are some sports that one can only succeed at if the talent he or she is blessed with is accompanied by the physical characteristics necessary to compete at the highest level.
Doyinsola Lijirin, a 6ft4in center, is blessed with both the talent and the physical attributes necessary for a basketball player.
Interestingly, the 16-year-old started out as a model but sports caught her fancy at 13, and it’s been an inseparable union ever since.
And she’s happy she never “wasted” her height.”
“I didn’t like sports initially,” Lijirin told . “I was into modelling until a particular day when I followed my brother to watch some girls playing basketball and he said, ‘Look at the way girls are playing, you’ve got the height, won’t you try?’
“The coaches also said that I shouldn’t waste my height, that I could just play basketball with modelling, and that I should just try my luck. That was how I started playing and now I model and play basketball at the same time.”
Despite her incredible height at such a young age, it still did not come easy for the basketball athlete from Ondo State, who recounted how she had to train with her male counterparts to give her an edge over other females.
“After I finished training, my brother would put me among guys playing sets, trying to make me stronger because he believed that if I could play with the guys I would be strong enough to play with the females and won’t be scared,” Lijirin added.
The seventh child among nine children, Lijirin did not enjoy instant support from her family, until she got an opportunity to represent Nigeria in Europe.
The competition that changed it all was the 2022 International Sports Federation tournament in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, and she got that opportunity by strutting her stuff on the courts here in Nigeria.
“Things changed after I represented Nigeria in Serbia. When I first started and didn’t know anything, the support wasn’t like this, but it was when I started playing very well and representing good teams that they all started supporting me,” she told
“I played for Team Bayelsa in Nigeria, so the state government was impressed with our performance and sponsored us for the trip abroad. That was last September. The tournament was fun and out of the six games we played, we won five.”
A student of Top Field College in Ajegunle, the SS2 student opened up on how basketball has impacted her life.
“Basketball helps me a lot in achieving many things; I also pay my school fees through basketball from the salary I earn. Every day is my happiest moment, even though I am having a bad day, immediately I step my leg on the court, I start feeling better.”
The teen star is already embroiled in an intense rivalry with foremost women’s basketball side First Bank and admits that the saddest moment in her three-year career was in games against the giants.
“There was this game I played for MFM in the Bullet tournament in November 2022, we got to the final and faced off against First Bank. They had beaten us twice before and I wanted to beat them, but they beat us again, making it three times we’ve lost to them. We lost by just two points.
“I know if we play them now, we will beat them and I must beat them because their coach wanted to sign me to their team. But I told him that I can only think of doing First Bank until I beat them, even if it is just once,” Lijirin said.
When asked about the goals she hopes to achieve with basketball, she told she wanted to be a famous athlete.
“I want to go far and I want to play all over the world, I want to be known for being a very skillful basketball player,” she stated.
The coach that convinced Lijirin to play basketball, who trained her in her early days, Dossou Mensah, hailed the big center for not giving up on her desire to play basketball.
“When I first met her, she always had that mindset of being one of the best in the world, so, when I introduced the game to her, I never doubted her abilities to get what she wanted. There is something you can’t take away from her, she is a great kid.
“One thing I like about her, she is always ready to learn and get better because she has that mindset of ‘I’ll get there’ irrespective of the obstacles. She is willing to do everything to get to her ideal target, which is playing in the WNBA or any of the other European women’s leagues. She puts in, at least, 80 per cent work ethic, always punctual to practice. The sky is just her stepping stone; she still has a lot ahead of her,” Mensah said.