Seven-foot center Temi Adebayo traveled from Nigeria to the United States only to sit the bench for two seasons at Saint Joseph's, but now he feels that he is finally getting the chance to prove himself at a new home.
Adebayo transferred to Philadelphia University this season for the opportunity to play under legendary coach Herb Magee, and now leads NCAA Division II in blocked shots by swatting an impressive 3.8 per game.
"I feel good about it, but I feel like I still have a lot of work to do," Adebayo said. "I'm not just banking on that. I still need to get my rebounds up. I mean, I could be the best rebounder so I'm trying to build on it."
The junior center is a work-in-progress for Magee, but has steadily improved after averaging just 2 minutes per game during his career at St. Joe's.
"He's starting to get a feel for it after sitting for 2 straight years without getting in the game," Magee said. "That's a hard thing to do, but now he's in the game constantly. We're trying to get him 30-to-35 minutes a game."
Adebayo has already played more minutes this season than he had in the previous two combined (30.0 per game), and averages 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Rams while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor.
"I feel like I've become a better player under Coach Magee," Adebayo said. "I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to do. This all means a lot to me, because I'm really trying to get into the spotlight and just win games."
The past few years have been quite a journey for Adebayo, who first began playing basketball in Nigeria in the eighth grade.
"Since Day 1, I've always wanted to block shots and stuff because I always watched basketball games back home," Adebayo said.
He first traveled to America in 2007 to attend high school at basketball powerhouse Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md. He excelled on the defensive end, averaging three blocks per game in limited action. He then signed with St. Joe's the following year.
"What every kid wants is to play," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "This is a kid that didn't play his senior year of high school, didn't play for 2 years with us, and now they're giving him a chance to play, and he's working under a master."
Although Adebayo has improved this season under Magee, the transition from Saint Joseph's has been no simple task.
"It's been kind of weird because there are a lot of things different there," Adebayo said. "I had to make adjustments because I feel that in DII there are 6-6 centers that are quicker than me. I've had to make adjustments with my defense, but it's been good so far."
At 235 pounds, Adebayo figures he needs to improve his strength and scoring ability and believes that his team can play much better than its 10-8 record.
"We're kind of struggling now, but I feel like we're going to get it," Adebayo said. "We just need to get a few more wins to get to the conference playoffs and go to the [NCAA] tournament."
While Adebayo wants to prove to himself that he can be a dominant force in the paint, he wants nothing more than to honor the university that finally gave him his chance.
"I feel needed here," he said. "I did make a lot of good friends, and it was great at Saint Joseph's, but I feel wanted here. I mean, I hear the people cheer. I just don't want to let them down. I just want to do my best."