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Alabama's Obasohan's quest for excellence

2282 days ago
Steve Irvine | Alabama Athletics
Photo: Alabama Athletics

Retin Obasohan's quest to become an Academic All-America selection originated before he took his first college jump shot or cracked his first book. It began, in fact, about the same time he first called the University of Alabama his home.

Fittingly, it also involved another incoming recruit - Levi Randolph -- and a tour of where both would start the quest.

"It was like a little tour of where we, as basketball players, were going to be on campus, most likely," Obasohan said. "Walking in the Bryant Academic Center, I remember me and Levi really looking at the Academic All-America list. We both learned there weren't any names (of men's basketball players) up there. We made the decision that we're going to do it, we're to be the first people to be Academic All-American in basketball."

Randolph completed the feat last spring when he became the first UA basketball player bestowed with that honor. Obasohan just might make it two years in a row for a Crimson Tide player.

"It gave him the greatest sense of joy to attain that last year," Obasohan said. "That was really cool, for me, because I remember talking with him about that my freshman year. I've still got a couple months to make that happen. We'll see what goes but it will definitely mean a lot to just be able to come back with Levi in 20 years, look at it and (say)'Bro, we actually did it.' That would be a cool feeling."

No matter what, Obasohan will be fondly remembered when his college basketball career concludes at the end of this season. The Antwerp, Belgium native, who left his home and his family to pursue a basketball dream, will be remembered as a leader on and off the court. He'll be remembered for spectacular moments and blue collar work ethic. He'll be remembered for his words and actions. Hopefully, he'll also get the chance to be remembered as a player whose senior year ended with a bang.

Obasohan isn't quite ready for his Tuscaloosa journey to end.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Obasohan said. "You know it's eventually going to come to an end, so you know it's coming. But, at the same time, you just want to enjoy it from what it is. I've been tremendously blessed with the opportunity that I've had at this university to play the game that I love. Some guys that will be my brothers for the rest of our lives, basically. Just looking at it, I'm kind of bummed that it ends."

It certainly wasn't a simple journey, who was a relatively unknown addition to the 2011 signing class. He spent his first season as a redshirt freshman and fought off doubts whether he belonged.

"Absolutely," Obasohan said when asked the doubts. "I said to myself 'This is tough, this is high level athletics and I've got one of two choices. I can get better or I can quit.' I've never quit - ever - in anything in my life. The only real option I had was to go get better."

He accomplished that in a big way. A big part was transforming his body - going from what he called 'a chubby kid' to rock solid. He also became the player that many believed he could become. Heading into this season, Obasohan had played in 92 college games with 33 starts. He averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 rebounds during that time and was one of the Crimson Tide's best perimeter defenders.

In many ways, though, Obasohan saved his best for last. He's been the clear-cut leader for a team transitioning to first-year head coach Avery Johnson. As the 2015-16 team captain, Obasohan averaged nearly 15 points and four rebounds over the first 18 games of the season. He's picked up the scoring pace in SEC play, including scoring more than 20 points in four of the first six conference games. He had a career-high 27 points at Auburn on Jan. 19.

However, ask Obasohan what stands out about his maturation as a player and person in the past five years and statistics aren't involved in his answer.

"More than anything just how much closer I've grown to Christ over my years here," Obasohan said. "I came here, just a young naïve kid, who didn't know much about him and I didn't know much about myself. Mainly through the game of basketball, the adversities I went through, and just facing the adversity I really grew more as a man and a man of faith. It helped me on and off the court, just realizing how God wants me to go out and give everything I have."

It's hard to envision anything but a positive future for Obasohan. The four-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member has already finished requirements for his undergraduate degree in finance and is currently working on a master's degree in marketing. Putting those degrees to work, though, might have to wait until he's through playing professionally.

"I want to play it as long as I possibly can," Obasohan said. "Of course, I want to play professionally. I'll play it as long as my body allows me to do it. It's a game that I'm fortunate to be blessed with abilities. I kid you not, I hope to keep playing basketball when I'm 90 years old."

What happens when the day comes that he's through playing? Where does he see himself then?

"I guess where I want to live is the place where God can use me to make a difference in the world," Obasohan said. "That's one thing that my dad always tried to instill in me, that life is all about other people and helping them and that's what teamwork means. The biggest thing I'd like to do when I'm done playing - even while I'm still playing - is to be able to do something to legitimately impact people's lives for generations to come. That would be my ideal spot to live in. Where that might be, I don't know. If it's Hawaii that would be cool. If it's the Caribbean that would be cool. Just wherever it might be, I'll do that."