New Keilor Thunder recruit Abiola Akintola has watched the development of the Keilor Basketball Association from afar in recent years.
Having played at the association domestically as a junior, Akintola then took his talent across the state and eventually across the world.
With the Thunder making the move into the National Basketball League 1 South competition next season, Akintola is returning to Keilor.
Akintola said he was keen to get involved with the program having seen how far it has come under men’s coach and director of coaching Liam Glascott.
“It is exciting,” he said about the development of the club.
“I’ve seen from afar how far Liam has taken the whole Keilor program. It’s crazy, it’s been a rapid rise, especially from where it was when I was growing up.
“The team keeps moving up and you’re seeing a lot more rep teams in VC [in the Victorian Junior Basketball League], players making state teams and making it professionally.
“Hopefully that will transition into a successful NBL1 side.”
Akintola said he had never been coached by Glascott before but the two had formed a friendship.
He said Glascott has been a prominent figure in basketball and Victoria, with a really strong reputation.
“I’ve watched him from afar and now I’m getting to know him more and more, working out with the team.”
Akintola, who lives in Essendon, said the allure of playing close to home was also part of his decision.
The forward has spent much of his career at the Diamond Valley Eagles. He also spent time at the Australian Institute of Sport.
He previously represented Victoria and played for Australia at under-17 and under-19 level before heading to America for college, having a successful college career at Denver University.
Akintola said he was still keen to make it as far as he can with his basketball career.
“I’ve always been in love with the game,” he said.
“I’m not putting any pressure on what I do. I play for fun and I play to win and see where it takes me.”
The Thunder has started pre-season and Akintola said it was good to be back on the court after the pandemic.
He, like the rest of the squad, are excited about what they can do.
The club is expecting he will bring energy and versatility at both ends of the floor, making the squad stronger.
“It’s a chance to make history,” he said. “We have the chance to write the history books.
“We’ve been able to have success at each stage and, hopefully, we can transfer that success.
“Pre-season has been good after the last couple of years.
“I’m really excited for next year and, hopefully, we get a full season in. Going back to playing regular games, lots of trips and the fans watching us.”
Akintola is third signing announced for the Thunder. Last season’s MVP Luke Sist is returning, while Jacob Lampkin joins the club from Keysborough Cougars.