Former UNC basketball star Ademola Okulaja dead at 46

Former North Carolina Tar Heels basketball star Ademola Okulaja died on Tuesday, the university confirmed.

A cause of death was not reported for the 46-year-old standout player.

“Carolina Basketball is saddened to learn of the recent, premature passing of Tar Heel forward Ademola Okulaja (1995-99) at age 46,” UNC wrote on Twitter.

The 6-foot-9 forward played with Vince Carter and Antwan Jamison under legendary coach Dean Smith from 1995 to 1999.

The three would lead UNC to two Final Fours, including in coach Smith’s final season.

“This is so painful…, we’re going to miss you my boy. RIP,” Carter wrote on Twitter.” “I’m praying for your kids and family. Without a doubt you have touched the lives of many with your kindness.”

Okulaja was a 1,000-point scorer in his Tar Heel days. He was given first team All-ACC honors and earned Most Valuable Player during his senior year.

Okulaja played professionally in Europe and led Germany in two FIBA World Cup tournaments, including in 2002 when he teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki to help Germany win bronze in Indianapolis.

Ademola Okulaja teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki in 2002 to help Germany win bronze in Indianapolis.
Ademola Okulaja teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki in 2002 to help Germany win bronze in Indianapolis.
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A cancerous tumor was found on Okulaja’s spine in 2008, putting an end to his basketball career.

Born in Nigeria, Okulaja’s family moved him to Germany when he was a toddler. He graduated high school in West Berlin before playing on a scholarship at North Carolina.

Okulaja’s leaves behind his wife, Michaela-Oretha Okulaja, and three sons.

Ademola Okulaja was a 1,000-point scorer and was given first team All-ACC honors.
Ademola Okulaja was a 1,000-point scorer and was given first team All-ACC honors.
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