Three men are leading the Wolverines into battle this year as tri-captains. The selections of two of them should come as no surprise. They are seniors, will each be earning their fourth varsity letters and see significant minutes on the floor one of them even starts. They are Chris Young and Leon Jones, and they have, without question, earned the honor.
But they will be joined by a third tri-captain. His is a name that is far from a household one, partly because he is rarely seen on the floor at Crisler, and partly because it”s a bit tricky to say. The third tri-captain is Rotolu Adebiyi.
Of the three captains selected to lead the 2001-02 Michigan basketball campaign, Young is the least surprising choice. The big man has devoted himself to the team for three years, and is a leader on the court. But even Young is humbled by the honor.
“I sat down with a media guide the other day and looked at all the former captains and I was just in awe of who they were and that my name is associated with them now,” Young said.
That list includes current NBA stars Glen Rice, Juwan Howard, Robert Traylor and Terry Mills, as well as Michigan basketball legends Henry Wilmore, John Tidwell and current Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Add another to the list: Adebiyi.
Rotolu, or “Ro,” is a product of Ann Arbor Huron High School. The former River Rat left town after high school to attend Albion College. But after transferring to Michigan and back to his home after his first year, Adebiyi was encouraged to attend the open tryout for the basketball team. The former high school star who helped Ann Arbor-Huron to two district championships made the team.
As a walk-on, Adebiyi has played in eight games in two years. He has been on the floor for 11 minutes his career-high in points is two, against Morris Brown in December of last year. Those are the only two points of his Michigan career.
So how did this guy become captain?
“Everybody looks up to Rotolu because he”s always talking,” Jones said. “You can”t help but to hear Rotolu, no matter what. No matter if he”s laughing, talking and I think that helps the team out a lot. People look up to him because he doesn”t back down from anybody. I think that”s the reason why he”s the captain. People don”t listen to him because he”s got that title People really respect him.”
Adebiyi”s personality shines brightly. He is intelligent, witty, engaging. He has a warm smile that never seems to disappear from his face. And for a team that has had offcourt problems in recent years, he is an ideal leader. As a player who sees little plaing time, Adebiyi believes his role as a leader to be one of encouragement. His voice, rather than his points or rebounds, will do the talking.
“Even as far as last year was concerned, I wasn”t a captain, but I still saw myself as a leader,” Adebiyi said. “I try to do things off the court and even during the games I help my teammates keep their heads in the game. If I see someone making a mistake I”ll always correct it. “You need to be doing this better you need to be more aggressive you need to keep your head in the game.”
“If you”re a real leader both on and off of the court, and people see the positive energy that you bring, then a title really doesn”t matter. I”m not saying that I”m not pleased to be named one of the captains, but I”d like to think that my presence and leadership abilities were based on more than just a title.”
Adibeyi was born in Nigeria, and is proud of his country”s prominence in college and professional basketball. But he came to Ann Arbor when he was a year old, and Michigan basketball has played a part in his life since then.
“My mom works for the University so my whole life has been Michigan-oriented,” Adebiyi said. “I grew up right down the street. I was involved in Michigan programs. I was really good friends with Steve Fisher”s son so I used to always come to games. As far as Michigan I grew up “Michigan.” ”
This past summer, Adebiyi traveled back to Nigeria for the first time since early childhood. His future travels will take him away from Ann Arbor, of which he says: “I like being around here. I know the streets, I still see my friend”s parents. But I definitely feel like I need to get away. When I graduate, my goal is to get away from Michigan. I”ve been here, what, 20 years? But I know that after that I”ll end up coming back here.”
Law school is a likely option for Adibeyi in the future. But for this year, the focus remains on basketball. The hope is that this team will bond to a degree unseen in recent years. There are changes everywhere coach, uniforms, arena and the captains hope that team chemistry will be added to that list.
“We”re a lot closer as a team this year,” Adibeyi said. “We had a lot of time to spend with each other over the summer. Last year we had only one senior (the departed Josh Asselin). This year we have six seniors and we”re all close. We spend a lot of time off the court together.
“The freshmen are cool. I got a chance to hang out with them when they first came here. They”re willing to learn, they pay attention. It”s just a really good group of guys.”
Adibeyi doesn”t see the minutes. He doesn”t often get to see his name in the paper. But the local boy will certainly be enjoying every second of his final season as a Wolverine. Adibeyi walked on to this team three years ago, and will walk off as part of a proud tradition. His name is a worthy addition to that awesome list of Michigan captains.