Injury doesn't mar student's gratitude

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Mon., Jan. 27, 2014
Hyde student Uzoma Agbasionye remains grateful in spite of an injury that's kept him from playing  basketball. Photo by D. Coffey.
Hyde student Uzoma Agbasionye remains grateful in spite of an injury that's kept him from playing basketball. Photo by D. Coffey.

When Uzoma Agbasionye walks the Hyde School hallways, he has to watch where he’s going. At 6 feet, 11 inches tall, he towers over exit signs and door frames.  It was his height – and athletic prowess – that caught the attention of a coach who brought him to the city of Lagos to play basketball. It was that exposure in Nigeria’s largest city that helped pave the way for his journey to Hyde.

In the summer of 2011, Agbasionye found himself transported from his West African home to Woodstock. All of a sudden, his chance for an education and the opportunity to play for Hyde’s Wolfpack basketball team promised to transform his life.

“They told my mother I would get to a place she could never imagine,” he said. She gave her permission on one condition: his education must be the priority. “She told me if I went to America, I must be educated,” he said. Agbasionye didn’t question her authority. “She doesn’t even have to look at me,” he said with a smile. “I do what she says.”

Agbasionye arrived in Woodstock with expectations of the United States flavored by television shows and movies he had watched back in Nigeria. The action-dramas “24” and “Prison Break” were favorites. “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” was another. But what he found most surprising was the abundance of food in the dining hall. “I had the freedom to order as much as I wanted, whatever I wanted,” he said. “In Nigeria, sometimes I had one full meal and a half meal a day. Food was my greatest weakness.”

When he first saw students throwing food into the trash, he couldn’t believe it. “I found it surprising and annoying,” he said. He was almost as surprised to hear students arguing with their parents. “My mom thinks it’s unbelievable,” he said. “Even though I’m 19, I don’t argue with her.”

Her foresight has served Agbasionye well. Soon after arriving, he had to undergo double knee surgery. A doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to play basketball. At 17, he had to shift gears and consider very different options.

“I love basketball,” he said, “I still think about it every day, but I have to live. You learn how to live with it.”

Agbasionye will graduate in May. He would like to continue his education. He would like to return to Nigeria one day. If he could, he’d bring some students home with him so they would understand and be more appreciative of what they have. “If God chose to move people around the earth, they’d be more appreciative of what they have,” he said. “People should have more gratitude.”

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