Temi Fagbenle was born to a Nigerian family in Baltimore, grew up in Great Britain and has spent the past nine-plus years in the United States.
“So,’’ she said after Lynx practice this week, laughing, “what am I?’’
Take a look at her long frame and the athletic ability that goes with it, and you think: basketball player.
“I mean, Temi walks into a gym,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, “if you’re a basketball coach, you’re intrigued. Because she’s 6-foot-5, and we have a need.”
Take a look at her credentials and you say: Sky’s the limit. Fagbenle graduated from Harvard with a degree in anthropology. With a year of eligibility left, she enrolled as a graduate student at USC, where she played her final year.
After taking last year off to finish school — the main reason she dropped into the third round before the Lynx drafted her — she has a master’s degree.
“It’s in strategic public relations,” she said during an interview. “Emphasis on the strategic. So, basically, I could be doing what you guys are doing right now. Good interview skills.”
Let’s not go too far.
Ask her what she is, and it’s hard to pin down. She holds American, British and Nigerian citizenship. She grew up loving tennis in London, with pro aspirations. But when training expenses got too high, she switched to basketball at age 14, which is why she wears that number.
She didn’t love basketball at first, even though it came naturally. But she has grown to love it. After beginning the game in London, she went to Blair Academy, a private school in New Jersey, to develop and get ready for college. Along the way she continued to learn the game while winning state prep track titles in the discus, shot put, javelin and high jump.
She also appeared in plays and includes acting and modeling as career goals.
It must run in the family. She is one of 12 children in her family, and brothers Luti and Dapo are Los Angeles-based producers and directors who have done videos for the likes of Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar. Brother O.T. is a British actor, writer and director. Her father is a retired journalist.
“There are a lot of things I want to do in the future,’’ Fagbenle said. “We’ll see where that takes me.’’
But, for now, she wants to be here, with the Lynx. And she has a shot.
A member of the 2012 British Olympic team, Fagbenle has talent but is still relatively raw, having started the game so late and in a country where women’s basketball lags behind globally.
She is strong, and athletic. At 25, she is more mature than the average newcomer and could make an impact on defense and with her rebounding, but her offensive game needs developing.
“The feeling is her best basketball is ahead of her, if she can learn,” Reeve said, “if she’s good at looking to video, applying it, listening during drills. Offensively, we have some work to do.’’
Because of her size, ability and potential, she is … intriguing.
It would appear Fagbenle and Chantel Osahor are competing for the final post slot on the team; the Lynx would love to have someone with true center size back up starter Sylvia Fowles.
Reeve isn’t going to let roster balance dictate her decision. Still, Fagbenle will have every opportunity to show she belongs.
“It’s been eye-opening,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot so far. These women are in their prime, they’ve played for God knows how long.
“I love being in this competitive environment. I’m learning so much. It’s fantastic.”