Jumoke Adaramoye and Favour Mbeledeogu met for the first time while waiting for a flight at an airport in Lagos, Nigeria.
“We just got to talking and I was like, where are you going?” Adaramoye said. “She said she was going to the United States.”
“She said she was going to Linden Hall, and I was like, wow, me too,” Mbeledeogu said. “She told me she played basketball. I told her I played basketball, too. So we got along right away. We talked the whole flight. I’m so glad I met her, because we were the same: From Nigeria, traveling alone over here.”
“I was like, are we really doing this?” Mbeledeogu said. “And she just laughed and said yeah, let’s do this.”
A friendship was born. And a pair of future teammates hatched a close bond over a flight from Nigeria to Dubai to New York.
Adaramoye, from Ekiti, Nigeria, and Mbeledeogu, from Lagos — towns about 200 miles and six hours apart by car — had earlier signed student visas at the U.S. embassy in Nigeria after they both were accepted at Linden Hall, the all-girls school in Lititz.
They met up for the first time at that airport in Lagos, striking up a conversation without knowing that they’d be classmates at Linden Hall. Adaramoye and Mbeledeogu have done quite well for themselves in their first two years here; they have both excelled in the classroom and on the basketball court, and they both recently accepted scholarship offers to play Division I hoops.
Adaramoye, who is 6-foot-2, is heading to the University of San Francisco, which plays in the West Coast Conference. She also had offers from St. Joe’s and Millersville, and considered James Madison.
Meanwhile, Mbeledeogu, who is 6-foot-1, is heading to Manhattan College, which plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. That was her only offer, but Mbeledeogu fell in love with the Jaspers’ program the second she landed on campus for her visit, and she committed early. She also was in contact with James Madison, St. Joe’s and Penn State.
“We’ve had the same goals since we got here,” Mbeledeogu said. “And we’ve always pushed each other since we’ve been here; even when we’re on opposite sides at practice, we’re pushing each other. So I’m very excited that she’s also going to a really good college.”
Linden Hall rookie coach Ellen Bair is thrilled to have Adaramoye and Mbeledeogu to help lead the troops for their senior seasons this winter, when the Lions will be out to defend their District Three Class 2A title.
“They bring a lot of enthusiasm, which I appreciate,” Bair said. “I expect a lot out of them as seniors, to be our leaders and set the tempo for the season. We all have high hopes for what this season could look like.”
Having a pair of Division I recruits right out of the chute is certainly a great start for Linden Hall, which has raised the bar in its basketball program after several deep postseason trips the last couple of years. Adaramoye and Mbeledeogu — plus Hetta Saatman, who is currently playing on a scholarship at Drexel — have been key cogs in the latest run.
Here’s another crazy coincidence: Adaramoye and Mbeledeogu actually crossed paths at a youth basketball tournament in Lagos several years back. They recently discovered some photos online from the tournament, and stumbled across a picture of the two guarding each other in a game.
All of these years later, after that initial meeting at the airport in Lagos, they’re living their dreams in the United States, making good grades as classmates, playing basketball as teammates, and prepping to play at the Division I level next year.
“Honestly,” Adaramoye said, “I didn’t even know you could do anything like this — play AAU ball and high school ball and get scouted and get college scholarships — until like two years ago. But here I am. Playing at the Division I level is going to be hard, but I’ll give it my all.”