East Aurora senior Barakat Adekola has her grandmother to thank for a unique first name that helps her stand out. But as a three-sport athlete, Adekola’s talents in volleyball, basketball and track also bring her attention.
“She’s been a hugely impactful player, regardless whether she’s on the court or with her demeanor off it,” East Aurora coach Jennifer Wilson said. “Everything that carries her has been positive.”
Wilson, who’s in her sixth season coaching volleyball at her alma mater, promoted Adekola to the varsity as a sophomore. Adekola has played center on the basketball team since her freshman year for coach Lee Clayborn, and now focuses on the throws in track.
“She’s a great kid with a great attitude and just an unbelievable athlete,” Clayborn said of Adekola. “She’s very good in the classroom, works hard and is focused, and encourages her teammates a lot.”
She’s as special as her name.
“My parents were born and raised in Nigeria and I was born there as well,” said Adekola, the youngest of three sisters. “It means ‘blessing of God.’ I think it’s just a really sweet name.
“I haven’t met another one yet, which is pretty cool. People not only know me, but they know my name as well. They always want to know more about it.”
Her middle name — Adebisi — is unique as well. Her family’s shortened version of it is a nickname used by her friends. She’s called “Bisi,” pronounced Bee-see.
“People think it’s my initials and that my middle name must start with a C,” she said.
By any name, Adekola has been a strong player for Wilson, averaging 5.7 kills a match. East Aurora (7-24), the 17th seed, will meet 16th-seeded Plainfield South in Monday’s playoff opener at the Class 4A Benet Regional.
“It’s a challenge because kids at all these other schools are playing year-round,” Wilson said. “I have one player that plays club, and it makes it difficult because they’re getting so many more touches than we have the opportunity to.”
Adekola, who wants to play volleyball in college, played club in eighth grade but hasn’t in high school.
She has wondered what might have been had she continued in club, but coordinating it while playing basketball for the Tomcats was impactical.
“I couldn’t get rides,” she said. “But I wouldn’t trade my experiences these past four years for anything. I’ve met so many new girls and they’ve taught me so much.
“And these two teams are like my family. I do everything with these girls.”
Wilson moved her from middle to outside hitter this season “because I knew that she could put the ball down a little bit more from the angle. Plus, she’s an all-around player. It’s been beneficial to the team.”
Plainfield South won an earlier meeting with the Tomcats in three games. The winner advances to a Tuesday matchup against top-seeded Benet.
“I’d love to play Benet as well,” Adekola said. “It would be a challenge, but wouldn’t you want to go up against a challenge?”