Benet Academy basketball led by elite athletes and academics

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Many athletes who have played high school basketball in the local area have continued their careers at successful programs in conferences like the Big Ten, Big East, or even the Missouri Valley Conference to name a few. However, it’s not often we see these talented hoopers end up in the Ivy League or other schools with such high level academics. For Benet Academy boys basketball players Niko Abusara and Brayden Fagbemi, that is exactly the case. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Niko Abusara and Brayden Fagbemi heading to prestigious schools

Standing at 6’5”, Abusara has developed into one of the best all-around players in the state while Fagbemi has gone from a supporting role to becoming a terrific point guard this season. He and Abusara work very well together on the court, helping the Redwings to a 31-1 record so far. As the top-ranked team in class 4A in the state of Illinois, Benet just won a regional championship for a third straight season. But it’s not just about what they do in basketball, but also in the classroom, which has given them the chance to keep competing in college. Abusara will be playing in the Ivy League for Dartmouth College where he will study economics, while Fagbemi will be heading to Division III at Johns Hopkins University to be a pre-med major. 

“As an athlete, my body and how my body works has been of interest to me for a while. And then for choosing Johns Hopkins, it was just more the relationship I had with the coaches. I had a great relationship with coach Josh Loeffler and ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Loved hanging out with the team and it was a great place when I went,” said Fagbemi.

“When I went to go visit there, the coaches, the players, just like the staff overall, and the school overall just made me feel like home. I’m Serbian too. There’s two Serbian players on the team so I just have a great connection. And they really broke my game down as a point guard, which I really liked,” said Niko Abusara, forward for Benet Academy boys basketball.

Responsibilities for student athletes

That’s right. After playing forward and center this year for Benet, he will be moving to point guard for the Big Green, which shows how high level the Ivy League is. He will be the first Redwing under head coach Gene Heidkamp to join the conference. Ivy League schools and Johns Hopkins do not provide athletic scholarships, which shows how dedicated you need to be to your sport and to your studies in order to compete at these elite colleges.

“First of all, it’s quite an achievement itself to have a chance to go to those schools and play basketball at a high level. So, it takes a lot. It takes a lot throughout their high school years and obviously, it’s going to take a lot once they get there, but I’m very proud of the effort that they put into, first of all, in the classroom then on the court. They exemplify the best in high school student athletes,” said Gene Heidkamp, head coach of Benet Academy boys basketball.

Abusara and Fagbemi are hyped for their chances to attend such prestigious schools.

“I’m super excited. Just to be in front of that environment where I get to play against Harvard, Yale, Princeton every single year for the next four years of my life,” said Abusara.

“It means everything to me. The academic reputation they have already and then going to a very good school for basketball as well. It’s everything I’ve dreamed for,” said Fagbemi.

Still work to be done at Benet

Before they move on to the next chapters of their lives, the job is not finished for these two stars at Benet Academy.

“We have all the momentum right now. The regular season really brought us together where we’ve been down by bad teams, we’ve been up by a lot to good teams. So, just to win a state championship. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s what we want,” said Abusara.

When you think about Benet boys basketball, you think about greatness. You think about dominance, talent, culture, and brotherhood. You also think about all of the great players who have worn the red and white like Frank Kaminsky, Dave Sobolewski, Sean O’Mara, and current senior Brady Kunka. By proving they belong among these legendary names, the future could not be brighter for Niko Abusara and Brayden Fagbemi.