The Unique Journey Of Temi Fagbenle

Mitchell Hansen
Web Editorial Associate

Temi Fagbenle certainly has had a unique journey leading up to arriving to the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx.

A journey that includes being a native of three countries, having the goal of going pro in a sport other than basketball, and earning an undergraduate and master’s degree at two universities.

But here she is in the present day, at training camp fighting for her spot with the Lynx in the WNBA.

Around The World

Fagbenle’s journey began in the United States, being born in Baltimore on September 8, 1992.

She went on to live a majority of her life in London, England. Presently, most of her family, which includes her parents Buki and Tunde and her 11 siblings, reside in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Technically, being a native of all three countries, she can call anywhere home.

“Now, at this point after living in the states for like nine-plus years, I don’t know. I can call either of those places home,” Fagbenle said. “Most of my family are in London, so I regard that place primarily as home.”

Traveling to various places around the world throughout her life has also taught Fagbenle more than the sports world ever could.

“Just the simple act of traveling to different places gives one a perspective on life and other cultures and other ways of thinking,” she said. “You realize that there are other people in this world with other views and your view is not the only one and not the only right one.”

Choosing Basketball

Growing up, basketball wasn’t the first choice for Fagbenle. In fact, she didn’t even start playing basketball until she was a teenager.

“I was playing tennis before that in London. Private training gets a bit expensive and I wanted to do it a lot, because I wanted to be a pro,” she said. “It didn’t come to be, so I decided to move to basketball and it came really quickly to me. I didn’t enjoy it, to be honest. It wasn’t my first love, but I’m growing to love it each and every day.”

Fagbenle began playing basketball at the age of 14. From that point on, she’s chosen to wear No. 14 to signify the first time she started playing the sport she continues to enjoy playing today.

“That’s my number,” she said. “I picked it because of that.”

Fagbenle’s love for the game of basketball eventually brought her to Harvard University, where she played three seasons for the Crimson while also earning an undergraduate degree in anthropology.

With one season of college basketball eligibility left, Fagbenle decided to transfer to USC for her senior season, where she also wanted to peruse a master’s degree in strategic public relations.

“I went to LA because it was warm,” she said while laughing. “Going from Harvard to LA, I kind of needed to change it up and get some sunshine in my life. That really worked out well.”

After finishing up the 2015-16 season at USC, Fagbenle made an important decision involving both basketball and education.

After learning she was drafted in the third round of the 2016 WNBA Draft by the Lynx, she decided to take a year off from basketball to finish up her master’s degree at USC.

“Then and now, I knew it was the best decision for me,” she said. “Basketball has a shelf life and I thought if I can finish my education right now, just take a year off and that’s just a short period of time in the grand scheme of things. I got it done and continued to play basketball and that was great. I’m able to do this now, so hopefully I can make the most out of this situation.

“After basketball, I want to do a whole bunch of things. Currently and in the future. I love to act, I love to sing, but we’ll see where this takes me.”

‘Can’t Stop Fighting’

The 24-year-old arrived in Minnesota on Sunday to take part in training camp and fight for a spot on the Lynx roster.

Playing probably the most basketball since her senior season a year earlier at USC, Fagbenle said she got off to a slow start but has since gotten in a groove at camp.

“I think I started a little bit rusty, but I’m picking things up quickly as I tend to do and have always done. I’m getting there,” she said. “I know my capabilities, and for me not to be showing that on the court right now and what I can do, it’s a little bit frustrating. But I can’t stop fighting and I have to keep working at it.”

Fagbenle’s journey to the WNBA and to training camp with the Lynx has certainly been unique and one filled with multiple obstacles. But as she says, she is going to keep fighting. Just as she’s done her entire life.

“These women are at their prime. . . I love being in this high competitive environment. I’m just learning so much from the coaches as well as the players. It’s fantastic,” Fagbenle said. “I get a bit hard on myself on the court like right now in training camp. . . It’s good. It’s good to fight, you can’t stop fighting.”