NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (BVM) High school basketball player Sadiku Ayo signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Iona Gaels during the upcoming 2022-23 season. Currently a senior at Our Saviour Lutheran School in the Bronx, N.Y., Ayo has had an impressive athletic career to date, averaging 13 points, six rebounds and three steals during last year’s COVID-19 shortened season at OSL. He also led the New York AAU Lightning to the quarterfinals at this past July’s EYBL Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina and earned All-Breakout honors for his effort.
It’s an unexpected path for Sadiku Ayo, who began playing sports as a soccer player. A native of Ghana, West Africa, Ayo thought he would make soccer his game of choice, but then switched to basketball when he was 13. The youngest of a large family with four siblings, Ayo decided to pursue a professional basketball career, to help his family and especially his mother, who struggled to make ends meet. He didn’t share his plan with her at first, but when he resolved to move to America to make his dream a reality, he was forced to tell her.
“She didn’t know she was the reason why I was doing what I was doing,” Ayo recalled. So, when I went to the airport and I was about to travel to the United States, and… I told her the reason why…she was in shock.”
Ayo’s mother hadn’t realized what her son planned to do, but she didn’t say no or stand in his way.
Ayo enrolled as a freshman at Our Saviour Lutheran in New York City, and had a rough start adjusting to a new country, as well as learning how to compete on the basketball court. However, he soon found a mentor in coach Peter Wehye, who quickly became his advisor as well as his coach.
“I’ve known him so long. And for him to be able to recognize what’s wrong…He…calls and just talks about things… I’ll tell him there’s this, there’s that, so he’s able to help me through. So, most of the time I can sit down with him, and figure it out sometimes because I was not able to figure it out myself” Ayo said.
Peter Wehye believes that Sadiku Ayo is one of the most dedicated, hardest-working athletes he’s ever seen. Good at both offense and defense, able to step in and fill any position where he’s needed, Wehye feels that if he could use one word to describe Ayo, it would be “discipline.”
“He’s by far the most disciplined player I’ve ever coached. He works hard. He does nothing half way. We’ve put a lot on his shoulders ever since he was a freshman… he’s had every role imaginable. And he takes nothing like the level of discipline, and his motive is something that’s unmatched in my opinion.”
Wehye joked that his team often relies on Ayo too much during games, but the coach is impressed by Ayo’s willingness to take on any role he’s asked to handle. That level of commitment is what separates the stars from the average players, in his view. “When you have guys that are playing like that, which you can ask anything of, you can push them to that limit, they become second to none.”
Ayo and Wehye looked at different colleges, but decided on Iona, even though other schools were higher ranked, mainly because of coach Rick Pitino’s reputation and outstanding development program. Playing at Iona for Pitino was, they both felt, the best place for Ayo to continue his journey toward pro basketball.
Wehye said he became emotional at Ayo’s signing because, “I realized I might not ever get another Sadiku…a guy like that, that’s about leadership on and off the floor, who understands what you’re trying to do… leadership strong in all of these things, that doesn’t come by often… So, Sadiku is very, very special to me.”
Sadiku Ayo’s ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. His strong work ethic and discipline have taken him to Iona College and he’s confident they’ll continue to pay off. Ayo’s main motivation is what an NBA career would mean for his family, most of all his mother.
“If I worked so hard, and got to the league? Imagine how she’s going to feel, and how things are going to change for her and the whole family, because she and my family are the reason why I work hard every single day.”
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