from Inside Carolina Basketball/www.247sports.com
Former North Carolina basketball star Ademola Okulaja has died at the age of 46, per a report from Inside Carolina. After the news of Okulaja’s death broke, players and media alike mourned the loss of the Tar Heels legend.
Okulaja played for North Carolina from 1995-99 and went to a pair of Final Fours with the program. In his final year with the Tar Heels, 1998-99, Okulaja earned first-team All-ACC honors while averaging 13.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals per game. He shot an impressive 44.2% from the field and 43.1% from the 3-point line in the process of throwing up those numbers.
Okulaja clearly had a positive impact on those around him, and there were numerous tributes to him on social media. Former players like Vince Carter and Scott Williams remembered Okulaja, as did the North Carolina program and several members of the media.
Carolina Basketball is saddened to learn of the recent, premature passing of Tar Heel forward Ademola Okulaja (1995-99) at age 46.
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) May 17, 2022
from Adam Lucas at www.goheels.com:
The news that Ademola Okulaja passed away on Tuesday was jarring. To understand how we feel about Ademola Okulaja, you have to understand how we felt about those late 1990s Tar Heel teams. It was just before the internet made highlights ubiquitous. An occasional game was still on the radio only. To see Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison and Okulaja, to fully experience it, you really had to be in the building.
And when you were there, you never knew what you might see. Ed Cota might throw it to Carter off the backboard or Shammond Williams might score 42 against Georgia Tech or Jamison might dominate Duke. Those teams were a mix tape every time they walked in the building.
As mortals in the stands, we immediately realized we could not fly as high as Vince. We knew we could not leap as fast as Antawn. But maybe, just maybe, we could play like Ademola. We could take the big charge. We could get an offensive rebound. We could wait our turn for three years and then become the offensive dynamo as a senior.
We couldn’t, of course. If Okulaja had enrolled at Carolina with anyone other than Jamison and Carter, he would have been an immediate star. But he needed them the same way that they needed him. As he put it when he joined us in the Carolina Insider podcast studio in 2019, when he spent almost an hour on the air and nearly another hour off the air just telling his favorite Carolina basketball stories, “It was a perfect mosaic that was put together.”
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