The future of CNMI basketball is also the past of the islands’ rich basketball and volleyball traditions.
As 6’5” Antoni Ogumoro is the son of former CNMI national basketball team member Ambrose Ogumoro and his wife, former CNMI national volleyball team member, Mayumi Aguon.
Now, the 14-year-old, 220-lb phenom is making waves of his own after being ranked No. 11 overall among power forwards in the basketball-crazed state of North Carolina. He was also included in the CP3 Rising Stars lineup. CP3 of course refers to former Demon Decon Chris Paul of Wake Forest University.
Ogumoro is about to start his freshman year at White Oak High School and currently plays AAU ball for the Carolina Heights. Incidentally, according to his father, Carolina Heights is coached by two former North Carolina Tar Heels—Ed Cota and Julius Peppers. The former played professionally in Europe and earned numerous accolades during his time as a Tar Heel, while Peppers was only the No. 2 overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft for the Carolina Panthers.
In an email interview with the Saipan Tribune, Ogumoro said while he’s glad to be ranked 11th in the state, he just wants to work harder on his basketball game to improve more.
“The recognition feels good but I don’t like paying too much attention to rankings. I do appreciate that coaches and the media see that I’m putting in the work.”
He said his ultimate goal is to make it to the zenith of the sport—the NBA.
“My main dream as far as basketball is to continue to excel in the sport and make it to the next level. Being an incoming freshman and with basketball tryouts in November, my goal right now is to make it on the varsity basketball team. The ultimate goal is it to make it to the NBA as it is a dream of mine, but will take it one step at a time and if my path in the future leads me to play basketball professionally, then everything I’m working to improve on now will have paid off,” he said.
Ogumoro, who first pick up a basketball when he was 5 years old, also said it’ll be an honor to don the CNMI’s colors in the future.
“Knowing that both my parents played on the CNMI national team for their respective sports only gives me more motivation to represent my home island in the sport if an invitation is ever presented to me,” he said.
He also admitted that his parents remain his biggest inspiration.
“The stories they told when I was younger about how they were both aggressive and competitive players in their sports has helped me continue that same mentality in my game. They’ve made it easier for me to understand the little things you’ve got to do to not just be a better player and person on the court, but off the court as well… I chose to the play the sport of basketball because it was a fun team sport and my dad used to play it.”
Ogumoro said the strongest part of his game is his footwork and inside/outside moves, but admits that he needs to work on his ball handling and consistency with his perimeter shooting.
As an inspiration to athletes in the CNMI, Ogumoro has the following advice to the youth back home: “My advice would be that if you have a real passion for the sport, think beyond just playing in the islands because CNMI basketball does have talent it’s just are you willing to make the sacrifices and not be distracted by the little things to take your skills to the next level. Cancel out all your bad influences and just keep working.”
Ambrose and Mayumi are pretty proud of their son’s achievements in the basketball court. “While he doesn’t have any college offers at the moment, he is making a name for himself with a lot of coaches and media throughout the state,” said Ambrose.
He added in jest that while his AAU coaches have been pretty inspirational to Antoni’s journey, a former Duke player actually is his son’s favorite player.
“Both give him a lot of advice about the game and what to expect at the next level…but he’s more of a Duke fan at the moment because his favorite player, Zion Williamson, played their but that could change.”
Antoni Ogumoro’s grandparents are Ambrosio Ogumoro and Felicidad Kaipat Ogumoro of Capital Hill and Rufino and Carol Aguon of Kagman. Rufino Aguon incidentally is Ambrose Ogumoro’s former coach in the CNMI national basketball team.