Daniel Daudu remembered

Even after graduating from the University of Indianapolis in 2015, Omokhoje “Daniel” Daudu was no stranger to campus. He only lived a few blocks away, so he continued to work out in the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center weight room, attend the men’s basketball games and visit Head Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Gouard and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Suzanne Willey, among others. Willey described Daudu as “a positive light with whoever he was interacting with” and said that he touched many lives during his time at UIndy.

On Oct. 27, driving southbound on I-65 on his way to work, a large part of the rear of a semi driving north broke off and struck his car. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Daudu was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but came to the United States when he was 15 so he could eventually play college basketball, according to Gouard. He played for the national teams in Nigeria before moving to Carbondale, Ill., in 2008 to have a better chance of playing college basketball. Daudu finished his junior and senior years of high school at Brehm Preparatory School, playing for its basketball team and living with a host family, according to the UIndy Athletics website. Gouard’s wife is from Carbondale, so he was able to ask around about Daudu, who passed every test, Gouard said.

“. . . At the time, the head coach at SIU [Southern Illinois University] Carbondale was Chris Lowery, and he was a good friend of mine,” Gouard said. “And when I called him and asked him about Daniel, he thought he [Daudu] was a really good player and person. So my question to Chris was, ‘Do I take him?’ And he [Lowery] said, ‘It’s a no-brainer.’”

Daudu came on an official college visit shortly thereafter and decided to attend UIndy, according to Gouard. While he attended UIndy, Daudu played for the men’s basketball team for three seasons, one of which he was redshirted with an injury. In addition to basketball, he was an avid soccer player, Gouard said, which helped him perform better on the court.

Daudu was also a loyal teammate, supporting the team even after he could no longer play, according to Willey. He also pushed his teammates and himself to be better.

“He was an awesome teammate because of how hard he worked and pushed,” Gouard said. “I thought he was a great leader because he always found a way to get the best out of everybody. You’d see him on the sidelines sometimes after practice talking to a teammate about ways of getting better. I remember his freshman year, he was the one guy who was here every morning [at] about 6:00 in the morning, shooting shots, just trying to get himself better and make himself better. He was truly, in my eyes, a role-model to many that knew him and an inspiration in my life.”

Daudu spent a lot of time with his teammates off the court as well, including over some holidays. Gouard and his wife used to host the team for Thanksgiving. During Daudu’s freshman year, he disappeared after eating and chatting with the team and the Gouards.

“So I go outside and look for him,” Gouard said. “I thought he had left, but his car was still outside. So I asked everybody where Daniel is, and, come to find out, Daniel’s upstairs in one of my good bedrooms sleeping. He went upstairs and took a nap. He woke up a couple [of] hours later, and he ate again and went back and took another nap. I think from that day my wife fell in love with him because, you know how it is going to someone’s house for the first time, and my wife told everybody to make themselves at home, and he made himself at home.”

Gouard said he and Daudu had a lot of heart-to-heart talks about family. Family meant a lot to Daudu, according to Gouard, and that was something the two had in common.

“He always talked about moving his family over to the states, and he did that before he passed away,” Gouard said. “He moved two of his brothers over here. Just those conversations about his family…he’d come in sometimes and just close the door and pour his heart out to me about what he wanted to do. I remember when his mom passed, he came to my office, and we sat there. We talked together, we cried together, and we figured out a way to get him home, back to Nigeria, for his mom’s funeral…. He always, always came in and thanked me for everything and for anything. He was just the type of guy that never met a stranger, smile on his face, and was extremely grateful for every little thing that he had.”

Daudu and Willey also spoke frequently, after basketball games and whenever he would drop by the Athletics office. Willey said his openness to communication helped him to connect with others, including her, and that she was always happy to see him whenever he stopped in.

“Different student athletes stick out, and so I have different relationships [with them],” Willey said. “I may not have much of a relationship with a lot. With him, I don’t know why it was, but we just connected. He was one of those special ones…. He was a favorite of mine. I would go out of my way to see him after a game. So he was one of the special ones.”

Daudu also left an impression on his professors. Associate Professor of Business Steve Maple had Daudu in his business law class during Daudu’s sophomore year. Despite only having him for one class, Maple remembers Daudu as always having a smile on his face.

“Daniel was really a nice guy, one that seemed to always be cheerful, not only in the classroom,” Maple said. “The time he was in my classroom, he was not playing basketball because he had an injury, I think his leg or something. But even when I met him, when he was playing basketball, and even after when I would run into him on occasion at a basketball game, [he was] just full of life, nice smile, friendly.”

Gouard and Willey said they rarely saw Daudu without a smile and never heard anyone say a negative word toward him. They are both grateful that he chose to attend UIndy. Daudu recruited other students he knew from Nigeria to UIndy, and his commitment to the school and to his role as a student athlete stood out for both Willey and Gouard.

“I think he tried to do everything to the best of his ability,” Willey said. “His stature—when you looked at him you wouldn’t say, ‘oh, you look like a basketball player,’ because he wasn’t that tall. But he was very quick and just led by example. What we talk about, actually beyond what we talk about [about] student athletes at UIndy, that academically they succeed, that they represent in a positive manner, he did all of that and just was so conscientious.…I thought, ‘This kid’s going to go places.’”

Willey said that every interaction she had with Daudu was special, and that it will be tough to adjust to not seeing him every few weeks.

“Anyone who would meet him or interact with him would be enriched, and those people who knew him loved him,” Willey said, and began to tear up. “He was just an outstanding young person that had so much to live for…it’s hard. That’s great when somebody makes an impact in your life, [but] really hard with loss, but…I am better because of knowing Daniel Daudu.”

