New Mac assistant coach anticipates opening-night jitters

Sheu Oduniyi
Sheu Oduniyi Photo by Charles Hallman

Macalester College begins its 2018-19 women’s basketball season Thursday, Nov. 8, at home against Bethany Lutheran College.

It also is opening night for Sheu Oduniyi, who this summer was hired as Mac’s assistant women’s basketball coach, his first collegiate coaching position after three seasons as boys’ junior varsity basketball coach and assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach at Minneapolis South High School, his alma mater.

“I sat down a couple of times and really reflected on not necessarily [Thursday’s] opener, but my journey as somebody in basketball,” Oduniyi earlier told the MSR before a practice. The Minneapolis native was part of a resurgence of South boys’ basketball in the late 1990s as an all-conference prep scoring guard, then later in college where he was a member of Portland State’s first league title in 2005. He graduated there a year later with a social science degree.

Oduniyi also played professionally overseas. Then, while pursuing and earning an MBA from Lynn University, he worked three seasons for the NBA’s Miami Heat in game day operations and as an intern and assistant coach at Elev8 Sport Institute Basketball Academy in Florida.

“I think my love for the game has transcended on different levels. It has taken a lot of different turns that I never expected,” Oduniyi admitted. This also included coaching college women hoops for the first time.

“I was recommended for the position,” he noted. “The basketball community likes the work that I did. Word spread, and it got here to Mac, and they reached out. I gladly accepted.”

Macalester over the years has had fleeting levels of success, but they are not often discussed as MIAC perennial contenders. “We’re making progress,” Oduniyi said on pre-season preparation.

“Coming from playing at Division I Portland State and my time with the Miami Heat, I got to see a basketball-centered environment,” he explained. “Here at Mac [a Division III school], it’s the opposite.”

The school is in the nation’s top 25 among the best Division II/III colleges for student-athletes. “It’s refreshing,” said Oduniyi of the environment. “Student-athletes actually are student-athletes and looking to broaden their horizons. They push themselves on the court as well as off the court. Academics is why they are here.”

Opening night, whether it’s a stage play or a sporting contest, can be butterflies-inducing to the participants whether they’re on the court or on the sidelines. Oduniyi doesn’t expect Macalester’s season opener on Thursday at Leonard Center to be any different.

But he said his first-time as an assistant coaching South girls’ badminton last spring has given him a fresh perspective, especially in relating to today’s generation of players. “Working with the young ladies there and with women here I think will make me overall a better coach, not necessarily a women’s coach,” he stated. “My level of preparation and attention to detail is a lot more intense at the college level. It’s something that I like, something I love.”

He predicts that opening-night jitters will be there in his first game as a college coach on Thursday. “Coming out and being on the floor, I think I will have to be reined in a little bit because the intensity is going to be there similar to playing,” he told us. “I think after those first minutes [of the game], the adrenaline [will be high]. I will be able to calm down and collect my thoughts.”