BlackJacks newcomer Edosomwan brings the world of life skills to court

Zena Edosomwan’s story is about learning more every day, whether it’s in basketball, in the classroom, in high tech or trying to open up more business opportunities to minorities.

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Zena Edosomwan had just finished explaining why he chose to pursue Mandarin and East Asian studies at Harvard when yours truly asked him about his French skills.

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“Ah… hello,” he said without wasting time. ” I will improve myself. You have to teach me that.

Chances are the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Ottawa BlackJacks center forward will learn at least a few words or phrases during his summer stint with the CEBL franchise, which got its start in the season Wednesday night at TD Place against the Fraser Valley. Bandits.

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Edosomwan’s story is about learning more every day, whether it’s basketball, the classroom, high tech, or trying to open up more business opportunities for minorities.

While the cosmopolitan makeup of the BlackJacks in general is intriguing – including former Carleton Ravens and uOttawa Gee-Gees stars, as well as former NBA, G-League, from the NCAA and overseas – Edosomwan is certainly not defined solely by being a dominant physical presence on the field.

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The son of Nigerian immigrants, born in Houston and raised in Los Angeles, he initially turned down 39 scholarships to top NCAA programs including UCLA and Texas out of high school. Instead, Edosomwan, now 28, spent an extra year at a prep school in Massachusetts in order to meet Ivy League academic standards, which allowed him to attend Harvard.

He eventually graduated in 2017 with a major in East Asian studies, with a minor in sociology and a citation in Mandarin.

Unofficially, he has earned several life skills degrees.

“When I was in ninth grade, my mother told me, ‘You should try Mandarin,'” Edosomwan said. “She owns a (hair) salon and was talking about China having the second largest economy in the world. It was about potential opportunities and being different, trying something new. From there, that curiosity grew and it’s such an interesting culture, with the global implications of a place like China, in terms of commerce.

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Obviously, he wasn’t at Harvard just for basketball. In addition to standing out in the field, he became President and CEO of Unfiltered Network, a media company that featured students of varying backgrounds.

“It was just to give people a channel, at this particular time in college, just to talk about mental health and have conversations,” he said. “All of us as human beings deal with this. Some days we just don’t feel well.

After his years at Harvard, Edosomwan played pro with Gigantes de Jalisco in the Mexican professional league in 2020, but that stint was short-lived due to the arrival of COVID-19.

He has not been idle during the pandemic, however, helping to create “Oooh, Snap! Charades,” a viral gaming app, with co-founders Alexa Nelson and Miguel Solano. He has served as an outlet for people struggling with social isolation.

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“These things are getting automated and I don’t really need to check that much (now), but I really wanted to create something fun for people during COVID, just with everyone inside their homes” , did he declare.

Edosomwan says he is always intrigued by interests outside of basketball, recognizing that the life of a professional athlete is not endless.

“The game is not promised,” he said. “Injuries happen. Things happen. Some guys just lose their passion for the game. I don’t, but I’m just saying it’s just important that you can hopefully understand the grand scheme of things in life, and that’s kind of what (inspired) me (with the viral game). If I feel it’s a good idea, I’ll try to go there to do it.

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From there, Edosomwan made his first adventure in Canada, playing with the Raptors 905, the G-League development team for NBA team Toronto. Placed on waivers by the Raptors 905, he went further north, playing with the Sudbury Five of the National Basketball League of Canada.

He led the NBLC in rebounds (11.5 per game), was fourth in blocks and sixth in field goal percentage (51.2%). The NBLC season started late due to COVID-19 restrictions and Edosomwan was committed to the BlackJacks, meaning he missed the playoffs with Sudbury.

Now, he aims to shine in the CEBL, a league that attracts more talent and outside attention as it served as a stepping stone to the NBA and the G-League.

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“You can see the top talent here, all the guys and their experience,” he said.

“Besides, it’s summer, so it’s unique. It’s basically the off season for a lot of guys. To have the chance to compete in a very high level league in a condensed season is really cool.

Again, though, basketball is only part of his life.

In an interview with, elaborating on his viral game, he said there were “hard lessons on this journey of entrepreneurship,” but he hopes he can help others achieve their goals.

“People like my parents and family have sacrificed everything to help me achieve my goals,” he said. “It’s just as important that I give that back to the next person and keep that cycle of positivity and encouragement going.”

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