Fast Breaks: Raphael Akpejiori
Nov. 8, 2011
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – They are stories of perseverance. Stories about growing up, becoming men and being a part of a family. One-by-one, we hear from them. These are the Miami Hurricanes…
Raphael Akpejiori | Forward | Sophomore | Lagos, Nigeria
Playing basketball has given me the chance to travel to a lot of countries and meet a lot of people. Just have fun in general and get an education. Be in Miami, make a lot of friends.
I was recruited when I was in high school in Kansas by a bunch of different schools. Miami was a good place, I liked the coaches and the school. I liked that it was a small school. It’s generally a nice place and they play in the ACC so that’s really what drew me closer. I get to play against a pro every night and a good team or a good Hall of Fame coach or Hall of Fame coach in the making.
When I was introduced to Coach L he was a different breed I would say. He’s just like my dad, a very straightforward person, a guy who looks you in the eye and tells you how it is. He’s not going to be rude to you, but he’s going to tell you. He is more fun than his age tells. He’s 61 and he sounds like he’s really old but he’s like a 30 year old.
When I played basketball as a kid I pretended to be Shaq because I was the biggest person on the court and at that time and Shaq was winning all the rings with the Lakers. So I pretended to be Shaq for a while, then I pretended to be Tim Duncan. After that, I pretended to be LeBron James.
Lagos is full of too many people and traffic. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind. You wake up in the morning and say you want to go from here to a distance of like South Beach, it would take you like two hours to get there because of the traffic. First thing that comes to mind is the traffic and the second thing is there are a lot of crazy people out there and a lot of fun people. I was back for a while to visit before I came back here for high school. My family still lives in Nigeria, all of them.
I just wanted something new. I had a scholarship to go to high school and I was good at basketball so I figured I would go [to the United States] and experience another world. It wasn’t really tough, it was more fun and more of an adventure until I dislocated my ankle. That was really tough. That was in 2008 when I first got here. I couldn’t play basketball for a whole year. I was basically useless to a lot of people, but some people were still kind to me until I got back to playing.
I’ll never forget what my father told me when I was going to school in Nigeria and he was dropping me off. He told me “never cheat anyone and never allow myself to be cheated by anyone,” so that’s something I will never forget.
I secretly wish I played football. I see Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham and sometimes I think I could do that. On Sundays, everyone is wearing your jersey and you see old people going crazy. I think I can put on a tight end’s jersey or a wide receiver’s jersey.
My personal goals are to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, to play in the NBA for a long time, to raise a family, and maybe be a lawyer some day.
When I was growing up I had a lot of fun with my sister. She was like my first best friend. We were together for a long time. Now she’s grown and she’s about to get married and it’s just weird.
In mechanical engineering you just think about everything that works. Every single thing from the design of your spoons that you eat with, your house, your cars, your bridges and everything. Just anything that works. There’s a process that makes it work. There’s someone who designs it. There’s a calculation.
To be an engineer you have to be perfect. Every little thing is in detail. The end of the bottle cap of a bottle is in detail. So in basketball, every little screen set, every angle of the screen, every turn, the way you stand to get a rebound, everything is in detail. There’s a place you have to be for that to work. The spin behind the ball, the arc, when you shoot the ball, the form. So that’s how mechanical engineering transitions to the court on every play. Everything is in detail.
My dad got married twice. We have six kids in my family and growing up was very fun because there was never a dull moment and there was always something going on. There’s always a fight, and after a fight there’s always laughter so it was fun. We went to church like three times a day so we grew up being Christians and tried to live life the best way we could and be nice to other people, hoping that people would be nice to us.
At the U I’ve learned so much from my professors, especially Dr. Rahm. He’s a pain in the rear but he’s a good guy. He really knows what he’s saying. He’s someone who is really good at what he does. I also learned a lot from Coach Haith when he was here. He was a nice person and he always took interest in what you did, how your life was. Also from Coach Larranaga. He has a winner’s mentality. He knows how to do things the right way from the smallest things to the hardest things. He tells you to try to have class and attitude and be a good person overall.
My favorite thing about being a part of the U family is that everyone knows everyone. I know all the football players, they all know who we are. I know all the swimmers, names and last names. All the rowers, all the athletes. It’s like a little family. The U is like a little cult where you go outside and you represent and someone throws the U up and you go hyper.
I am a competitive person. I hate losing. I learned to suck it up when you lose. Sometimes you play really well and you still lose, but being a competitive person gives you an edge to keep going and you know that you can win more than you lose. Everything I do, I do it hard and I try to do it well to the best of my abilities. Competition at the U is good. We have teammates who don’t like to lose either so it makes it more fierce while you’re competing against each other.