Sitting, waiting pays off for Oklahoma's Abi Olajuwon

BY JENNI CARLSON, STAFF WRITER, JCARLSON@OPUBCO.COM Modified: March 21, 2010 at 12:12 am •  Published: March 21, 2010

Sh
e doesn’t put too many expectations on herself.

"She’s been raised well.”

For that, Olajuwon had a network of support.

Her mom has been a strong female role model. Now a features producer for "Dr. Phil”, Lita Richardson has also produced and directed movies, owned a talent management company, and represented actors and actresses. Still, she found time to drive Abi to practice or games.

Her step-dad has been an encourager. Leonard Richardson goes running with Abi when she’s home on break and doesn’t want to go. He shoots with her and rebounds for her. He sends her text messages all the time, even during games.

And her great-grandmother has been a constant. The woman who everyone knows simply as Granny lived in the same house or just next door throughout Abi’s childhood. She was there when everyone else was working or traveling or chasing a dream.

Now, Olajuwon is chasing hers, and her family couldn’t be prouder.

"Obviously, things don’t always go her way, but I think that’s when you grow and that’s when you develop your character when you dig in and hang in there,” her mom said. "That makes us all very proud to have her in our lives, to say she’s our Abi.

"I’ve always laughed and said she had an entourage that adores her and would follow her to the ends of the earth.”

Tonight, that means watching OU’s opener in the NCAA Tournament. Her mom will be at the Lloyd Noble Center. Her step-dad and Granny will be glued to the television in California. And her dad, well, his plans aren’t entirely known.

Hakeem has seen most of Abi’s games — she isn’t sure how he’s managed to lay hold of the video since he spends most of his time living overseas — but he has yet to see one of her college games in person.

"We’ve tried before in the past, and people have been really, really crazy,” Abi said. "At the end of the game, he couldn’t tell you the score, if I was in, what happened.”

Now there’s talk that Hakeem might be at the Lloyd Noble Center tonight.

"If he comes, it’ll definitely be impromptu,” Abi said. "It’ll be kept quiet. People will obviously notice because he’s 7-foot, but it’ll be one of those things where ... I’ll never tell anybody.”

Hakeem never attending one of her college games could be a sore subject. She lived through his memorable moments; why isn’t he part of any of hers?

Abi sees the positive, not the negative in the situation.

"It just shows how blessed he is that that many people love him,” she said. "People truly, truly adored him as an athlete.”

That was something she experienced firsthand. She saw the way fans cheered for him. She heard the way teammates talked about him. She will remember those things forever.

Yet, for all that Abi Olajuwon has already seen and done, nothing compares to this time in her life. The Norman years. The Sooner days.

"I’m not going to say every day was easy and there weren’t times where I wanted to leave,” she said. "I stayed, and I worked hard.

"I look back at this season and see I did all right.”

Turns out, no chapter in her life has been more interesting than the one she is still working to finish.

"I’m not going to say every day was easy and there weren’t times where I wanted to leave. I stayed, and I worked hard. I look back at this season and see I did all right.”

Abi Olajuwon
OU center


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