INCOMING Barako Bull import Solomon Alabi admitted childhood idol and the great Hakeem Olajuwon had a profound impact on his game at a time when he was still starting in the NBA.
A native of Kaduna, Nigeria, the 7-foot-1 Alabi recalled how Olajuwon approached him during one of the NBA regular season games to have a lengthy talk with him.
“When I was playing for the Toronto Raptors, we were playing the Houston Rockets, and he was part of the Rockets staff. He came to the locker room and talked to me right before the game because he said he was following me since I was in college,” Alabi confided to Spin.ph shortly after Barako Bull’s 99-94 loss to Globalport in their tune-up match on Tuesday.
Alabi, who played college basketball at Florida State University, explained that his Nigerian countryman simply imparted to him the importance of coming into the game mentally prepared.
“He (Olajuwon) advised me on stuffs like how to gain confidence and how to be ready before the game,” said the 26-year-old Alabi, who led the Energy with 24 points.
“I remember he told me that when he comes to the game as a big man, it’s important to play defense because by playing defense, he tries to get a block shot first and then rebound,” he added.
“I thought about it and I thought that was great because every time I block a shot, it gives me the confidence, so I’ve had that mindset in practice or game ever since.”
With Barako Bull, Alabi intends to bring the same intimidating presence he learned from the ‘Dream’, hopeful his defensive approach could help the Energy come up with a respectable showing in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“I’m ready (to play long minutes). And I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help the team win, and go as hard as I can for whatever minutes coach puts me in the game,” vowed Alabi.
The soft-spoken Nigerian was selected 50th overall by the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010 NBA Draft.
He was eventually traded to the Raptors the same season, where for a few times, he was assigned to play for Erie Bayhawks in the NBA D-League before being recalled to play for Toronto.
During the 2011-12 season, Alabi averaged 2.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 8.7 minutes for the Raptors, while registering NBA career-high numbers of 11 points, 19 rebounds, and three blocks during the team’s final game of the regular season.