in 2021-22.
Although undrafted by NBA teams in 2016, Agada has competed in the Summer League for Sacramento in 2017, and Memphis and Orlando in 2015. Agada, who is from Burlington, also has worked out for the Utah Jazz this summer.
Canada Basketball had Agada on its radar, but the national team had plenty of depth at the guard position. Agada previously played on a FISU World University Games team for Canada.
“By his third (Gee-Gee) year, he was one of the top players in the country,” Derouin said of the OUA/CIS defensive player of the year. “Now he has the jump shot, the three-point shot. He has proven a lot of people wrong. He has exceeded my expectations. He has believed in himself and kept working.”
Derouin, who keeps in regular contact with Agada, watched him average 23.4 minutes, 15.8 points, and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Gee-Gees.
“He can play all three guard positions. Coaches absolutely love that flexibility. He has the defence to stop the top guys coming off the bench. You’ll see him each and every game. He finds a way to get into the boxscore.”
Noticeable on the court, Agada also stood out during Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo. The cameras found the upbeat Agada and gave him some prime-time seconds as he walked with the Nigerian team.
“He’s always charged up. Follow him on social media. He’s a real positive dude. It didn’t surprise me that he embraced that moment,” Derouin added.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.