by Donique Weston
In many cultures, it’s believed that a name connects you to your past and can predict your future. For Wumi Agunbiade (given name Omowumi), the latter would seem to be the case. The name ‘Omowumi’ literally translates to ‘a lover of children’, and what better name could there be for a woman who spends her life enlightening and empowering young women?
Wumi is currently on very short list of women connected to the NBA on a coaching level. She is a Junior coach with the Raptors 905 a Canadian professional basketball team located in Mississauga, Ontario and competes in the NBA G League. The Pickering, Ontario native began playing basketball when she was in the fifth grade and since then has been enraptured with the game. Wumi played throughout her high school years at Dunbarton High School, then later at Duquesne University where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Later, she went on to play professionally in Europe, with her career taking her to countries such as China, Korea, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic. She is now back home in Pickering, where she started her career.
Reflecting on her journey as an athlete and all the positive influences she’s had throughout her career, Wumi credits her success to her upbringing.
“I’ve had countless influences in my life, and it ranges from coaches, teachers, and family – my mother, father, siblings and stepparents. I really can’t narrow it down to a few individuals and I think that’s what makes me special as a person. I’ve had so many hands left on my heart. And that’s why I feel it’s important to be an influence for others as well” she says.
And being a positive influence is why she is making youth development her life’s work. Just last September she started her business “Make it WHOop”, geared towards the development of young women and their abilities through playing basketball. Miss Agunbiade says her business allows her to use basketball as a tool to get young women into post-secondary education, by helping them obtain scholarships and other opportunities. In her words “Make it WHOop” is not just about helping young women define and hone their game on the court, it’s also aimed at helping them figure out who they are outside of the game.
As a part time motivational speaker, Wumi is keen on using her voice to make a change in the lives of others. “I feel like we all have a voice, and some voices weigh more than others, and my job is to share my experience and my journey, hoping that my voice will be heard, and that it can resonate with a few young aspiring women” she explains.
There are many voices that resonated in her own life, as she pursued her career in basketball. One of those voices was that of Wayne Dawkins, who she says trained her for some time and was a major influence in her life. Under his guidance, she played in the All Canada Classic and Rising Star Games in the city yearly. “I don’t think anything compares to those events put on by P.H.A.S.E. 1”, she says, noting that the All Canada Classic is a special event that brought Canada’s best male and female basketball players from across the country into one arena, allowing them to share an unmatched experience on their home soil.
She has intense memories of P.H.A.S.E. 1’s training camps, which she says were extremely hard but made her a better player after every session.
“I got a call in 2008 from Charles Kissi, a former alumni of mine, that he had a very special team of girl ballers and he wanted someone he could trust to train a few of them. Within days Wumi Agunbiade was at West Hill CI, the high school I coached at, with her mom and teammate Kendra Seto. As soon as she touched the ball I saw right away the talent Coach Kissi described. She was physically built to play the game and she had great mechanics. But what made her so special wasn’t just her love of hard work but her humble spirit she inherited from her mother. It has been a great privilege to assist her on her journey and an even greater privilege to witness how she has committed herself to helping others on theirs.” – Wayne Dawkins
Wumi says she enjoyed playing with others who were ready to work. One of her fondest memories is in 2010 when she played in front of over 5,000 people at the Air Canada Centre. On that occasion she was part of making history when P.H.A.S.E. 1 hosted their annual All Canada Classic national high school school all star game at the home of the Toronto Raptors. Wumi’s was on the cover of the event poster and her Red All Star Team took the first victory in the events new location.
Wumi notes that her dedication and training led her to win several awards both at home in Canada and while training in Europe, but the one she is most proud of having won, is the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year award, her freshman year in university. She says this was one of her major goals when she started playing collegiately.
During her tenure at Duquesne, the forward established herself as one of the most impactful players in program history. She finished her collegiate career as Duquesne’s second all-time leading scorer, racking up 1,776 points in her four seasons. Wummi Agunbiade remains the only player in Duquesne women’s basketball history to score over 1,700 points and grab 900 rebounds.
Wumi went on to play professionally for three seasons overseas. Her playing career concluded in 2017 after spending a season with TSV 1880 Wasserburg in the German DBBL League and the EuroCup.
Her first experience on the sidelines came as a graduate assistant with the University of Pittsburgh’s women’s team in August, 2017. After two seasons at Pitt, the chance to be a part of the Raptors 905 staff opened up.
While her journey has not been without its troubles, Wumi has come to appreciate the highs and lows. “This game has been like the best rollercoaster I could ever ride. There were many ups and downs, but the adrenaline always kept me going. The love and the passion for the game was cosmically ignited and that allowed me to enjoy the plateaus within the journey!” she says.
She adds that the game has also taught her an important lesson, that she would like to share with all young and upcoming sports persons – Never underestimate your opponent!
She explains: “Anybody that was stepping on the court was my next big opponent. It didn’t matter if they were supposed to be the best or the worst. I knew that I was gonna play the game and I had to go out there and battle hard.”