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Well known for his basket-ball skills, Aloysius Anagonye has been working hard on and off the court for years now. Though, if Basketball is what he does, it could never resume who he is.
Let me introduce to the man underneath the jersey.
Most of people know you have been playing basketball for decades now. When and why did you become a basketball player?
At the age of 12, I decided to play basketball not just to play sports but join the kids to play. As a Nigerian-American, I thought it was my way for me to connect with other kids.
Every day I am in the basketball court, I try to enjoy myself as much as possible, knowing that the game can be taken away from you. I appreciate my basketball skill and see it as gift from God. Nothing is assumed, taken for granted or assured. I always thank God for everything!!
You were playing for the Nigerian national team, had organized the first African tournament in Paris last year, and you attend to any African event taking place here. How would you describe your relation with Africa? What would people need to know about Africa according to you?
I am Nigerian-American. I am an African. I am an American. This is who I am and I am proud of it. So, I go out there to support everything I can that has to do with my continents. I am also not just supporting but giving back to my continents.
We always talk about what is the next frontier. I believe everybody should know that Africa is the next frontiers. Africa is the next frontier!! This fact has been recognized by several counties including America, European countries and China who are now in Africa. I want to be one of the front forces, pushers and drivers of this next frontier.
You are Nigerian and American, what both cultures brought you so far? What difference would you make between the two?
As a Nigerian, you have to be resourceful. That is one of the things I love about my country, my kinfolks. Nigerians are very resourceful. They can make balloons out of plastic bags. They can do anything. They are focused in both mind and body. This is very important for survival. As an American, I have learned the drive/motivation to be the best – not just to compete but to compete at a level that is above and beyond everybody else.
Basketball player, businessman, inspiring speaker, coach, you do many things at the same time… how would you describe Aloysius Anagonye to people?
How would I describe myself to people? One, what you see is what you get. That is really important. You see a man first of all. I do make mistakes as a human being. Then you see not just a man but somebody who has been mobile all his life and have gone to different places. It is really tough for me to expect anybody to want see one thing about me. I want to be diverse in my thinking and activities. I want people to think diversity when they see me. Someone may see somebody like me and thinks that a black man from Detroit must be like this or that, but later finds that he is something different. Thus, this will open theirs eyes to understand not to judge a book by its cover.
I know for a fact that you are workaholic, you are always on something and pretty hard to marshal, lol! What strives you on an everyday basis?
What strives me every day? That is an interesting question. I think most of all to grow as a man, to learn as much as I can to teach my son, my nephews and anybody else out there that comes in contact with me. So many people have given so much to me and I believe it is my time to give back to the world. My biggest drive is “What can I do to make myself to be better than I was yesterday, even better than I was an hour ago?” We all make mistakes during the day. I am really tough on myself on improving myself.
Yes, I love to work. I believe that working is part of being a human being. I have the belief that God or something put us in this world to help each other. Excuse me for using the word God. Those who do not believe in God can use the word Light, Spirit or whatever you want. And the only way to help each other is by working as hard as we can to be a better person for each other.
I think everyone who once met you would agree to say that you’re a very sociable, but few might know that you are even more a supportive person. You mantra is « #AlwaysSupportingGoodPeople ». Would you say that the world is being less supportive? What is real support to you? Have you always felt genuinely supported yourself?
Yes, I am sociable. At one time in my life, I was shy. I was intrusive. I did not like to talk to people. I was so much into myself. I had to frown most of the time to keep people away from me. Then I found this beautiful game. They say it is football but it’s basketball. It allowed me to just interact with people verbally and non-verbally. This helped shape my form. Then, there are people in my life like my father and my coaches that have helped to form my personality. I had been blessed to have some of the best coaches in the world to be my coaches throughout my life and my career. These people helped me to form my personality and who I wanted to be as I grow.
For support, I believe it is really important that we give support and encouragement to people who are doing well or are trying. And I am always for people that are trying. If you are trying to be the best you can be, I will do the best I can to support you. This is because at one time, I was trying to be the best I can be and I had support from people like my father, mother, brother, sisters, coaches, friends, family of friends and so on. Then it becomes a community. Now it is a small town and it keeps growing.
Some people do not understand what is support and genuine support. Genuine support pays attention to what you are doing whether it is positive or negative. It is important for somebody to notice what you are doing. This is the first important step. It just opens your eyes to see. Next step is to find out why somebody is doing something, followed by opening doors to get you in the building. Getting people into the building helps them to find out their way.
