By Anthony Kuipers, Idaho Athletics Media Relations
University of Idaho senior basketball player Yinka Olorunnife decided early on in her career that she wanted to make a name for herself with the Vandals.
"When I first came here it was just an opportunity to get a scholarship and I was just really excited just to be here," Olorunnife said. "I didn't know what I wanted to do after college. I was just like 'I'm going to play basketball, I'm on scholarship,' that's it. As the season went by and the coach changed and stuff like that, I really realized I needed to have goals, you know, what's my true purpose? I don't want to be another player on the roster. I kind of wanted to do something for Idaho."
All she has done since then is break the Western Athletic Conference's record for career rebounds and establish herself among the top 10 players in school history in career points, field goals made, 3-pointers made, steals, blocked shots and games played. This year, she was a preseason all-WAC selection.
Olorunnife said she is proud of her accomplishments but said she will value them more after she leaves Idaho.
"It feels great, regardless of what record it is or where you're at," Olorunnife said. "It's good to know that you're part of history. Right now, I'm happy I broke records. I think I'll really appreciate it once I'm gone and once I look back on my college career and be like, 'You know what, I hold that record, that's my record.' "
Olorunnife is one of three seniors on the team to have played all four years at Idaho. She attended high school at Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and played for the National Elite Developmental Academy before coming to Moscow.
Olorunnife, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Australia before moving to Canada, said going to another country was never a problem for her.
"That's normal to me," Olorunnife said. "A lot of people say, you know, that's crazy. But that's my life. I think that's why I've been able to adjust everywhere I've been because every culture's just different and people are different everywhere."
The Vandals struggled her freshman year, winning only four games. Then Jon Newlee was hired to coach the Vandals. Olorunnife said the coaching change was difficult, but worthwhile.
"Adjusting to the new coaches was hard because we were so used to a certain way and a certain style of play," Olorunnife said. "So that was very challenging, but in the end it's probably the most rewarding because, I mean, look at the difference from that year and the past three years."
Olorunnife said her favorite memory occurred during her sophomore year when the Vandals swept the previous year's conference champion, Fresno State. That season, Olorunnife also broke Idaho's single-season record in rebounds with 310 boards. She continued to dominate in that category throughout her career before breaking the conference record of 1,025 on March 5 against Louisiana Tech.
Olorunnife said her success at rebounding comes from her fearless style of play.
"I'm not scared to get hit, bumped around because, you know, rebounding - it's not easy," Olorunnife said. "You get pushed around a lot and for me, I don't care. Some of the rebounds you see I get thrown, slammed against the ground because someone else wants the ball too. But I'm not scared. I just get after it and I think that's what helps me."
Olorunnife, who hopes to play overseas after she graduates, will play in her last WAC tournament March 9-12 at Las Vegas, Nev.
She said she has spent her last season emphasizing teamwork to the younger players.
"You can be the best player in the NCAA, but if you don't want to win with your team or make the extra effort for your team, you're not going to go anywhere. Your team's success will be your success in the end," Olorunnife said.