By Peyton Gray, Staff Writer —
Injuries throughout an athlete’s career can hamstring them, however, for UTC’s Josh Ayeni, they are a source of motivation.
Josh Ayeni is currently a starter for the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team. At 6’8, 210 pounds, he is a dominant force in the starting lineup. In his first four games in blue and gold, he has averaged 8.8 points per game and is carving out a nice role in the offense.
Ayeni is a graduate student at UTC from Nigeria. He made the move to the United States in 2011.
This is the point at which he attended St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
“Moving to Baltimore from Nigeria actually wasn’t very tough,” Ayeni said. “It was inner-city, so the guys I met there were just as poor as me.”
Ayeni already had a passion for the game of basketball. Moving to Baltimore, he was able to pursue his love for the game even more.
“Everyone loved basketball,” Ayeni added. “Everyone I played with took it seriously, the adjustment wasn’t hard.
From St. Frances, Ayeni attended St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. While there, St. Bonaventure competed in the NCAA Tournament and defeated UCLA.
St. Bonaventure is well-known for its basketball program. They are a powerhouse in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“I was there for two years,” Ayeni said. “My second year is when I tore my ACL, that’s when everything changed.”
It was at this point that Ayeni transferred to South Alabama. He was forced to redshirt his first year to follow NCAA guidelines.
In his second year at South Alabama, he started the first five games, before becoming injured again. His last game was against UTC– his best game.
Seven of his twelve season highs came against UTC. He was hurt and didn’t even know it, with absolutely no plans on transferring.
“I was just focused on getting my knee right,” Ayeni said. “I graduated and thought it was time to go to a different place.”
Ayeni graduated from South Alabama with a degree in International Studies. He is currently pursuing his second degree at UTC– Political Science.
Despite his injuries, Ayeni remains optimistic and doesn’t view his knee injuries as a setback.
“I don’t view my injuries as a setback,” Ayeni said. “That’s just what’s meant for me, they happened for a reason.”
Ayeni has not only overcome his injuries, he is better because of them. He will be a crucial element for UTC this year.
“He’s good,” UTC’s Director of Strategic Communications Jim Horten said. “Playing at St. Bonaventure, a very good team, he will do big things for us this year.”
The 4-0 Mocs take the floor tonight at Bellarmine, an opponent they originally had scheduled for their season-opener.