From across the pond: London native adapts to VCU basketball

VCU freshman forward Toibu ‘Tobi’ Lawal dunks the ball in a scrimmage against Shippensburg University on Oct. 29. Photo by Guy Enkh

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

London native Toibu “Tobi” Lawal visited VCU for the first time this summer, considering his commitment.

“When I came for my visit — I could see myself being here,” Lawal said. “Richmond is a beautiful city.” 

The VCU freshman and men’s basketball forward decided VCU was the place for him, committing to the black and gold in May. Lawal has spent the fall semester adjusting to VCU and Richmond as a college student.

Prior to arriving in the United States, Lawal went to the City of London Academy. From there, Lawal went to Lee Academy in Maine where he averaged 14.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, according to VCU Athletics

The VCU coaching staff found Lawal by a video highlight reel, according to assistant coach J.D. Byers. Byers said when watching the video, the staff was interested in bringing Lawal to Richmond to wear the black and gold.

“He was just impressive, and he had a lot of attributes that fit our style of play,” Byers said. “His character, the work he had put in — it seemed like a really great fit.”

Lawal is entering his fourth year of playing organized basketball. Lawal said soccer and track were his sports of choice before taking to the court, but he decided to try out basketball due to his 6-foot-8-inch height.   

“I enjoyed playing football for a long time, but I don’t know because I started to grow — I stopped playing because obviously, my friends are like, ‘Why don’t you try basketball?’” Lawal said. “It [basketball] can go from zero to 100 in a matter of seconds. It’s really quick, it’s exciting.”

Lawal said he’s found the transition from London to the United States manageable because of his focused mentality. 

“It wasn’t really hard for me to adapt. When I came here, I had a goal. I knew what I wanted to get out of coming here,” Lawal said. “Me coming to the states was me taking basketball seriously, me saying I’m going to share this as far as I can.”

Lawal’s concentration has been on display to the coaching staff, as Byers said it has led to massive skill advancements over the offseason. 

“He’s focused, he’s very determined and he brings a tremendous work ethic every day,” Byers said. “I think that’s why he continues to make these large improvements.”

VCU head coach Mike Rhoades said Lawal has improved greatly since he joined the black and gold this summer.

“He’s only getting better and better. I mean, how much he’s improved since June fourth, when he got here. It’s been pretty crazy and he’s a great listener,” Rhoades said.

Lawal took 12 credits over the summer, earning three As and a B, according to Rhoades. Rhoades said this is already a sign of Lawal being an exceptional student-athlete. 

“He’s a great student. He really cares about learning and he cares about getting better. He’s a pleaser,” Rhoades said. “When you have that mentality as a freshman, he’s gonna play a lot for us.” 

Lawal said his experience with summer classes helped him transition to becoming a college student business major at VCU.

“Obviously, it was something that I had to get adjusted to. It wasn’t really easy,” Lawal said. “I think I adjusted well — it helped me, especially coming into the start of school now, because now it seems much easier to handle.”

Lawal said he is looking forward to seeing the distance the black and gold can advance and develop as a team in the approaching season. 

“I’m just trying to see how far we get because I know this team is very capable of going far, especially in March,” Lawal said. “I just want to see how far we can get.”

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