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Former UNC Basketball Star Ademola Okulaja Dies at 46

Former North Carolina basketball star Ademola Okulaja died at the age of 46 this week, according to The News & Observer.

Okulaja had been dealing with cancer on and off since 2008. His cause of death has not been reported. 

Okulaja was born in Nigeria and grew up in Germany. He played at UNC from 1995 to ’99 as a forward. During his tenure, the Tar Heels appeared in two Final Fours in the ’97 and ’98 seasons. 

In his senior season, he was named First-Team All-ACC and UNC’s Most Valuable Player. Additionally, he was the first player in Tar Heels basketball history to lead the team in scoring, rebounding, three-pointers made and steals in one season. In the 1998–99 season, he averaged 13.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He also shot 44.2% from the field and 43.1% for three-pointers.

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Following his career at UNC, Okulaja played for 10 years in Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia until 2009. He tried to join the NBA three separate times and had training-camp experiences with the 76ers, Spurs and Jazz. 

He played a major role on the German national basketball team, helping it to four European Championships in 1995, ’97, ’99 and 2001. The forward won bronze medals with the German national team at the ’02 and ’06 FIBA World Basketball Championships.

Some of Okulaja’s former UNC teammates posted Tuesday following the news of his death. Eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter played with Okulaja from 1995 to ’98 before being selected No. 5 in the ’98 NBA draft by the Raptors.

Okulaja, Carter and Antawn Jamison called themselves the Three Musketeers while at UNC.

Former UNC guard Terrence Newby played three seasons with Okulaja.