Updated: Jul 2
Growing up as the youngest of five children in Nigeria, Adem Bona was a long shot to make a name for himself in a sport that’s still gaining popularity in his home country. After a series of events that led him to playing in Turkey and now in the United States for Prolific Prep (CA), Bona is now one of the top-ranked prospects in the high school class of 2022. At 6’10” and 225 pounds, Bona has a rare blend of quick feet, a strong frame, twitchy athleticism, a high motor, and a competitive mentality. He prides himself on being a defensive stopper and loves to bring leadership and energy to his team. With only a few years of competitive basketball under his belt, Bona has been able to accelerate the learning curve and is just still only scratching the surface of his overall upside.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Bona discusses growing up in Nigeria, his basketball journey, his adjustment to Prolific Prep, his recruitment update, his off-court interests, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Adem Bona, from Lagos, Nigeria:
Pro Insight: Talk a bit about your background.
Adem Bona: I’m originally from Nigeria. From a family of five, I have four siblings and I’m the last child. I moved to Turkey like five years ago and I’ve been playing basketball for the past four years. That’s basically the summary of my background.
PI: Any athletes in the family?
AB: No, I’m the only one. There are no other professional athletes in the family, but we all played soccer when we were young for fun. We competed at the school level, but not seriously. We’d just do it for fun. Yeah, I’m the only athlete in the family. Probably the only one who can play basketball in the family.
PI: Where do you get your height from?
AB: It’s probably going to be my dad, he’s a really big dude. They called my dad “The Elephant” in Africa because he’s really big [laughs]. So it’s mostly from my dad. My mom is around 5’9”- 6’0” tall, but my dad was like 6’10”. So they called him “The Elephant,” because he’s really big.
PI: Are your siblings tall as well, or did you get all of the height?
AB: No, my siblings, they are tall, also...but I kind of grew over them and I’m kind of the tallest in the family right now. But my brothers are tall, one is like 6’8” and my other brother is like 6’7”. They’re also big, but I’m kind of the biggest right now.
PI: What are your current measurements?
AB: I’m 6’10”, 224 pounds and a 7’3” wingspan.
PI: How did you start playing basketball?
AB: That’s one of the funniest stories of my life [laughs]. It all started one night when I went with my mom to the store and I was trying to pee, so I had to go pee behind the car. So a dude saw my head over the car and was like “damn this boy is tall” [laughs]. And he called me and was like, “hey, do you play basketball?” and I was like, “no, I play soccer” and he was like, “why don’t you come try basketball?” and I said, “I’m not interested.” Then he followed me back into the store when I went to help my mom and he asked my mom, “can your son come play basketball with me?” and my mom was like, “nah, everybody is trying to get money or trying to do stuff” [laughs] because my mom doesn’t believe that basketball is serious like the rest of the country. So my mom is like “no.” My brothers told her, “why don’t you just let him go? It’s not going to change anything. He’s not going to do nothing. He’s going to play soccer, he’s going to play basketball. Just let him do it.” So that’s how it started, basically. One day, Christopher Wilson, he took me to the basketball court and he started teaching me everything about basketball in Nigeria. So I played basketball in Nigeria for one year, but it wasn’t serious. It was like street basketball in Nigeria for one year. Then I had the opportunity to move to Turkey. So I moved to Turkey and started playing serious basketball in Turkey, going to trainings and everything. I think that’s when my basketball skills started developing and everything. From Turkey, I moved to the United States and I’m playing for Prolific Prep. Yeah, that’s it.
PI: Did you feel like you were naturally good at basketball from the jump?
AB: When I started playing basketball, to be honest, I wasn’t good at all. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t dribble, my coordination was terrible. At first I wasn’t good. I couldn’t do anything. The only thing I could do was run because I used to play soccer. And I can jump. So that was the only thing I’d do, just run and throw the ball ahead and try to do something [smiles]. When I started basketball I wasn’t naturally good and everything, but my skills were just raw. Basketball is not a sport in Nigeria so it’s like a weird sport to us at first. So it wasn’t something I’d been used to for years or something I’d been watching. The first time I played basketball I had never watched a basketball game. So it was a new thing for me and I couldn’t do anything. So I was terrible at it in the beginning.
PI: How did you wind up going from Lagos, Nigeria to Istanbul, Turkey?
AB: So I was playing street basketball in Nigeria. I was playing for fun and nothing serious. I kept playing and I felt like I was getting better at this everyday. My mom had the opportunity to move to Turkey [got a job in Turkey], so a coach from Turkey saw a video of me and he liked the video. Well, at first I had an invite to a school in the United States, but my mom didn’t want me to come to the United States so I stayed in Nigeria. So a coach [from Turkey] saw a video of me and he liked it. He reached out to my mom and Christopher [Wilson] who was training me in Nigeria and asked, “can we bring your son to Turkey?” and my mom agreed. It was all over a video of me playing street basketball and the coach liked it and wanted to bring me to Turkey.