Even after graduating from the University of Indianapolis in 2015, Omokhoje “Daniel” Daudu was no stranger to campus. He only lived a few blocks away, so he continued to work out in the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center weight room, attend the men’s basketball games and visit Head Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Gouard and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Suzanne Willey, among others. Willey described Daudu as “a positive light with whoever he was interacting with” and said that he touched many lives during his time at UIndy.

On Oct. 27, driving southbound on I-65 on his way to work, a large part of the rear of a semi driving north broke off and struck his car. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Daudu was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but came to the United States when he was 15 so he could eventually play college basketball, according to Gouard. He played for the national teams in Nigeria before moving to Carbondale, Ill., in 2008 to have a better chance of playing college basketball. Daudu finished his junior and senior years of high school at Brehm Preparatory School, playing for its basketball team and living with a host family, according to the UIndy Athletics website. Gouard’s wife is from Carbondale, so he was able to ask around about Daudu, who passed every test, Gouard said.

“. . . At the time, the head coach at SIU [Southern Illinois University] Carbondale was Chris Lowery, and he was a good friend of mine,” Gouard said. “And when I called him and asked him about Daniel, he thought he [Daudu] was a really good player and person. So my question to Chris was, ‘Do I take him?’ And he [Lowery] said, ‘It’s a no-brainer.’”

Daudu came on an official college visit shortly thereafter and decided to attend UIndy, according to Gouard. While he attended UIndy, Daudu played for the men’s basketball team for three seasons, one of which he was redshirted with an injury. In addition to basketball, he was an avid soccer player, Gouard said, which helped him perform better on the court.

Daudu was also a loyal teammate, supporting the team even after he could no longer play, according to Willey. He also pushed his teammates and himself to be better.

“He was an awesome teammate because of how hard he worked and pushed,” Gouard said. “I thought he was a great leader because he always found a way to get the best out of everybody. You’d see him on the sidelines sometimes after practice talking to a teammate about ways of getting better. I remember his freshman year, he was the one guy who was here every morning [at] about 6:00 in the morning, shooting shots, just trying to get himself better and make himself better. He was truly, in my eyes, a role-model to many that knew him and an inspiration in my life.”

Daudu spent a lot of time with his teammates off the court as well, including over some holidays. Gouard and his wife used to host the team for Thanksgiving. During Daudu’s freshman year, he disappeared after eating and chatting with the team and the Gouards.

“So I go outside and look for him,” Gouard said. “I thought he had left, but his car was still outside. So I asked everybody where Daniel is, and, come to find out, Daniel’s upstairs in one of my good bedrooms sleeping. He went upstairs and took a nap. He woke up a couple [of] hours later, and he ate again and went back and took another nap. I think from that day my wife fell in love with him because, you know how it is going to someone’s house for the first time, and my wife told everybody to make themselves at home, and he made himself at home.”

Gouard said he and Daudu had a lot of heart-to-heart talks about family. Family meant a lot to Daudu, according to Gouard, and that was something the two had in common.

“He always talked about moving his family over to the states, and he did that before he passed away,” Gouard said. “He moved two of his brothers over here. Just those conversations about his family…he’d come in sometimes and just close the door and pour his heart out to me about what he wanted to do. I remember when his mom passed, he came to my office, and we sat there. We talked together, we cried together, and we figured out a way to get him home, back to Nigeria, for his mom’s funeral…. He always, always came in and thanked me for everything and for anything. He was just the type of guy that never met a stranger, smile on his face, and was extremely grateful for every little thing that he had.”

Daudu and Willey also spoke frequently, after basketball games and whenever he would drop by the Athletics office. Willey said his openness to communication helped him to connect with others, including her, and that she was always happy to see him whenever he stopped in.

“Different student athletes stick out, and so I have different relationships [with them],” Willey said. “I may not have much of a relationship with a lot. With him, I don’t know why it was, but we just connected. He was one of those special ones…. He was a favorite of mine. I would go out of my way to see him after a game. So he was one of the special ones.”

Daudu also left an impression on his professors. Associate Professor of Business Steve Maple had Daudu in his business law class during Daudu’s sophomore year. Despite only having him for one class, Maple remembers Daudu as always having a smile on his face.

“Daniel was really a nice guy, one that seemed to always be cheerful, not only in the classroom,” Maple said. “The time he was in my classroom, he was not playing basketball because he had an injury, I think his leg or something. But even when I met him, when he was playing basketball, and even after when I would run into him on occasion at a basketball game, [he was] just full of life, nice smile, friendly.”

Gouard and Willey said they rarely saw Daudu without a smile and never heard anyone say a negative word toward him. They are both grateful that he chose to attend UIndy. Daudu recruited other students he knew from Nigeria to UIndy, and his commitment to the school and to his role as a student athlete stood out for both Willey and Gouard.

“I think he tried to do everything to the best of his ability,” Willey said. “His stature—when you looked at him you wouldn’t say, ‘oh, you look like a basketball player,’ because he wasn’t that tall. But he was very quick and just led by example. What we talk about, actually beyond what we talk about [about] student athletes at UIndy, that academically they succeed, that they represent in a positive manner, he did all of that and just was so conscientious.…I thought, ‘This kid’s going to go places.’”

Willey said that every interaction she had with Daudu was special, and that it will be tough to adjust to not seeing him every few weeks.

“Anyone who would meet him or interact with him would be enriched, and those people who knew him loved him,” Willey said, and began to tear up. “He was just an outstanding young person that had so much to live for…it’s hard. That’s great when somebody makes an impact in your life, [but] really hard with loss, but…I am better because of knowing Daniel Daudu.”