Jan. 14, 2010
Like so many players he competes with and against, Suleiman Braimoh has aspirations to play basketball at the next level following his collegiate career. But beyond the possibilities professional basketball may offer, Braimoh's goals are lofty.
The civil engineering major looks to the day where he utilizes his Rice degree to give back to his native Nigeria.
"Everything that goes with civil engineering, I would like to use to affect change in Nigeria," Braimoh said. "It could be better roads, a better transportation system, a consistent power supply or cleaner water. Anything that would make people?s lives better."
Braimoh's roots to Nigeria run deep. His father's career with the United Nations was the catalyst for the family moving to the United States in 2001. The junior Braimoh has returned to Nigeria every other summer to visit family and friends.
"I feel like I am always going to be connected," he said. "I am always going to be abreast of what is going on in Nigeria."
Before coming to the United States, Braimoh had never touched a basketball.
"Soccer was my sport," he said.
He began to play recreationally, just shooting some hoops but he soon began to develop a love for the game. He watched games on television and began reading about the biographies of the game's greats such as Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain as well as fiction where basketball was a theme.
"I was going to the library and always checking out books about the sport, " he said. "It got to a point where my dad said I needed to check out books on subjects other than basketball. "
Coming out of high school and living on the East Coast, the direction of Braimoh's education looked to be the Ivy League. His father wanted him to attend an Ivy League school but during the college basketball recruiting process, the Braimoh family discovered what Rice had to offer academically.
Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Rice did. And the competition Rice played as a member of Conference USA also played into his decision.
"At the time, Memphis was No. 1 in the country and you had storied programs such as UTEP and Tulsa in the conference, so I knew there would be stiff competition," Braimoh said. "And the weather was a factor. It's so cold in the winters in New York. I was excited about not dressing in 10 layers of clothing. "
Now in his third year at Rice, Braimoh has been challenged both on the court and in the classroom.
Braimoh says he has grown as a person while majoring in engineering at Rice. He said there were times he thought of changing his majors but is happy he stuck with the path he chose.
"It has been very time consuming, " he said. "It takes a lot of time and effort. Plus, Rice has given me an opportunity to build a lot of people skills. You just can't lock yourself in a room and study.
Socializing and working with other students has been a big help, whether it's study sessions or study groups as well as just relating to professors and getting them to understand my schedule and time commitment to basketball.
"When I came here, everyone said Rice is a hard place to go to school.
Then you add majoring in engineering to that and then add to that basketball. But the challenges have been worth it. "
The academic path Braimoh has chosen at Rice may be daunting but the roads to which it leads will certainly affect others, making him one of Tomorrow's Leaders.