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Porta XI Ensino’s Atonye Nyingifa Shares How College Basketball Prepared Her For Life On And Off The Court

Atonye Nyingifa | Power Forward | Porta XI Ensino and Nigerian National Team

I’ve learned a lot of life lessons about the world in myself and when it’s all over I feel like I will be fully equipped for my professional career after basketball.

Atonye Nyingifa

Power Forward

Porta XI Ensino and Nigerian National Team

× The interview with Atonye Nyingifa was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

You have had the chance to play for an outstanding school for basketball and academics in UCLA, the Nigerian women’s national team and play professionally in Spain. What does it mean to have had such amazing opportunities in the world of basketball and how do you plan to take what you have learned from these experiences into your post playing career?

I’m very fortunate to have been able to play at very high competitive levels.

The opportunities that I have been blessed with have shaped me into the person that I am today.

I’ve been able to travel around the world and have my dreams come true because of basketball.

I’ve learned a lot of life lessons about the world in myself and when it’s all over I feel like I will be fully equipped for my professional career after basketball.

A lot of people agree that being a student-athlete can be even more taxing than being a professional. What are three things you learned as a student-athlete that prepared you for the pro world?

I fully agree that being a collegiate athlete is more taxing than being a professional athlete.

As a student-athlete, the first lesson I learned was accountability. Anything you do you are accountable for and there’s no one else that will advocate or clean up after the mistakes you made.

The second lesson I learned very quickly, was time management. Having several things thrown at you as an athlete which I didn’t have in high school taught me and other athletes about time management. Planning and scheduling your day-to-day activities is very important. You come to realize every hour of the day moves very quickly and if you’re not prepared or managed your time correctly, you’ll become more stressed than needed.

Lastly, the third lesson I learned was how to be a great teammate. Some high schools and colleges don’t teach you life lessons outside of basketball but mine did.

Being a great teammate starts with being a good person or I should say being a selfless person. I was taught how to think of others before myself.

I was also taught how to give back to my community and I took this lesson to heart.

It completely changed my mindset as a professional athlete and I am truly thankful for my college coaches for implementing this and making me a better person, not just a better basketball player.

What are the three most important things for players to learn from their time as a varsity athlete in college or university?

As a collegiate athlete, the most important thing to learn would be learning about who you are. The more you know yourself, then the more you can maneuver in the world and on the court.

Once you know yourself more, you can then create your own goals and expectations. With knowing yourself I think the second most important thing is having confidence.

I truly believe being a college athlete is very stressful mentally. And that mental struggle can cause a lot of players to fall, be average, or be great.

Lastly, you have to be competitive and hard working. If you want to be successful in life or in anything you have to be hard working. I truly believe that if you have a competitive spirit and a hard working attitude, then everything else will fall into place.


What are the three biggest challenges college players face when transitioning into the pro world?

The first biggest challenge players face once they transition into being a professional is accountability. There’s no one to help you or to hold your hand to get better during the season or even in the summer. Your progression is all on you.

You don’t have three workouts every day or your own personal gym, so you have to find these things on your own and create the player you want to come for the next season by yourself. Once you start playing professionally, your team expects you to be doing these things even though they don’t provide extra workouts for you.

Secondly as many know the reality for women is the salary we get as professional basketball players does not compare to the men’s side. In many cases, you can make more money having a regular job than you do playing basketball.

Many players find it hard to support themselves if they only play basketball because that provides a low salary. I’ve seen many of my teammates professionally have two jobs, be forced to live with their parents, or retire after one or two seasons because the pay is not worth it. It’s sad but that’s the reality.

Lastly, the biggest challenge for me would be the distance. It’s not like college where you get to go home for the holidays or the summers. You won’t understand until you go eight months without seeing your family.

Sometimes you’re in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas because they’re Jewish or Muslim. Or you’re in a small town and you miss your birthday with your family every year. Distance makes it hard for family relationships to thrive.

I miss so many monumental moments in my siblings’ lives and it weighs on me if it is worth it.

So these are the hardest things that they don’t tell you before you start playing professional basketball.

At the college level you had the opportunity to play for Coach Cori Close at UCLA. What three things that he taught you that could help others?

Playing for Coach Cori was a blessing in disguise.

I say that because there were a lot of lessons she taught us but at the time being 18 years old, it was hard to absorb them all.

Looking back at it now, she helped me become a better woman building my character because she knows there’s more to life than basketball.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

I am very fortuante for the opportunity to have spoken with Atonye. She has great insight on the lessons learned from being a student athlete, professional basketball player and how they translate into a post playing career. Having had the opportunity to play for the UCLA Bruins and the Nigerian national team provided a wealth of experience for her to succeed as a professional player in Spain. Many of the challenges she discussed also apply to a majority of professional players who are not in the NBA/WNBA. Using good judgement and previous experience have helped her to become a better professional and what she has talked about is helpful to collegiate and pro basketball players who are preparing themselves for success on and off the court. 

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