Why do we let immigrants from ‘holes’ into our country? Because of people like Ngozi Anosike – Washington Post/Sally Jenkins

January 14, 2018

Nigeria, Sports, USA



Ngozi Anosike as a [Tennessee U] “Lady Volunteer” player and her then coach, late Pat Summit during their team’s ’05 Final Four appearance [The Washington Post]


The Bible teaches that there are no real “shitholes,” of course, that the only things that defile us come from somebody’s mouth. But if that source isn’t persuasive enough for you, there is always the evidence you can acquire from firsthand acquaintance with someone from a faraway place.

Ngozi Anosike was one of those “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here” immigrants. Coach Pat Summitt met her 15 years ago nextweek, in a gymnasium on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2003, when she recruited Ngozi’s daughter Nicky to play basketball at the University of Tennessee. Pat and Ngozi immediately recognized something kindred in each other: They both started from “holes.” “At the bottom, and I mean as far at the bottom as you can possibly go,” Nicky said.

“… why do we let all these people from holes into this country, I guess the answer is because they renew our energy and values, and help us combat our growing golf gut. This isn’t particularly debated in the sports world, where you can’t help noticing how many great American champions with Nigerian roots we have. You can’t help noticing how hard they play and how much they give, and how academic-minded they tend to be …”

At first, Nicky Anosike didn’t want the great Pat Summitt to see their Staten Island apartment in the projects, didn’t want her to see the cockroaches and the mice, and the mattress on the floor instead of a real bed. She was afraid the immaculate coach who wore diamond rings and was always on ESPN would take one look at the hole she was from and pull the scholarship offer. So she asked friends to let her entertain Pat at their home instead of her own.

“I was just so embarrassed with where I had to live,” Nicky told me a few years ago. “She will think so low of me, maybe she won’t want me at her school. Will she still want me?” What the 18-year-old Nicky didn’t know was that Pat came from a cabin on a tobacco farm in Tennessee with no water except what came from the pump off the porch and chinks in the walls that let the weather in, so sometimes you had to throw frost off the blanket in the morning.

Over the next four years, I heard my friend Pat talk about Ngozi more than I ever heard her talk about any other player’s mother. She told me about how Ngozi had come from Nigeria in 1978 with a sixth-grade education and was a single mother working multiple jobs while raising eight kids — while studying to finish high school at night. How, in 2003, the same year Nicky went to Tennessee as a freshman, Ngozi got her nursing degree — at 40. It had taken her 26 years of working her way through night schools. “Can you imagine?” Pat said. “What a strong woman.” Which for her was the ultimate compliment.

It hit me: Pat admired her. Just as she admired her own mother, Hazel, who had to quit school after the eighth grade to go to work in an Acme boot factory.

In a way, Ngozi’s influence helped win Pat’s Tennessee teams two more championships. When Pat would run the Lady Vols through a three-hour practice that ended with sprints, sometimes the players would bend double and gasp that they were tired.

“We’re not tired,” Nicky would say. “My mother is tired.”

And everybody would straighten up and start running again.

You can read the rest of this heart-warming story of Ngozi, who would star on the Lady Vols team by leading them to two  back-to-back national championships, and winning the NCAA’s Woman of the Year in 2008 for her athletic and academic excellence. 

SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2018. 6:57 P.M. [GMT]

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