NFL International Pathway Player Program: ‘Nigeria’s got next’

‘Nigeria’s got next’ is what Educational Basketball founders and brothers Olutobi and Iseolupo Adepitan said when asked what the future held for football in Nigeria.

Educational Basketball trained seven of the 12 athletes participating in the NFL’s International Pathway Program (IPP) Combine on October 3 and 4 at Tottenham Stadium, London.

British-Nigerian founders Olutobi and Iseolupo were born in northwest London, England, before moving to Houston, Texas, at an early age. The two played basketball from a young and were quickly consumed by every facet of the sport and eventually enrolled in John Lucas Enterprises Basketball Training and Development

It was shortly after this that the two brothers moved back to their motherland and founded Educational Basketball in 2015. Numerous basketball camps were held by the pair before coming into contact with Uprise last year, which operates as a football development program.

All of the Nigerian athletes at this year’s IPP, with the exception of Amos Laoye from New Yorker Lions in Germany, come via Uprise Academy, a Nigerian-based outreach program initiated by former NFL star Osi Umenyiora.

Educational Basketball has been working in tandem with Uprise this year to develop the young athletes and prepare them for the NFL IPP combine. But the preparation for the Nigerians has been drastically different from the domes, artificial fields and gargantuan weight rooms that the likes of IMG and Exos provide for their North American counterparts.

Iseolupo explains that the infrastructure in Lagos, where they are based, has a lot to be desired:

“They just don’t have the infrastructure here. We train our athletes in public parks as there is nowhere else to train them. We have to get creative in what we do with the young guys, which really tests us as professionals.”

Despite this, the quality of athletes that Educational Basketball is sending to the IPP via Uprise Academy is likely to be far superior to anything else on offer. And this is exactly the reason Umenyiora decided to invest in west Africa in the first place. Something that the Adepitan brothers can attest to:

“You’ll just be driving in your car and see a 6’7 guy walking down the road who looks like he can play. You get out of the car to speak to him, work him out, and he’s a beast. It’s crazy here. There are so many athletes everywhere.”

Nigeria will be the most represented country at the Combine this year with approximately 40% of participants coming from the West African nation. If the three athletes sent last year are anything to go by, Nigeria’s involvement in IPP and the NFL in general will surely get significantly bigger in the coming years.

Watch the full interview with the Adepitan brothers on AFI’s Cover 7:

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.