Tulsa: A home away from home for Martins Igbanu

Martins Igbanu, an organizational studies senior and Golden Hurricane men’s basketball forward, is thousands of miles from home, but that distance hasn’t kept him off the court or out of the classroom.

Relocating from Nigeria

Until he was 15 years old, Igbanu lived in Lagos, Nigeria, located on the southwest coast of Africa. “It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived in,” Igbanu said.

He moved to the United States to play basketball while in high school. By watching American movies and reading books, Igbanu gained a sense of what to expect when he arrived in Marietta, Georgia, to attend Covenant Christian Ministry Academy. Igbanu struggled with culture shock, including American food. “I could only eat cereal and chicken for the first two weeks that I lived in the U.S.,” he explained.

Adapting to a new way of life was stressful for Igbanu, especially while away from his parents. He hadn’t been home or seen his mother in seven years, but he stayed strong and adjusted to the changes. When he visited The University of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the TU men’s basketball team became his new home.

Golden Hurricane Basketball

Igbanu playing against East Carolina.
Igbanu playing against East Carolina.

Standing 6 feet, 9 inches, Igbanu listens to the Golden Hurricane fans cheer him on as he dribbles down the court. He is a three-year letter winner who has appeared in 95 games with 72 starts, averaging 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. “I wanted to go to a good school where I could play basketball and also receive the best education, like TU offers,” he stated.  TU is a Division I athletic program with 17 men’s and women’s teams in the American Athletic Conference.

Martins has developed into one of the best post players in our league, and I think his peers would say that as well,” said head coach Frank Haith. “I think back to his freshman year and how he was thrown in the fire, so to speak, but he’s become a really good leader and teammate.”

TU vs. Houston

Haith explained that Igbanu has embraced the Tulsa community. “He has great relationships on campus with other students and he’s been a great ambassador for the university and our basketball program,” he said.

Igbanu hopes his collegiate basketball career leads to even greater opportunities in the NBA. “It’s always been a goal of mine to play basketball professionally,” Igbanu said. In addition to working toward the NBA, his other aspirations include becoming a coach and history teacher. “Martins is going to be a success in whatever he decides to do,” Haith said.

 

Work hard, play hard

During the past four years, Igbanu has not only excelled as an athlete but also as a student.

From running sprints and shooting 3-pointers in practice to homework for his degree, Igbanu has found balance as a Division I athlete and full-time student. “We are all regular students. We have a job outside of the classroom and that job is to play basketball,” he explained. With mandatory study halls and the help of other coaches, Igbanu and the team make their coursework a priority. “We even have study hall while traveling to games,” Igbanu said. “Playing basketball is not an excuse to not study or get homework done.”

TU’s International Student Services and Success Center (ISS) also supports Igbanu in his athletic and academic pursuits. ISS helps TU students make the transition from their home country to the U.S. “It’s a pleasure to work with a courteous young man like Martins,” said Carla Guthrie, immigration services specialist. “We know that our international students have the added responsibility of maintaining a valid immigration status in addition to their academic coursework and in this case, the rigor of a basketball schedule.”

ISS provides guidance and advice, helping students like Igbanu prepare for a bright future. With the 2019-20 academic year underway, Igbanu is excited to kick off a new basketball season and to graduate in May 2020.