Through the coach’s eyes: Wumi Agunbiade on Women’s Basketball

Women’s Basketball assistant coach believes Queen’s has something special 

Lireesa Gokhool-Jefferson and Wumi Agunbiade.
Supplied by James Paddle Grant
In 2021, Women’s Basketball welcomed Claire Meadows and Wumi Agunbiade to the coaching staff. Since then, the team’s success has rocked the province and nation. 
In an interview with The Journal, Agunbiade was quick to mention the great team they inherited. However, her own skill as a player and now coach, cannot be overlooked. 
Agunbiade attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and is the only player in Duquesne history to score 1,700 points and record 900 rebounds in their career. Her basketball excellence continued post-graduation when she moved to Europe to play professionally. Even after retiring as a player, she stayed involved and started coaching. 
Now at Queen’s, Agunbiade told The Journal her “main role is to fill gaps and help push the program forward.” 
“I think I bring a level of perspective that allows me to connect with the student athlete through their eyes because I was once in their shoes. With every single player on the team, for example, I have a specific handshake with them and that right there builds connectedness.”
She’s focused on building connection, community, and unity on the team.
“I love that I get to work with really good people and help them in their journeys of being their greatest selves,” she said. 
In the past two years, Women’s Basketball has also welcomed the first Black players in the history of the program. Although it’s upsetting and frankly inexcusable it has taken so long, Agunbiade sees the recent diversity shift and her hiring as an opportunity. 
“With myself coming on board that was a way in which there’s been a rewiring,” she said. 
“And with Lireesa [Gokhool-Jefferson] onboard and with the other BIPOC individuals, there was an intent that was set out that was we are looking for good basketball players and good people. If there happens to be one that is green, or yellow, or purple, or whatever the case may be, and they fit our criteria then great, let’s begin this recruiting process.”
“It’s a very traditional school and with tradition sometimes there needs to be a little bit of unravelling to create new traditions and new ways.”
Women’s Basketball is disrupting the national perception of the Queen’s program with their recent success and it’s time campus culture started getting disrupted, too. 
“There’s been years of Queen’s being, looking, and feeling a certain way, but with a little bit more awareness and intent, I think we can develop and move fittings forward,” Agunbiade said.
“It will take some more time for the program to look different and it will continue to evolve with time—and so will the university—so we just happen to be in a point in time within the journey.”
As Women’s Basketball embarks on a journey of their own for a national championship, they are relying on mindset and belief to make it happen. 
“Call us crazy, but we really did believe we could become a national contending team, and with that type of belief—when you truly believe it and not just say it—and you practice like it and you work like you are a national contending team, it does something to our psyche,” Agunbiade said. 
“A fair amount of our success came from an unwavering belief in the fact that we have something special, and we can do something special. And that belief, really did translate to each of the players.”
Some may call it greedy, but why not win, and why not us. I don’t see a reason why we can’t do all the things we set out to do.”
Agunbiade hopes this excitement and success will reflect all over campus.
“I think sports is a great way for people to come together,” she said. 
“I would love for our game and the excitement and enthusiasm that we bring surrounding the game to create a ripple around campus.”

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