Fareed Shittu was late to the game, but he isn't leaving basketball anytime soon

If you met Fareed Shittu, a forward and wing for the UBC men’s basketball team, at the beginning of grade 10, you may be surprised to meet a serious soccer player. He started playing club soccer in grade 8, then later tried out for his high school team and was one of the only grade 10s to make it.

But during his first game, Shittu broke his collarbone, forcing him to sit out and re-evaluate things.

“By the time that was done, basketball season was coming around for the next year. So then, I was going to the open gyms,” he said. “I wasn’t even really interested because there was many people.”

Shittu stopped going for a while because it got so busy, but his friend changed his mind.

“One of my friends told me the coach said ‘you have a chance of making the team, but you have to come to the open gyms.’”

In grade 11, he made the junior team and held his own, going on to win cities that year.

After his high school season, Shittu had offers from the University of Northern BC and MacEwan University, but ultimately chose UNBC. Two years later, he decided to come to UBC, joining the Sauder School of Business and the T-Birds.

Shittu came out to visit UBC in early 2023, and head coach Kevin Hanson took him on a tour and out for dinner during the visit. The next day was his first time playing with the team.

“It was really competitive,” Shittu said. “But it was good. It set a tone for where I want to be.”

He knew the team respected him and his talents from the get-go, making it the beginning of a smooth transition to the T-Birds.

Compared to a year ago, Shittu feels he has come a long way. This was his first season really expanding his role in the wing; he grew up being a power forward.

After only getting serious in grade 11, with “no skill really, just athleticism and height,” he said, he was put in the posts.

“I found myself wanting to shoot threes and dribble the ball,” he said. He has been working on these skills ever since he got serious about basketball and the wing position has allowed him to showcase them.

“I did surprise myself a little by how quickly I got comfortable here.” It shows. He led the team in defensive rebounds, and finished as the third highest scorer on the team.

“I did surprise myself a little by how quickly I got comfortable here,” he said.
“I did surprise myself a little by how quickly I got comfortable here,” he said. Zoe Wagner / The Ubyssey

Shittu has one more year of eligibility, making him eager to finish his classes during this final season. What comes next is a little up in the air.

“I think I am going to try to play professionally, if I can.”

He said that with so many options on the table, like going overseas or joining the Canadian Elite Basketball League, basketball will be part of his life for a while. He can also see himself specializing in business technology management, being a bridge between successful companies and technology.

Outside of practice and school, Shittu is a sucker for extreme sports and an avid cook. He reminisced about a summer spent on his friend’s large trampoline learning tricks. If he really wanted to, he could do a standing backflip right now.

Shittu really values nutrition, so he spends a lot of time meal prepping and experimenting in the kitchen. Recently, he has been learning more culinary techniques, going on to share insights on different ways to cook an egg.

He is the chef of his six-bedroom Walter Gage apartment. “Whenever it smells good they are like ‘oh, must be Fareed again.’”

“I cook a lot of African dishes,” he said. Jollof rice, originally from West Africa, was a dish that came to his mind, as he described the ginger, grilled peppers and thyme that go into the vibrant orange dish.

When talking about his Nigerian heritage, he mentioned his last trip was in 2018, but he plans to visit more consistently after he finishes his university career.

Looking back at his journey, Shittu reflected on what his 10-year-old self would think of him now.

“I think he’d be really shocked to see how far I have come and where I am at,” he said. “I think something else would be ‘how did you get so tall?!’”