You are here

An NCAA title and diploma in three years, therapy career ahead

Adaora Elonu, Texas A&M basketball

By Michelle Hiskey

Shortly after helping the Aggies win the NCAA Women’s Final Four, Adaora Elonu graduated with a 3.56 grade point average in allied health. Now, in her fourth year on the team, she’s working towards a master’s degree in health education with an eye towards a second career in physical therapy or another medical profession. The first career, she hopes, is pro ball.

The seeds of her multiple ambitions were sown by her Houston-based family, who showed her what it meant to care for others, and who have sent four children to play college basketball. The youngest, in high school, hopes to join them.

“Really, it was the yearly visits to the doctor for the physicals needed to play sports,” Elonu said of her inspiration. “It was one of those environments I could envision working in. Helping others is something I really enjoyed, and once I understood that, I wanted to focus my life on that.”

As she rose in hoops, and to 6 feet tall, she reached out to others.

“Volunteering at assisted-living areas for the elderly and day care centers,” she said. “Even babysitting. When friends would ask my mom to take care of a child, she was always willing to do that, and brought me along to help. I didn’t think twice about all of that as a profession, but all of those embodied taking care of someone, treating them well, and making someone healthier. That’s the only thing that I really thought I could love doing.”

Fortunately, Elonu has avoided injuries that require medical attention. When a high school friend tore an ACL, Elonu offered and went to various appointments related to the surgical repair.

“I started off thinking about being a pediatrician, but now rehabilitation is my focus,” said Elonu, who went on to assist at the Sports, Back and Pain Management Clinic near campus for the past two years. “The best part is seeing that with a lot of sports injuries, I can relate, and can help them out."

She can relate because her family exposed her to sports, too. She is the middle child after brothers

Chinemelu (Texas A&M, drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, now playing in France) and Chibuzo (Southeastern Oklahoma State). Younger sister Adaeze (San Jacinto Community College) hopes to transfer to an NCAA program. Younger sister Akunna is in high school “and God willing will get a scholarship to play as well,” said Adaora Elonu.  

Traits from basketball help her now help patients who are in pain.

“Definitely patience, communications and adaptation to different situations,” she said. “Those characteristics, along with caring, are important to reassuring them. It’s important to catch on to what is going on with them, so they feel confident that they are in good hands.”

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and a former golf student-athlete at Duke.