Rock Chalk Weekly: From Canada with Love
Written by Shelby Bettles, Kansas Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The University of Kansas attracts people from all across the nation and world for many different reasons. Some find themselves at KU because of the excellent educational opportunities; others want to be in the geographical center of the United States; and some are attracted to living at the cradle of basketball.
Lorraine Enabulele, a sophomore forward on the Kansas women’s basketball team, found herself attracted to leaving her hometown of Toronto, Canada, for the opportunity to play the sport that she loves in the hoops-crazed city of Lawrence.
“Once I experienced the atmosphere of KU, I couldn’t be persuaded to play anywhere else,” Enabulele said. “Just being in this environment was what drew me to Lawrence so easily.”
Enabulele’s talent on the court received attention from other schools in the United States throughout high school and during her college basketball recruitment process, but she ultimately was drawn to the basketball capital.
“By my freshman year [of high school], I knew I was going to come to the United States to play basketball,” Enabulele said. “Schools like Michigan and Michigan State were recruiting me, but I fell in love with KU during my junior and senior years of high school. I decided on KU a little late in my recruiting process, but this was always the place for me.”
Although she wasn’t sporting Crimson and Blue from birth, Enabulele has loved orange for a long time.
“I started playing basketball at eight when my parents introduced me to it, but I didn’t play seriously until I got into high school,” Enabulele said. “As time passed, I really began to love it and it just kind of stuck as something that was a part of me, so I kept on playing to get better.”
When she began to play more seriously in high school, Enabulele found that the sport that had once served as childhood entertainment could help her develop valuable, lifelong friendships and experiences.
“My favorite part of playing in high school was the amount of fun that I had with my teammates and the coaching staff,” Enabulele said. “I really enjoyed being around people who made me better as a player and a person every day. Now I feel like being at KU is the exact same thing. I enjoy being around my teammates and coaches because they are amazing and they push me on-and-off the court, so that’s one of my best things about being here.”
Enabulele also had the recent example of fellow Canadian Krysten Boogaard’s experience at Kansas as proof that being a Jayhawk can lead to future success. A native of Saskatchewan, Boogaard played center for KU from 2007-11 and found herself in Lawrence for similar reasons as Enabulele.
“I was drawn to KU because of the atmosphere and the people there,” Boogaard said. “KU is known mostly for its men’s basketball program, but we had access to the same top-notch facilities and coaches as the men. I knew this would give me an individual advantage for improvement.”
After leaving KU in 2011, Boogaard has continued to find success on the basketball court, having played professionally in Nice, France and Boom, Belgium. In addition, she has played with the Canadian Women’s National Team-as she was the alternate for the 2012 London Olympic team and played in the 2014 World Championships in Turkey.
“I believe my journey through KU helped me achieve the success I have had playing professionally and with the Canadian Team,” Boogaard said.
Enabulele agrees with her fellow Canadian, Boogaard, that the competitive edge playing at KU gives its players is invaluable. During her recruitment process Enabulele felt like she was playing at a highly-competitive level, but would soon learn exactly how aggressive playing in the Big 12 Conference is.
“In high school I played against pretty difficult competition,” Enabulele said. “We played against girls at Connecticut, South Carolina and Memphis—so coming here to play in the Big 12, I felt like I was ready for the physicality and tough competition.”
As someone who loved the game from an early age and played competitively throughout high school, Enabulele knew that the sacrifice of leaving familiarity behind in Canada to play in a basketball hotbed would enhance her skills as a player.
“The opportunity to get better really persuaded me to come here,” Enabulele said. “Of course I miss being around my family and friends and feeling comfortable and familiar with everything, but I feel like being here at KU takes me out of my element, which I enjoy because I’m experiencing new things and I feel like I’ve adjusted really well.”
Though there is no replacement for her family in Toronto, after a year and a half at KU, Enabulele has found comfort in the family-like bond amongst the women’s basketball team and coaching staff.
“Being in this kind of atmosphere has made Lawrence and KU my second home—it’s as if the coaches are my parents and my teammates are my siblings,” Enabulele said. “Having that kind of support system has made it so much easier to call this place my home. I don’t feel like I’m going to practice, I feel like I’m going out with my family.”
KU women’s basketball head coach Brandon Schneider embraces this family-like structure of the team because the trust created by the close-knit environment helps the coaching staff and players, like Enabulele, feel at home when on the court together.
“The student-athletes have embraced the family culture of the team,” Coach Brandon said. “Because our players know that we love them and we care about them, we can coach them hard when it comes time to be on the court.”
With the demanding schedule of being a student athlete and so far away from home, Enabulele hardly gets to see her family, but the women on the team help keep her spirits up, especially during the holidays.
“As a freshman last year, I wasn’t used to being so far away from my family so often, especially during the holiday breaks, like Thanksgiving, so it was really difficult to cope with that homesickness,” Enabulele said. “The bond I have with my teammates and the coaching staff made it so much easier to deal with the separation because they’re like my home away from home. Playing for the team has definitely made being away from home during the holidays easier.”
Traveling is not new to the Canadian Jayhawk, though. Much like an experienced defender needs to adapt to a new offense each time on the court, Enabulele has had practice traveling across the world and experiencing different cultures, making her transition to Lawrence easier with time.
“My parents are from Nigeria,” Enabulele said. “I went to Nigeria when I was 14 for about three months and I got to experience living in the village. I got to see how people live in different parts of the world and it definitely just changed my perspective and made me realize that I am really blessed.”
Enabulele has learned a lot about the game of basketball and herself in the short time that she has been at KU and doesn’t expect or desire the journey to get any easier.
“At first, it definitely was hard—it was not easy at all—but when I decided that I wanted to be better and get better, being comfortable wasn’t something that I took into consideration,” Enabulele said. “If you’re always comfortable, you really aren’t ever getting better as a person, but once you are taken out of your element and are forced to do things on your own and branch out—that’s when you’re going to see improvement in yourself. When it’s all said and done, it’s worth it because the opportunities and the things that you learn go a long way.”
Enabulele’s journey to the University of Kansas from her home in Toronto, Canada, was at times met with an abundance of homesickness and discomfort. However, by embracing her trials with optimism, a will to advance her skills and camaraderie from Coach Brandon and her teammates she plans to graduate from KU in 2018 knowing that she tackled the difficult challenge of leaving home far behind to better herself. Like so many before her, Enabulele will hold her time at KU close to her heart.
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