Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toronto to Tokyo

"Welcome back to Overseas With A Carry On. I'm your host, Olu Ashaolu.


On today's episode we are going to discuss the immaculate #Summer16 and what lies ahead for the basketball journeyman from Toronto."


That would be the intro if I was a television host like Ellen, Oprah or Dr. Oz.

To those of you reading for the first time, greetings & salutations! I'm glad you took the time to inquire about my livelihood and experiences;and to those routine readers who continue to show support, I thank you.

Earlier this summer I ran into a long time friend of mine who I grew up with back, back in the day. (I'm talking early 90s!) We began chatting about life and hoops and how far we both had come giving the circumstances we rose from. He then asked me what the latest was with my blog and why I stopped writing. I always hate getting that question because, well, I really had nothing substantial to give him as an excuse. I promised him I would get back to it and voila, here I am. Man of my word; master of my domain.

Where should we begin? Last season I played my second consecutive year in Japan which was a first. A first in the sense that, prior to returning to Japan, each of my past experiences of playing overseas were in three different countries. In 2012-13 I was in Spain. In 2013-14 I took my talents to France. Finally, in 2014-15 I made the leap out of Europe and decided to stay put the following year. I felt as if I had found my niche in this league. What more could I ask for? A safe environment, a high level of basketball, professionalism and a secure economy that would ensure my payments would be on time. Needless to say, I'm back for a third go round and have no intentions of leaving any time soon.

Okay, I got sidetracked, back to the summer!

So I arrived home in late May and was ready to hit the ground running! It had been a long and tiring 9 months away and as we all know, there's nothing quite like home. Now if you know me, you know food is the way to my heart. As you may or may not know, Canada as a country does not even compare to the United States when it comes to fast food franchises per capita. And yes, I know, I shouldn't be eating "fast food" (or is it good food, quickly), but after a 9 month bid, I think I'm due for a cheat meal or two...or three...mmmaybe four? Who's really keeping count?


So upon my arrival home, my 16 year old niece had an AAU tournament down in Lexington, Kentucky and the thought of seeing her(and fast food) entered my mind. I had yet to see her play live and was extremely looking forward to seeing her in action. One of the major setbacks of living this life overseas is missing out on these priceless moments with family. As I enter my basketball prime and she continues to get older, these precious opportunities to watch her play at the amateur level begin to dwindle. So needless to say,  I decided to shake off the jet lag and drive down with her father, my brother, and take in some high school level hoops.

When we arrived in Lexington, it was like a holy food haven. Whatever I wanted was at my tip of my fingers; I just had to make a selection. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! I decided to go with these four selections as they each resonated with a certain location and time in my life.

Raising Canes took me back to my college days in Ruston at Louisiana Tech University. It was the first time I discovered these finger-licking-good chicken strips. I opted for "The Box" combo: 4 strips, slaw, fries and Texas toast. I'm not a big guy for fried chicken but when it comes to Canes, count me in!

Chick-Fil-A reminded me of my prep school breakfasts down in Atlanta, Georgia. Back then, 2 dollars could get you a moist chicken breast sandwiched between a country biscuit; I'd top mine with grape jelly and be high off life. I know my Canadian and non-southern American readers are probably throwing up at the combination of fried chicken and fruit preserves but, hey - "It's a southern thang," and when in Rome...well, you know the rest.

Jimmy John's! How could anyone ever go back to Subway after the freshness of JJ's. I first tried Jimmy John's in 2011 when I was out in Indianapolis training for NBA pre draft camps. The #16 Club Lulu is my go-to. I actually had a friend whose nickname for me was 'Lulu.' Thinly sliced turkey, lettuce, bacon, piled high [I always get it] on whole wheat with added banana peppers and cucumbers. Throw in some kettle cooked jalapeño chips and you've got a 5 star meal loaded with spice and kick that's in your hands less than 60 seconds after placing your order!

Last but not least, Sonic. You've always been there for me. Whether it was back in the day playing video games on Sega Genesis (#ThrowbackAlert!) or throughout my prep school days in the south, or even up to my days in college, you never wavered. Be it your Sonic Burger specials, pancake sausages on a stick (they discontinued those), Sonic Blasts on the late night creep or your ice-cold slushies at Happy Hour on a hot summer day, you always had my back. I like that.

I must say, 'twas a great weekend after months of rice bowls and limited American options. For those who actually care about the AAU tournament, my nieces' team did walk away victorious. But prior to leaving the tournament, my Snapchat was hacked by a very outgoing 10 year old who happened to be the younger sister of one my nieces' teammates. Take a look...

I'm not sure if Lebron actually has that type of range though 😏

When not road tripping south of the border you can catch me doing a number of things within the great city I call home. Such as getting word the night before that Maxwell is in town to perform and purchasing tickets 20 hours before showtime.

This was only my second time attending a live concert, the first was Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake a few years back. They opened their concert tour in Toronto and to say it was epic would be an understatement. I was on my feet for two hours straight rapping just about every Jay song and pretending to keep up with JT and his vocals. Those tickets were were also purchased last minute. I guess I've got to get a better pulse of what's going on in my city huh?

If I'm not at a concert you can catch me on Friday nights participating in the Nike Crown League summer pro am. Basically the 'who's who' of pros, high school talent and everyone in between come back and play weekly games. It's one of the only times you can get a quality run of 5-on-5 in the city so it's something we look forward to. If you're lucky, you end up on the custom Nike Snapchat filter with your patented one handed dunks..

Lastly, when I'm sick of being indoors and I just want to get away from the city, I take a 90 minute drive out to the Falls of Niagara and sit back and gaze at the great piece of nature that I'm proud to call Canadian. The United States does have a portion of the Falls that fall (you see what I did there) on their side of the border but, it's nowhere as breathtaking or majestic as the Canadian side. Just a friendly FYI, hehe.

As you can see, the turn-up was very real in the summer of 2016, or was it "lit"? I'm not sure what lingo you young folks denote as cool nowadays. I didn't even mention attending the DVSN concert, our caribbean parade 'Caribana' or all the food festivals that are hosted throughout. When it comes down to it, I've got to make up a 9 months of inactivity and cram it all into 90 days. I've got to build enough memories to last me the grind of a full season so I'm not becoming homesick or selling myself and my team short by not being out-of-it mentally. To be honest, I've never gotten to that point of just absolutely departure, but there have been some close calls over the years. I'm human. Home is where heart is and Toronto is not an easy place to leave. Well, come the summer time. Come winter, you can have it. I want nothing to do with Toronto when snow is involved. Nothing. Rien. Nada!

Well, that's it for walking down memory lane. Now it's back real life, back to "work." I get to play basketball for a living, it's not exactly work if you love it right? Back to not being able to read signs or speak to anyone but my fellow imports. Back to long nights of watching Scandal, Narcos and whatever drama series lands on my Macbook screen. Back to chopsticks and meals for one. All in all, I don't think I'd trade it in for anything!

Thank you for taking time out to read the first post from this 2016-17 campaign. In the following entry I will let you in on where I am in Japan, the team, it's history and so forth.

Oh yeah...


As a token of my appreciation for tuning into today's episode, everyone in the studio audience is going home with a free video. Check the link below and enjoy!

Olu Ashaolu Highlight Clip

Once again, you are watching Overseas With A Carry On hosted by yours truly.
This is Olu signing off, until next time...


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