PI: So Christopher Wilson would make videos of you and share them with various coaches and programs?
AB: So basically he’s not just a trainer, he’s a basketball player, also. He would make films of me and himself and send them to some coaches in the States and some coaches in Europe. The coach from Turkey liked me and he was like, “yeah we’ll bring him over.” My mom was in Turkey already, so he contacted her and was like, “can we bring your son over?” and yeah.
PI: What was the adjustment like going from streetball in Nigeria to organized basketball in Turkey?
AB: It was difficult at the beginning. I had to move to the country and I don’t know any word in their language. I didn't know any bit of Turkish when I moved to Turkey. I had to go to school and deal with the coaches and I also don’t know any English. So it was different for me improving from my first day because I don’t understand anything, I just do what I see. I can’t listen or do anything. But when I started catching up with them, everything started feeling better and easier. So I started learning Turkish and started training properly because I can hear what the coaches are saying. So for the first year it was difficult for me, but the second year it was easier because I started to understand the language and everything.
PI: When did you feel like you could be good at basketball?
AB: Um, I don’t know…oh it was when I moved to Turkey. So when I moved to Turkey, I wasn’t playing in anything because I had to be a citizen to play in a real game. Like foreigners can’t play in an amatuer league in Turkey. So I couldn’t play with them, so I was training with my coach for two years everyday. No games, just workouts. And I got invited to the national team by just working out. So that’s when I was like, “oh, if I can get invited to the national team without playing any games then that means I’m getting better and probably doing good” and I was like, “yeah I think I’m doing good or getting better at basketball.”
PI: You participated in some FIBA tournaments for Turkey, how did that boost your confidence as a player?
AB: It boosted my confidence a lot because I was an unknown player to someone competing for the whole country. Just like, you’re on the frontline fighting for your country from nowhere. It helped a lot and boosted my confidence playing in a serious competition. That was like my first serious competition. It helped me a lot, I got recognized, like the whole of Europe knew me and most of the teams knew me after the competition. So I got a little bit of recognition and a little bit of a confidence boost.
PI: Describe the basketball culture in Nigeria.
AB: I think since I started playing basketball I started to know more about how Nigeria is into basketball. I feel like Nigerians, there was a [basketball] culture built before me, like Hakeem Olajuwon is Nigerian, but he played for the United States. I think in Nigeria we have the ability, the talent, the size, but we just don’t have a platform to show ourselves. I feel like in the NBA there are so many Nigerians in the league. Like we’re good, but we don’t have the platform to show more of ourselves. I feel like there are so many good players in Nigeria that can play and that can do better than what they’re doing right now. In Nigeria we don’t have...I’m not going to say the technology, it’s just like we don’t have the things to help us get better. We don’t have the basic stuff like the balls, the shoes, the gym. But I think in the near future Nigeria is going to be a good powerhouse country in basketball.
PI: Why come to the US to play if you were succeeding in Turkey?
AB: So I decided to come to the states because I felt like in Turkey I had done what I needed to do. I felt like if you’re on top then you have nothing to run after. I felt like in Turkey if I stayed there then I was not going to get better and I want to get better. I knew coming to the States was going to be a huge step and challenge for me...and I wanted the challenge. So I decided to come and take the challenge and improve everyday. Not to lay back and [be] like, “yeah, I’ve done everything I need to do.” There’s more things in front of me. That’s not my end goal, to be one of the best players in Turkey. I want to be one of the best in the world and the United States is where everyone comes to play the best.
PI: How did you end up at Prolific Prep?
AB: So I was searching for a team to come to in the States and Jeremy [Russotti] and Philippe Doherty reached out to me and told me about their program, how they help Africans improve, and how they help players improve and get them in the spotlight. They showed me a bunch of stuff like how to improve as a person and as a player. So I felt like that was going to be the best for me. Like playing here and playing at a high level of high school basketball. I felt like that was going to be great for me and I chose Prolific Prep.
PI: What was the off-court adjustment like coming to the United States?
AB: Off the court coming to the United States was difficult for me because my mom is there in Turkey and so I had to leave my mom to come down here to live alone. Getting into the plane, having no relationships down in the States, coming by myself...it was kind of a challenging decision for me, but I feel like this decision is going to help me more in the future. Help me at the basketball level. That’s why I made the decision to move.
PI: Has the United States lived up to your expectations?
AB: Yeah, it has lived up to it and it has been great for me because I’ve met so many great people. Because before I came I had the mindset of, “oh Americans, they’re rude” and stuff like that. But I came and I’ve met so many great people and I haven’t met someone that’s kind of crazy like in the description that’s in my head [laughs]. Most of the people I’ve met have been nice, so it’s lived up to the expectations.