In may, you will be a part of #TedxIHEparis. You are inviting to explain your work at motivating and educating individuals, especially young people. What accomplishments would you quote as ones you wouldn’t have realized without persistence and overcoming mental?
Yes, next May 2017, I will be talking in Paris with #TedxIHEparis. My topic will be “Sports more than a game”. I will focus on the aspects that sports have brought to me emphasizing that sports is not just about winning or losing but on how it shapes an individual as a person and how it shapes his mindset. Saying that, it is funny that a lot of things happen in my life because of my involvement with sports. I was lucky to come to Spain and meet the mother of my son. This experience of having a son, somebody that you must be responsible for, shapes my whole mindset.
Yes, last year I had Achilles injury and unfortunately, I could not be with him as much as I could. But just the drive to know that you are responsible for something more than yourself helps me to get up in the morning, helps me to understand that this is not for me but for somebody else. Many times, my motivation is not what I want but is what do you think that my son will say, what do you think that my son will do if he finds out that his daddy failed. And I am really motivated not to fail!!
You are organizing a camp for French and refugee kids at the end of this month. You told me that this was the project you take the most at heart. Beyond your wish to empower children and build bridges among communities, what results are you expecting from this project? What values you want to emphasize on during the camp?
The camp we are going to have is called Play for Play. Basically, it is for French and refugee kids to play basketball together, just to have fun. Many times, I see on the TV and read in the media of parents sending their kids to camps and motivating them to be the best for them to try to go to NBA at a young age. I can remember playing basketball just to have fun and to connect with other kids. That is goal of Play for Play. Connection between kids is one of the objectives of this program. Kids are coming together to have fun. The values we are instilling to these kids cannot be achieved in just three days. But, it is a start. This value will start by being open minded, being open to different experiences, hearing other people stories and understanding where other people come from. These apply to both French and refugee kids. The refugee kids need to be heard but the French kids needs also to be heard too. They can learn from each other and give a lot of ideas to each other. Both groups need to sit down, talk and listen to each other. I believe that this camp will a great avenue to achieve the Play for Play goals of connecting the kids and their having basketball fun.
Now my turn to ask you: « Do you remember yourself as a kid? As a kid, what was the most important thing to the young Aloysius Anagonye? ». Have your priorities changed now that you are a grown man?
The crazy thing is, I can always remember myself as a kid and nothing has changed much except my size, height, weight, cloth and shoe sizes. Of course, I have less hair. But the idea of making my father and mother proud of me dominated me when I was a kid. I can always remember it. I wanted my mummy and daddy to be proud of me even if I failed. But now it is different, it is my son and my nephews to be proud of uncle and daddy. That is very important to me. Now it is for my little man to be proud of me.
I guess as a man and a father you sincerely wish to make the world a better place for the kids. To you, what would be necessary for it not to be a wishful thinking?
Making the world a better place for the kids? Making the world a better place for my kids will definitely make the world a better place for me. I know that I am young and strong now but at one time in the future, I will be old and weak. The kids of the future will be the young and strong ones we will lean on to take care of us when we get old and weak. We have to give them a platform with which they can succeed to take care of themselves and us. And how do we make this not just a wishful thinking is to keep trying. We feel despondent saying since it is not working why keep trying. I say to you and I say to everybody, Keep Working, Keep Trying, Keep the Same Format. Sooner or later it will work. It will come through and if enough people buy into a noble idea such as connecting/caring for each other, it will become an infectious disease. This is the best desirable infectious disease in the world to spread fast worldwide.
If your son was reading this article, what would be that one thing you would want him to keep in mind?
The one thing I want my son to always know if he is reading this, is to keep in mind that Daddy always have him in his mind and loves him. There is a Denzel Washington movie out now called “Fences”, which explained that men are out there making babies and not making children. And there is a big difference. Giving yourself to your kid and being an example for your kids is critical. If your father dropped out of college and you dropped out of college, who will break the chain? This is however, not his situation. His grandfather graduated with a doctorate degree from University of Detroit Mercy and his father graduated with a bachelor degree from Michigan State University. He therefore has to maintain this trend with minimum pressure. At the end, my son knows that his daddy is doing everything he can to make sure that you will be everything you are destined to be. He always has you in his mind even when he is away and is working for your future. Your future is bright!!!