Freshman wing Elizabeth Balogun eager to learn, listen, show all of her skills for Georgia Tech
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Elizabeth Balogun has wide-reaching skills. Just how wide can be seen in a photo, where she’s holding her arms at 90 degrees, while palming a basketball in each hand.
“I just do it to take pictures,” said the 6-1 wing from Lagos, Nigeria, with a laugh. “I don’t really like doing it. For that picture I did it.”
Balogun would rather show the multiple other things she can do with one ball in her hands, especially her shooting skill, especially from the perimeter.
“I think I shoot the ball really well, like the three’s,” said Balogun, who starred at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn. “I’m real excited to play in the ACC. I’m looking forward to playing a lot of teams, so I’m extremely excited to play in the ACC.”
Balogun started playing basketball early in her life as her dad was a basketball coach. She remembers picking up a ball around age two or three and knew she was good at it by around age 10.
“I played with the boys so I kind of knew because I could get buckets on the boys,” she recalled. “So I kind of knew, ‘I think I’m pretty good.’”
Basketball proved a much more favorable athletic outlet than field hockey, the first sport she ever played.
“My aunt used to play and she’d take me to practice every time,” she said. “I realized it was not for me because there was a lot of bending down, a lot of running while bending down. So I was like, ‘Uh-uh, this is not for me.’”
Balogun found that what was for her and much more fun was standing tall. Three years later she came to the United States to attend Hamilton Heights.
After leading the Hawks to the championship game of the Dick’s High School Nationals as a junior, averaging 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, she finished strong as a senior stuffing the stat sheet, going for 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game and helped the Hawks fly to a 26-3 record and a trip to the GEICO Nationals finals. She was named to the American Family Insurance All-USA Tennessee Girls Basketball first team and was the Player of the Year. She also was a Naismith Trophy National High School All-American.
On Nov. 18, 2017, she signed a letter of intent to attend Georgia Tech, joining Hamilton Heights teammate, 6-5 forward Elizabeth Dixon, and was the centerpiece of a recruiting class ranked seventh in the country according to Prospects Nation.
“Liz is an elite athlete that has size, athleticism, and most importantly, the work ethic to be an impact player in the ACC,” said Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph. “She is a versatile guard that can change the game on both ends.”
The No. 12 recruit in the nation according to Blue Star (Prospect Nation ranked her No. 17), Balogun showed some of what she could do over at the 17th annual McDonald’s All American Game on March 28 at Philips Arena.
“It was great. It was fun,” said Balogun, who scored three points on 1-for-3 shooting, (1-for-1 from three) with a steal in 14 minutes for the West team, which also had Dixon, in its 82-79 win. “It’s hard to explain. It was something I wanted, so I took advantage of the moment. It was a great experience.”
Another great experience came a month later, as Balogun, who modeled her game after high-scoring wings Russell Westbrook and Jimmy Butler, met Michael Jordan, at The Jordan Brand Classic – where she played at this year’s event on April 8 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn — and even got to talk with him.
“It was just a great moment,” she recalled. “It was crazy. I was like, ‘Wow, this is Michael Jordan. This is the best player of all time.’ I was speechless.”
She eventually did get a couple of questions out.
“I asked him, what it takes to be as great as him,’” she said. “He was like, ‘Listen, work hard and never feel like you’re there yet.’ Always be willing to learn. Don’t accept that you’re good. You have to want to be great. You’re not going to be great unless you keep learning. Learn and learn and learn as much as you can. Just keep learning. That was the key — learn and listen.”
This summer she has been learning and listening from Joseph.
“She’s a cool lady. She’s a real person,” said Balogun. “She’s a really patient coach. She’s taking the time to teach us everything. She helps me on the side a lot.”
A business major, Liz also has started learning and listening on the academic side, taking summer classes in history and English.
“Right now I have sort of an idea academic-wise how things are going to be, how hard it’s going to be,” she said. “So it’s really helpful.”
While Liz passed on the opportunity to play with the Nigerian National Team, she did get the opportunity to go back home for three weeks to see her family.
“The last time I was home I was 13. I’m really excited to go back home,” she said. “My stepsister and my stepbrother will be there and my dad’s wife. They’re really excited for me to come back home.”
Once she returns to Atlanta, there’s the anticipation of getting to be around her new family — her Yellow Jackets teammates and that relationship already is off to a great start.
“Everybody likes everybody. Workouts have been great. We’ve been working out real hard. Everybody’s just being real nice. They took me in kind of like a sister,” she said. “I feel like now, me coming in as a freshman and me getting to know all the freshmen, it’s new but I don’t feel like it’s new to me because everybody is cool. I feel like I’ve known them forever.”