PI: How about the adjustment on the court?
AB: I think it has been good for me and it’s also important for me to adjust well. I’ve only been here for 8-9 months and learning the American style of play is not easy because it’s a fast-paced game and it’s kind of more technical. You have to think quickly, play fast, run fast, and everything. It’s way different than the style of play I’m used to playing in Europe...slow everything down, try to outsmart the other, try to draw up a crazy play and everything. So it’s way different than what I’ve been used to. It’s good for me to learn the two different styles of play, the quick play and the slow play. So I think it has been a good advantage for me.
PI: Describe this past season with Prolific Prep.
AB: This past season has been good for me because it was my first year in the States. I’m kind of adapting to the style of play and everything. I wish I could have adapted a little bit quicker because my first two months were kind of rough, I was kind of in no man's land. I was kind of lost and everything, but in the middle of the season I started catching up with everything. Started building connections with my teammates and the coaching staff. It has been great for me in general because I have learned a lot of different stuff, we also had a high-level college coach. It was great for me to be coached a bit by a college coach so I had some type of college experience in high school and playing high-level basketball. So it was really good for me.
PI: Who were some of your favorite teammates and how quickly did you gel with them?
AB: So I don’t want to say I have a favorite teammate because I like all of my teammates. I joke around with everyone. But I kind of get along with Stefan Todorovic a little bit quicker because he’s from Europe and I’m from Europe so when I first came I had to stay in his place for the first day. He knew some Turkish words so he was saying them to me and I was like, “oh you know that?” and we kind of gelled really quick. He was playing the shooting guard and I was playing the big so I was the one setting the picks for him to shoot. So I would mess with him and say, “if you talk to me rude then I’m not setting the pick for you and no shooting today” [laughs]. So that’s how we joke around and we get along together. Yeah, I get along with everyone. I got along with Nate [Bittle] because he’s the other big and we shared the court at the same time. So I needed to know what’s in his head, what he’s going to do or what he’s not going to do. I got along with Nate, Stefan, Milos [Uzan] because I had to run the play with him. Yeah, I got along with everyone real quick.
PI: Mo Gueye mentioned he beats you at 2K, is that true?
AB: Oh, hell no! Mouhamed cannot beat me on any video game, any video game! Just because one time I lost to him on FIFA and he can’t shut up about the game and tells everyone he kicked my ass on FIFA. That’s the only time I’ve lost to him in a video game [smiles].
PI: One of the top-rated 2022 forwards M.J. Rice recently joined Prolific Prep — how excited are you to play with him?
AB: So I haven’t played against him, but I have worked out with him twice and I really liked him. He’s a really hard worker, he’s dedicated and does his things at a high level. He’s a really good guy, he has crazy energy. He’s the kind of player I like. I go into the game with crazy energy, so I want someone like that by my side. I don’t want to be the only crazy guy on the team, so I need another crazy guy with me [laughs]. He’s a high energy guy, so I really like him.
PI: What has your AAU experience with We All Can Go been like?
AB: So this is my first time playing AAU. To be honest at first I didn’t like it because I’m the type of player who wants to play defense and lock you down. I’m the kind of guy who wants my man to make zero points in the game. I’m like, “yeah I’m going to block out my guy so he has zero points. Maybe even have 10 blocks.” That's the thing I do, like, “hey my man had zero points today, what are you going to do?” So I walked in and everybody was walking back on defense and I was like, “damn what is going on?! Let’s play some defense!” So as I kept playing I understood that this is not a defensive game, it’s more offensive. I kind of enjoy it, I’m at the late stage, so I’m kind of understanding what’s going on, it’s just an offensive game [shrugs]. As of late, I’ve been enjoying it and having more fun with my teammates. It’s more about offense, that’s how I see the AAU stuff.
PI: What advice would you share with other international prospects looking to come to the US to play high school basketball?
AB: One thing I would say to them is that playing in the United States is going to be one of the best things to ever happen to them. Before I came here I was discouraged by so many people. Everyone was like, “if you go to the States, there’s going to be so many guys just like you. Athletic as you, fast as you, strong as you, built like you…” but I don’t think that’s true. Every human being has unique stuff in them. There’s probably someone as fast as me or as strong as me, but there’s no one that has all of the qualities that I have. Everyone is built differently. So don’t think that there’s someone just like you. You can come here, build your game, and learn the game at the highest level. I know the United States has the highest level of basketball in the world. So if you have the opportunity to play basketball at the highest level of the world then you should do it and don’t think about it twice.
PI: For those that aren’t super familiar with your game — what are your greatest strengths on the court?
