Tallest player on men's hoops team hails from London, England; began playing basketball four years ago.
Aug. 10, 2010
|| Getting to Know Archive
NORMAN, Okla. -- Abdul Ahmed is not your average, everyday OU freshman. Stand next to the 6-foot-10 19-year-old and that quickly becomes obvious. Listen to him speak and his thick accent makes it even more apparent.
Ahmed, who goes by the first name "Abdi," hails from London, England, and is the first OU men's basketball player from the United Kingdom. A soccer enthusiast growing up, Ahmed didn't start playing basketball until he was 16. That's when former University of North Carolina guard Steve Bucknall, also from England, saw the tall teenager and invited him to give hoops a try.
Immediately falling in love with the competitive nature of the sport, Ahmed devoted himself to the game and last year attended Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. There he averaged 18.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. The fact that he received a scholarship offer from the University of Oklahoma speaks to how far he's come in such a short amount of time, and to the bright future OU head coach Jeff Capel believes Ahmed possesses.
We visited with Ahmed this week to learn more about his unique story. A Q&A follows below and a separate five-minute video interview is available in the player above.
Q: Being from London, England, how did you wind up at the University of Oklahoma?
A: "I was playing in Grand Canary last year and we played in a tournament in New York. I think one of the (OU) coaches was out there at the time and saw me. And then (OU Assistant) Coach (Bryan) Goodman came out to see me in Grand Canary sometime in late April. As soon I was offered the scholarship I went for it. There were some other schools interested in me at that time, but my coach and I weighed the options and I personally thought OU was the best one. It's in a very big conference, it's a good school, a good campus, and I'd get a good education.
"I was already a fan of OU. Not a crazy fan, but I remember my first time playing basketball in like 2007, I used to watch Blake Griffin play. So I kind of knew about OU."
Q: Have you always been a basketball fan? When did you start playing?
A: "I wasn't always a basketball fan, to be honest. I used to play football -- well, you guys call it 'soccer' --until I was 16. And then I came across a coach named Steve Bucknall who told me to come to a (basketball) practice. I went along and just took it from there. I was 16."
Q: What was it about basketball that made you decide to pursue it instead of soccer?
A: "When I first started practicing, I saw it was a lot more competitive. Every single play was competitive. And I like to compete. It was like a challenge, because I was only 16 and all the other guys in the area were ahead of me. So I just saw it as a challenge to be the best player."
Q: When did you arrive in Norman and how have you spent your time since you got here?
A: "I got here the 29th of June and the team had already been here a few weeks lifting (weights). So I've kind of had to catch up. They've gone home now for August, so I feel I've kind of caught up with them. I've spent most of the time in the weight room and some of it playing pickup. I also took some classes. One was 'Fundamentals of Leadership' and now I'm taking 'History of Jazz.'"
Q: How have you adapted to the United States and to Norman specifically?
A: "The food's great here; a lot more variety. At home I would eat the same carbs over and over again, like pasta and rice. Here, I can go five days in the cafeteria eating a different meal. It's great. Off campus, I've been to O'Connell's a few times. It's quite good. I think I've been there three days back-to-back now.
"The people here are great. The weather's great. In England, it's usually gloomy."
Q: Does the heat here bother you?
A: "I wouldn't say it bothers me, but it can get under my skin at times."
Q: You played at Canarias Basketball Academy last year in the Canary Islands. How did you enjoy that?
A: "Looking back on it, it was great. At the time, it was tough. Every night you went to sleep knowing that you got better."
Q: Can you describe a typical day there?
A: "You wake up at 5:30 and have breakfast at 5:45 til about 6:10. We'd be ready for practice by 6:30 and do that until about 7:30. Then we'd do pushups and all kinds of body work from about 9 until 10:30. Then we'd have class until 12, we'd have lunch at 1, another practice from 2 to 4. Then we could go home and nap, have dinner and then practice again from 9 to 11. Then on Saturdays and Sundays we would play games."
Q: What kind of player can the fans expect to see when you step on the court?
A: "A competitive one. I want to win and will do whatever's needed of me to win. In terms of my actual attributes, I try to rebound the ball, I try to face up and I can shoot a little."
Q: What are some of your strengths as a player and in what areas are you focusing on improving?
A: "As far as strengths, probably mismatches. Going against another big, I'm usually quicker than them. So I would face him up, take him out a little bit and maybe drive it or shoot. One of my weaknesses right now is my strength. So I'm working away at it, trying to get stronger. I weighed 209 when I got here and now I'm around 218."
Q: What are some of your goals by coming to the United States and OU?
A: "One of my goals is to do whatever it takes to help this team win. Go hard every single practice, get out there on the floor and compete."
Q: How have you adapted to your new teammates?
A: "They're real good guys. They've shown me the ropes, coming here from Europe. I'm still in the middle of my transition, but they've helped make it a little easier."
Q: Coach Capel has said that you're a hard worker and you've said you're going to work hard. Where does that work ethic come from?
A: "I don't know, probably from my family. I've got quite a big family, so probably from competing with them in everything. That's why I initially liked basketball, because it's so competitive. So yeah, I think it just comes from the home."
Q: How large is your family?
A: "I've got 10 siblings -- seven sisters and three brothers. Two of my brothers are younger and both are playing basketball. They're both taller than average, just like I was when I was their age."
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: "I just probably tend to do my homework, which takes up a lot of time. Now that I'm here, I tend to speak to my family on the Internet or over the phone quite a bit. I used to Skype with them, but now I have a new phone and I speak to them on that. Other than that, just take it easy."