GREENVILLE – Akron University alumni Deji Ibitayo and Aaron Jackson were recently in town assisting Greenville head basketball Coach Kyle Joseph with the program’s four day boys basketball camp, a camp that has grown from 33 campers to more than 130 in Joseph’s time at Greenville.
Ibitayo, a Chicago native, a former University of Akron Zips and current European professional basketball player along with Jackson, a high school standout player at Ohio’s Gahanna Lincoln High School and four year D-I college player; three years at Akron and a final year at East Carolina University return to Greenville each year to assist Coach Joseph, their former college assistant coach.
“I know it’s hard for some people outside looking in because all they see is him as a coach,” said Ibitayo of Coach Joseph. “Even that part, he’s done a wonderful job. I’ll always be able to come back and give him all because he gave me his all. It’s a two way street – no one ways.”
Also helping with the camp are former GHS players, Aaron Rich, (Bluffton University), Isaiah Gable (Southeast Missouri State), Peter Pandy and current Green Wave basketball players.
Ibitayo and Jackson took time to talk high school basketball programs beginning with the importance of wins and losses.
“It’s a long journey,” said Ibitayo. “You’re going to have your wins and losses in every season that you go through. Some seasons are better than some, some are worse than others. Everybody wants to win. If you’re content within yourself and you know every day you got better and the coach is pushing you to get better, then I’m fine with that that. I know that I left the gym that I got better that day, regardless of what the score is – then I won in a different way.”
“The picture on the jumbotron may not seem all good and glorious but I know I put a lot of work into the game and eventually it works out, it pays off,” added Ibitayo. “It’s a marathon, it’s not a race. It’s a long journey, especially in basketball it’s a long journey.”
“It takes time to build a winning program,” Jackson said. “People have to buy in and if everybody is not all behind it then it’s going to be hard to get everybody on board and start winning. It takes time to get people to buy in.”
“Gahanah, Ohio, a little community that really took pride in basketball,” added Jackson. “It’s not going to happen overnight – you’re not going to wake up one day in high school and just be good if you didn’t put the work in your whole life to be good – and that is what we set in stone in Gahanah. I know if I want to be able to perform at the level that my coach wants me to perform at, I know I’m going to have to train my whole life just to make it on the high school team and whatever happens from there was a blessing.”
Ibitayo experienced the ups and downs of the changing of head coaches at his Chicago high school while Jackson saw continued success with one head coach his entire four year high school career.
“Changing coaches wouldn’t have made us what we were – there’s no way because there was a certain culture we had we ran an offense that I learned from eighth grade on,” added Jackson. “The middle schools did what the high school did. It was all one, it was all one program from elementary to middle school to high school – it was all one program and people understood that. It was second nature by the time you got to high school because you did it since you were a kid.”
“I had a couple different coaches,” Ibitayo said of his high school basketball experience. “I always dealt with them changing the coaching in my high school. For me, playing at my high school it bothered me. Even being the best player, it bothered me because you never know who is coming in, what they are bringing in, the philosophy they are bringing in – every time you get a coaching change, it’s always choas – always. It never fails because it’s something new for everybody.”
“We most definitely did not – we didn’t have winning seasons, not the years I was there until my last year we did ok,” continued Ibitayo. “High school is tough because some counties are better than others, some high schools just so happen to have better players.”
The two former Akron standouts agree coaching is often a difficult assignment at any level of competition.
“It’s hard on coaches, especially getting people to buy in, even in to college like Jack (Jackson) and I witnessed,” Ibitayo said of a coaching change at Akron during their time there. “Even buying into his new philosophy, his principles in basketball was different, but as you respect the coach’s knowledge for the game, it makes it easier.”
“I feel like when people start respecting coaches, it’s easier to win,” continued Ibitayo. “It’s easier to coach like that, it makes coaches feel comfortable to really give it their all – like I have a program behind me. It’s a confidence booster when you have that feeling of people pushing and supporting you, but it’s a drag when you have people like – you’re not going to make it, you’re going to fail, this, this and that.”
“If you have bad energy the ora is not good,” Jackson said of coaching. “It’s going to be hard to perform at your best level if you can’t feel the energy of the community. If you don’t feel comfortable to do what you know is the best thing to, that’s not getting you better because this is your profession. Nobody can tell you what is going to be best for your program because they don’t do this every day of their life. They don’t eat, sleep and breathe basketball. People have to buy in. That’s what it takes to build a winner.”
Jackson and Ibitayo each had one final thought about coaching before concluding on a high note.
“The outside doesn’t know what it takes to be great at this profession, but when you go say negative things, that’s effecting people’s livelihood,” Jackson stated.
“Where is our maturity level at,” said Ibitayo. “At the end of the day – come on. Life is more than just nitpicking at people. That’s the world we live in now days. Everybody is telling everybody else what to do and how to do it – and you never did it before so how can you tell me how. I’ve been doing this my whole life. You’re on the outside looking in but you can tell me how to do it – well I’ve been doing it for years.”
“Kyle Jo (Coach Joseph) was a big part of my upbringing, turning me into the player I am today,” shared Jackson. “When I first went to college, Kyle Jo was that guy – let’s get in the gym, he was a gym rat, he always was looking to get better and that’s just the type of guy Kyle Jo is. He would do anything to get people better. I wouldn’t even know where Greenville, Ohio is if Kyle Jo didn’t bring me down here to be a part of this community and treat it like a second home. Every year I come down here, work the camp, spend some time with Kyle Jo and wherever Kyle Jo is, I’m going to be there for him.”
“That would be a dream come true,” Ibitayo said if he had a son that could play for Coach Joseph. “If Kyle Jo can coach my son, I know for sure my son would have a very beautiful career just because of what he has done for me. I saw what he did for my career, why wouldn’t I have my son follow the same exact steps. I know Kyle Jo personally, I know his passion, his love for the game and dedication.”