AB: Most likely my strength, my speed, my athleticism...I’m kind of a vocal dude, I talk all of the time, I yell at my teammates, I’m kind of vocal. Everyone says I have a high motor, so probably my motor and my energy. Yeah, that’s it.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most?
AB: I probably need to improve my shooting, also a little bit of positioning because most of the time I only stay lower than the rim and I’ve got to stay a little bit higher with everything. My positioning and shooting is stuff I need to focus on right now.
PI: What are some underrated parts of your game you feel you don’t get enough credit for?
AB: I think people underrated my passing because I’ve been throwing dimes from the low post. My passing is underrated and only I know that...well my teammates also know that because I’ve been giving them the passes [laughs].
PI: Who have been the toughest matchups you’ve ever faced?
AB: Yeah I’ve faced two guys…I don’t think one was a matchup, but the other dude was my teammate so we’d always go at it in practice. It was my national teammate in Turkey Alperen Sengun, he’s probably going to the draft this year. He’s a really talented dude, I’ve played with him for like two years now. In practice, we used to go head-to-head and he’s really good. So I think he’s the toughest dude I’ve played in practice, because I haven’t played him in games. My toughest opponent is probably going to be Paolo [Banchero]. We played him in The Grind Session and it was a crazy game against him.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player and as a person?
AB: First of all I want to be a responsible young man, it’s not going to be all about basketball. It comes down to how responsible and mature you are about everything, it’s not all about basketball. My short term goal is to play in college. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I want to play in college. I want to play in one of the highest levels of basketball. College, after the NBA, is one of the highest levels of basketball, so I would love to play in college. But everyone knows the end goal is to be a professional player in the NBA. To play a long time in the NBA, not just one or two years, I want to be a long time NBA player. So that’s my end goal.
PI: How about long term?
AB: So there’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid. If I get successful I want to make a school in Africa where I can help other kids like me that didn’t have the opportunity to go to a better school and learn. They don’t know much about sports, like they don’t do sports. Every kid in the United States has one sport as something to do, but kids in Africa we don’t do anything, we’re all in the streets just trying to survive. So I’d like to make a school and help all of the kids just like me get into better things. So right now I’m joining a non-profit program where we try to get people to donate shoes to us and we send them to Africa [TimeOut4Africa.com] . So I haven’t joined quite yet, but I’m trying to contact some guys to do that. I’m trying to join them to help promote their program and help send shoes to Africa to help all of the kids that play basketball and help them provide the basic necessities of basketball. So that’s kind of my goal, right now.
PI: What are some things you bring to a team off the court?
AB: I’m kind of the chill guy off the court. I’m the guy that brings your team together and talks to them. I always try to lead the team, so I’m not going to say that I’m the best guy that leads the team because sometimes I go off. In the game I can go off and go crazy, but I try my best to bring the team together and lead the team towards the right way and try to do things the right way.
PI: What’s the latest with your recruitment?
AB: I have been talking to so many coaches and so many colleges. It has been going well, but there have been a lot of coaches.
PI: Who have you been hearing from the most lately?
AB: I’ve been talking to so many coaches, it’s not just like who is the most, it’s just like who has been talking to me. I’ve talked to USC, Missouri, Arizona State, Kentucky, BYU, Notre Dame…yeah I’ve been talking to so many I don’t remember their names.
PI: What’s your general timeline for making a college decision?
AB: So I’m staying in high school for one more year. So I don’t know when, I don’t know anything right now about my decision. I’m trying to get to know as many colleges as I can and trying to make the right decision for myself of where I can play and improve myself as a person, not only in basketball. Yeah so that’s where it is now.
PI: Did you consider re-classifying to 2021?
AB: Yes at one point I considered re-classifying to 2021, but I think right now it’s off my mind and I’ve decided to stay in high school for one more year.
PI: What led to the decision to stay in the class of 2022?
AB: So I felt like going to college was going to help me with my development because I was going to train with high-level players, college coaches, and have access to the basketball gym and weight room. But I felt like staying in high school, it’s going to help me prove to the college coaches that I can do more different things than just running, posting up, using my athleticism. I want to show to the coaches my other skills they haven’t seen. Like all of the things I’ve not been doing on the court because I didn’t have opportunities to do them this year at Prolific. So I want to stay one more year to show them all of the parts of me they haven’t seen. Yeah, that’s why I decided to stay.
PI: What are schools trying to pitch to you?
AB: Most of them are pitching me about how I’m going to improve by playing at a high level. Everyone says the same thing…some say different things, they’ll get into it and try to explain how I’m going to fit well with the team, how I’m going to play, and how my abilities are going to help the team out. That’s how it’s been, but I think the experience has been great for me because the coaches show me my faults, where I need to improve and focus on more. It’s helped me a lot, I’ve seen what I need to do and now I need to stay in high school and do them and get better and get well-prepared for college.