Veronica Chika Iweanya is a bundle of joy to be with. Always smiling and full of excitement, the 24 years old shared some amazing stories about her life during an Instagram Live session. Presently based in Lille, Northern France, the Nigerian basketball star has come a long way in both career and sports.
After graduating with a First Class Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the prestigious Covenant University, Ota Ogun State, Nigeria, in 2017, she traveled to France for her Masters in 2019 and continued her love relationship with basketball. Standing at 183cm (6 feet), the Lagos born basketball player shared her love for the game. A game she developed a passion for due to the desire of players and coaches to help her develop the skills needed to excel in the sport.
A defining moment in her basketball career would be at the Giants of Africa International camp in 2018 where she was selected as part of the top 50 girls to attend its first-ever female camp in Nigeria. The Masai Ujiri initiative sponsored by Nike and the Toronto Raptors president brought top coaches from across the world who guided the campers on both basketball and life skills. She says that Masai would always tell the kids to Dream Big. But what stuck to her was the mantra «I am a Giant!» that was echoed throughout the camp. To date, she says she still says it as a mantra before every game, test, interview, etc.
On the ease of combining her studies and sporting activities, Veronica Chika Iweanya confessed how difficult it was for her to adapt initially. The French language was a serious hindrance to her getting settled. It was so difficult to settle down with her basketball team since all her classmates and teammates spoke in French. She was forced to learn French and her basketball coach quickly came to her rescue, devoting an hour before each training day for that purpose. ‘The amazing support system I found around me made me to easily adapt so quickly’
As she got a grip on the French language, things began to ease a bit and so did her performance on the basketball court. An added incentive was when she came in contact with Nigerian national basketball player Evelyn Akhator who coincidentally signed for French basketball side- Flammes Carolo. The Ardennes based team signed the exciting center forward in 2019. Veronica, whose ambition is to play for The D’Tigress, has since developed a professional relationship with Evelyn Akhator. She sees her as a mentor and a person who has paid her dues in the game.
Sports has gotten a fair share of racism and Veronica confirmed from her personal experience that she has been lucky not to experience it in France. Funny enough, during away games with her basketball team, (She found herself fouling out more often than when they play at home) fouls are called on her more often than when they play at home.
When asked about the contentious issue of equal pay between male and female athletes, she expressed her displeasure at the disparity because if female basketball players are expected to dunk for example, then they should be paid equally like their male counterparts. She sees no reason why male athletes should be paid higher, in as much as females even have to go through more difficult terrain in their career and sports.
On the plans by the French Government to ease lockdown beginning from on Monday the 11th of May, and the possibility of sporting activities returning to normal, Veronica expressed her candid view, saying she would have preferred the pandemic has cleared out completely before such moves are implemented. Sports like basketball are contact-based and the risk level is high, so it would be nice for safety reasons to ensure players don’t get exposed to such high risk.
It’s easy to name your favorite player, especially when that player has been a great role model for you. Evelyn Akhator is her favorite player (With her penchant for 10 points and 10 rebounds) each game, Veronica confessed that she greatly influenced her style of play as she also averaged double-doubles in her college career. She also mentioned her resiliency and mental toughness as key skills she admired from the Nigerian Basketball Star. while the Female national team of Nigeria- The D’Tigress remains her favorite team. She reminisced on stories of her during her undergraduate years, making her entire office where she interned watch a live D’Tigress game during office hours where Sarah Ogoke shot a three-pointer to win at the dying seconds of the Afrobasket tournament a few years ago!
Currently playing with Stade Roubaisien Basket that is competing in the French Federation of Basketball (FFBB), she joyfully shared the news about completing her master’s program at EDHEC Business School, Lille, France. The journey has not been easy, but in a message to her fans, she expressed optimism about achieving her goals to play with the female national team of Nigeria- The D’Tigress, a sentiment I echoed based on the fact that she has the potential to excel at the highest level in career and sports.
One amazing fact about this talented basketball star is that she would have opted for football if she hadn’t fallen for her first love. You may be wondering what position she would opt for in a football pitch. Defense, of course, was the response. Not difficult to figure out knowing attackers would be contending with a powerful 6 feet defense stalwart weighing at 67kg. Not the most exciting prospect for even the most ambitious attacker. For now, the love romance between Veronica and basketball continues. Tomorrow is filled with possibilities and hopefully one will get to see Veronica Chika Iweanya putting on the beautiful green white jersey of The D’Tigress!