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Dami Sule, A Difference Maker

February 1, 2023
Damilola Sule has been breaking basketball records at UC Merced.
Damilola Sule has been breaking basketball records at UC Merced in only 37 career games so far.

“Be Great Always”

It’s a slogan that Damilola Sule and her family would like to trademark.

The second-oldest of five Sule children, Damilola, or Dami, is a standout sophomore forward on the University of California, Merced women’s basketball team. Through three semesters and 37 career games with UC Merced across her chest, she has been nothing short of special.

Sule, who is of Nigerian descent, has already helped win a California Pacific Conference Championship and is breaking records faster than anyone could fathom.

“It’s been a journey, a short journey so far,” Sule said. “It’s a blessing to be in the situation that I am in. I know my role on the court is rebounding and facilitating the game in the paint. I am glad that I have taken on that role, and I am going to continue to take it on and be great at it.”

“Be Great Always”

This season, Sule is ranked third in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with 15 rebounds per game. She is the only player in the California Pacific Conference averaging at least 16 points per game while making over 55% of her shots. With a full month of the season left to go, Sule has already broken UC Merced’s single-season rebounding record with 270 total rebounds and the school’s all-time double-double record with 16 career double-doubles.

Sule was born in Dallas, Texas, before moving to Bakersfield when she was 12 with her parents, older sister Temi, and younger brother Tumi. Her two youngest brothers, twins Tomi and Timi, were born in 2017.

“I get my competitiveness and wanting to be who I am from my dad,” Sule said. “He grew up a lot different from here. He struggled at times, and he wants to make sure his children don’t suffer like he suffered. He has always preached that he wants us to be greater than who he was and who he will ever be.”

In her final game at the high school level, Sule scored 37 points and secured 29 rebounds to lead Bakersfield Christian High School to a Division IV Southern California Girls Basketball Championship. Her sister, Temi, won a championship at Bakersfield Christian in girls volleyball the previous year. They both left a legacy at Bakersfield Christian. Shortly after Dami’s championship, she was named the Cal-Hi Division IV Player of the Year.

“Be Great Always”

“The Sule family, we want to represent greatness in everything that we accomplish,” Sule said. “We want to be the best at it, try to reach an unapparelled level of greatness. Both my sister and I winning rings back-to-back years represents that.”

The following year, Sule won the Cal Pac Championship as a freshman with UC Merced with a 64-46 win over Westcliff University. In January, Sule and the Bobcats were presented with their 2022 championship rings. It wasn’t just a monumental moment for Dami, but also her whole family.

“The first person to take a picture with the ring was my parents,” Sule said. “They put the ring on and smiled for a picture with the (name) Sule sticking out on the side.”

If one Sule wins, the whole family wins.

It’s hard to top the emotions of winning a championship, but making your parents proud soars high above.

“I think I make them the proudest ever,” Sule said. “I think the proudest moment for them was not only seeing the Sule on the side of the ring, but knowing that I accomplished something beyond the ring. Whether it was breaking records or just making my name known.”

Sule’s name is one worth remembering well after she finishes her four years of collegiate basketball and graduates from UC Merced with a Cognitive Science degree. Sule is on track to be UC Merced women’s basketball’s all-time leader in career field goal percentage, rebounds, rebounds per game and double-doubles. She will put up quite the fight for the program’s scoring title as well.

It will be hard for someone to top Sule’s single-game rebounding record, set on Jan. 19, 2023, at Pacific Union College. She had 27 rebounds, a number that was 11 rebounds higher than the previous record – which had been set when Sule hadn’t even started pursuing basketball. In addition to being a ferocious rebounder that night, Sule also poured in a career-high 29 points. She has remained incredible since:

Jan. 19: 29 points, 27 rebounds

Jan. 21: 16 points, 25 rebounds

Jan. 26: 23 points, 17 rebounds

Jan. 27: 19 points, 15 rebounds

Jan. 29: 18 points, 19 rebounds

Sule has another plan to guarantee that her name is remembered by UC Merced basketball fans forever.

“I want to accomplish being an All-American,” Sule said. “The first thing my coach told me was that they thought they could develop me into an All-American. So far, I think I’m proving that I am on that track.”

Sule is playing like an All-American and proving to be All-American for her community, too. Shortly after the holidays, the Bobcats standout was making a difference at Joe Stefani Elementary School, working with a youth basketball program, B-UP!

“It was great, amazing,” Sule said. “I never really had the opportunity to play basketball when I was younger, especially with people at a higher level. The smiles on their faces make us like to think that we were inspirational. It was great to give back to the community, especially a community that always supports us and tells us they are coming to our games and watching us win. It’s always great to give back to a community that gives to us.”

Sule has also volunteered for Community Cleanup Day at Joe Herb Park and the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

The community matters to Sule. And vice versa, too.

Sule, who was born in one of the biggest cities in the United States, loves the small-town feel of Merced. During at a casual meal at Applebee’s, Sule had a woman tell her she has been watching her games at UC Merced and is loving what she is seeing on the floor. Sule had no idea that many people were taking notice.

While basketball won’t last forever, and for Sule basketball is still rather new, she will savor every moment she has on the court. Sule was heavily involved in soccer and track long before she decided to stick with basketball.

When it comes time to hang up the shoes, Sule will be off to a new adventure.

“I am looking to venture into two different ways,” Sule said. “Whether that is going to get my doctorate in neuroscience, or going the medical route and becoming an endocrinologist.”

Sule plans to do everything in her power to keep her family’s motto alive: “Be Great Always.”

Sule sees that motto every day in her locker and will see it every day in a meaningful location for the rest of her life.