BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- Many of you know Charles Bassey as WKU’s highest-rated freshman to ever put on a Hilltopper jersey. He has dominated the NCAA through his first season as one of the premier big men in college basketball. Long before he even touched a basketball though, Bassey had dreams of dominating the soccer pitch.
The WKU center may have never stepped foot in Diddle Arena if it wasn’t for his original passion for the game of soccer. Bassey’s thirst for the Beautiful Game came at an early age in his home country of Nigeria. He developed a level of footwork in soccer that allowed him to transition to his current role as a post-player with ease.
Bassey said, “In soccer you focus so much on footwork, so bringing that into basketball was great. With a big man, you need to have good footwork so that transition was just easy.”
It was natural for Bassey to pick up the game of soccer. Nigeria is seen as a hotbed for soccer talent in Africa since they have been to six of the last seven World Cups. WKU’s Legend from Lagos would play soccer from sun up ‘til sun down with his friends until he joined an organized team when he was nine.
After a few years of playing organized soccer, Bassey began to separate himself from everyone with his height. It was then, that a local basketball coach took notice of his size, and tried to convince him that he was meant to play basketball. After pleading his case with Bassey’s parents and soccer coach, Bassey finally took his talent to the hardwood.
However, Bassey said that basketball wasn’t the natural fit that he was told it would be. He said, “I didn’t like it right away. I went to practice one time and didn’t come back for two weeks. The coach would even show up to my house, but I would keep sneaking away.”
Bassey was eventually convinced to come back and found that itch to play basketball. After persevering through the first couple of practices, Bassey became the prodigy that his coach prophesized to him. He would tell Bassey that he was learning skills in a day that took the rest of the team a week to learn.
Even though Bassey had a size advantage, his coach developed him with the ball in his hand. Before stepping foot in the post, Bassey worked on his ball-handling so he could lead the offense on the break. His added athleticism and versatility made the game too easy for Bassey. The Nigerian-native made a name for himself, and his Swiss Army Knife skill set brought him an opportunity to continue his basketball career in America.
The WKU freshman likes to stick to his roots and play soccer when he can. He tries to kick a soccer ball around when he can, but there isn’t that much competition around him. According to Bassey, there are a few WKU basketball players that can play soccer, but can’t compare to Bassey if they played him.
“It would be too easy, the rest of my team doesn’t want it. If you ask anyone on the team who the best soccer player is, they would say it’s me.”
(Nathan Yazdani contributed to this story)