Dec. 12, 2013
By Steve Irvine
Retin Obasohan's basketball journey is far from over but it did come full circle over the summer when he returned to his European roots.
The 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore, who is from Antwerp, Belgium, joined his teammates for a summer tour of The Netherlands, Belgium and France. The trip was partly business, with the Tide playing five exhibition games, partly pleasure and partly educational. For, Obasohan, though, it was much more than the combination of those three things.
"To be honest, there is nothing like it," Obasohan said of the tour, which began on Aug. 8 and stretched for 10 days. "It's just an amazing feeling to get to go home with my teammates and my coaches and staff to have the opportunity to play in front of my friends and family. It was three years ago that God took me out of Europe and sent me to Alabama. Three years later, I'm going back home. It was a blessing and great opportunity and just so much fun."
Obasohan hadn't played a game in his home country since making the decision to play college ball in the United States. But it was in Belgium where he first had basketball success, playing on a KangoeroesBoom team that won the 2011 Belgian League second division title and averaging 6.0 points, 4.5 rebound, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals on the Belgian under-20 team that competed in the 2011 European Championships.
He eased into college basketball, spending the 2011-12 season as a redshirt, before forging a spot in the lineup last season. Obasohan played a rather limited role for the Crimson Tide early in the 2012-13 season but was one of the most consistent players for the Tide by the time the season concluded with a loss to Maryland in the NIT Quarterfinals. He averaged 3.9 points and 1.4 rebounds overall in 31 appearances but those numbers jumped considerably over the final 12 games. He averaged 6.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals a game over those 12 games and set career highs in points (14) and rebounds (eight) in a NIT second round victory over Stanford.
Obviously, the talented guard is poised to play even a bigger role on the 2013-14 version of the Crimson Tide. And work toward making that happen included the summer trip to his home country. However, as he said earlier it was more than just a trip to work on getting extended playing time.
"Retin was so excited to play at home," said teammate Nick Jacobs with a laugh. "As soon, as we got off the plane, he's over there taking pictures of his own home like he's a tourist. I was like, `Retin, I know you're excited, but come on man, you've spent every day of your life here before you came to Tuscaloosa.'"
Obasohan admitted he did feel a bit like a tourist, even on the streets he knew so well.
"It was very interesting," said Obasohan, a two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. "Even though I had been in all those places, I felt like a tourist and just acted like a tourist. I took pictures and would hang out and show everybody around. Growing up in my hometown, you kind of overlook things and overlook the history behind it. Just having a chance to go back as a visitor, kind of gave me a different point of view."
It also helped him further realize that creating another home in Tuscaloosa was the right move.
"It was a good thing because it makes me realize how fortunate I am and how blessed I am to have the opportunities I've had," Obasohan. "It really opened my eyes."
Two important stops during the trip were to the pancake stands on the street in The Netherlands and Belgian waffle stands on the street in his home country. Those were things, Obasohan said, he can't do while in Tuscaloosa and he wanted to share the experience with his teammates.
The fun wasn't limited to the European sightseeing. After all, it was a business trip and basketball was an important part for a Crimson Tide team beginning the process of coming together. Obasohan had plenty of familiar faces watching him play.
"Every time we played a team, Retin had his own little cheering section over there with signs and t-shirts with his face on it," Jacobs said.
Obasohan's cheering section numbered over 100 during the two games the Crimson Tide played in Belgium. It was the first time in a while that his father, Clifford Ojomoh, and mother, Susan Ekuase, were in the stands to see him play.
"It was probably one of the best feelings I've ever encountered on the court," Obasohan said. "I know my dad was happy. My family would come to every game I played when I was back home. Just to play, to look up and see my mom, my dad, my brothers, my friends, just to have them all back out there was one of the best feelings ever."
Obasohan scored in double digits in three of the five games the team played in Europe. He had six points, three assists and three steals in the first game the Crimson Tide played in Belgium and chipped in 12 points in the second game in his hometown. The Crimson Tide won both games played in Belgium and were 3-2 overall on the European Tour.
Winning games was first on his agenda but Obasohan also relished the opportunity to show family and friends how far he's come as a player.
"I had a couple of former coaches there watching me play," Obasohan said. "I had friends and family and a couple of people come up to me and tell me they were proud of me in the improvement I've made over the years. That's because of my teammates and coaches at the University of Alabama."