Many of us are likely enjoying the fun and drama of this year’s Olympic games in Rio. Among all the stars being showcased daily is one whose name might not stand out to most but holds a special place in Sooner hoop fans’ hearts. His name is Ebi Ere (pronounced ‘Ebby Errah’), former OU swingman and Tulsa McClain standout, who at 35 years old has found an unlikely but inspiring spot on the Nigerian national team.
With the financial trouble facing the country’s Olympic federation (you can read more about it here), many athletes decided to skip the games, including NBA starting forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and many who did make it to compete had to self-finance their way there. Some, like the Nigerian soccer team, are even contemplating a boycott. This has enabled some familiar names to find their way onto the basketball roster that also includes TU’s Ben Uzoh along with Ere. Though entering the games wrapped in uncertainty, the players have shown up to play hard and gave Pau Gasol and Spain all they could handle last night, ultimately losing by a score of 96-87, but playing some exciting basketball along the way.
Heading first from Tulsa to Barton CC in Kansas, Ebi Ere played his final two years of college ball at Oklahoma, averaging a solid 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game through his 70-game Sooner career. He was also a key cog, joining favorites Hollis Price, Quannas White and Aaron McGhee, in the Sooners’ 2002 Final Four run. The team was a formidable national power through those golden years of Kelvin Sampson, as the trio of Price, White and Ere would return the following season to lead OU to its’ third straight Big 12 Tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Won’t talk about how that one turned out (please make it stop, Carmelo!). But what an incredible run Sampson led Oklahoma on through the early 2000s.
Following his decorated career at OU, Ere was not drafted by the NBA but is still enjoying a successful international career, one that includes a championship with Australia’s Sydney Kings in his rookie year when he averaged 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, and a second years later with the Brisbane Bullets. His best pro season would be in 2007-08 when he averaged 26.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and earned first-team All-NBL (Australia) honors with Brisbane. This past March, the veteran guard signed to play with Capitanes de Arecibo in Puerto Rico for the 2016 season.
To celebrate Ebi Ere’s special Olympic moment, here’s a look back at that special ‘02 Sooner squad beating Mizzou to reach the Final Four. And be sure to catch Nigeria take on Croatia in Rio this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Keep on hoopin’, Ebi!