Ami Lakoju: Athlete by Day, Animator by Night

Illustration Courtesy of Ami Lakoju

Jacob Wong
Sports Editor

Standing at 6’9” and weighing 260 pounds., UC Santa Barbara power forward Ami Lakoju definitely looks the part of a player on the school basketball team. However, to reduce Lakoju’s time at UCSB to statistics and athletic achievements doesn’t do justice to the fast-talking Harlem native or his story.

For Lakoju, a fifth year set to graduate this June, basketball has filled up a huge part of his time in college. Since sitting out games as a redshirt for most of his freshman year, Lakoju has amassed a total of 859 minutes on the court, scoring 292 points to go with 239 rebounds and 41 blocks over the course of his college career.  

Furthermore, Lakoju runs his own Instagram account, @amiboy_edits, that showcases another one of his passions: animation. “Anyone who actually knows me knows that I like cartoons,” Lajoku said in an interview with The Bottom Line.

“If I wasn’t a basketball player and could devote all my time to some other passion it would probably be artwork, but I’m a big guy and I have to pay for school and all that,” said Lajoku. “So, you do what you have to do.”

Circumstances on and off the court this season gave Lakoju the chance to explore his second passion. Starting out here, Lakoju had some competition for minutes as the team welcomed freshman Amadou Sow and 6’10” junior college transfer Robinson Idehen onto its roster. In addition, a foot injury left Lakoju sidelined for several months before the season.

As a result, Lakoju played a mere 6.5 minutes per contest, his lowest average since his redshirt freshman season. However, it was far from a lost year.

“I was just the old fart trying to show [Sow and Idehen] the ropes,” said Lakoju. “I got my two cents in where I could, but it was needed — I was able to step back and look at everything that I’ve been through.”

“Once I started to have that change in perspective, that’s when I started drawing; that’s where the art came from — just trying to give back to my team.”

The aforementioned Instagram account, containing a series of short animated clips made by Lakoju, is a mashup of Lakoju’s two main passions: animation and basketball.

He started off the process by taking pictures of all his teammates and rendering them as cartoons. The first post on @amiboy_edits, dated December 25, 2018, is a full color sketch of starting point guard Devearl Ramsey, with the image shaking in a way that almost makes it look like it’s glitching across the screen a la Sony’s “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Since then, Lakoju has branched out in terms of the types of animations he puts out — recent edits include full length videos with stop-motion effects and other visual add-ons — but most of the posts make use of some shared general thematic elements: a tribute to one of his basketball teammates, psychedelic visuals, and hip-hop tracks playing in the background.

“I want to make my stuff kind of trippy in the future,” said Lakoju.” I’m working with [Adobe After Effects] and I’m trying to see if I can master that program so that when I draw, I can make some parts stationary and some parts more glitchy.”

Lakoju doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with his newfound hobby either. One long-term goal is to make a show, just like the cartoons he grew up watching as a kid. “I want to be on the staff for people who make storyboards and cartoons,” he said. “But I feel like I need to start off small. Maybe start with commercials or media content, just content in general before I’m able to get my foot in the door. But that just comes with connections and constant practice.”

After graduating this spring, Lakoju has plans to move to London to participate in a Master’s program at the University of Essex, where he will study art history. Lakoju hopes that the experience can become an opportunity to build some of the connections he needs to further his aspirations. “I want to try to network with some directors in the area,” he said. “I know some people who went to that school who are in the Hollywood industry now.”

While talking about animating, Lakoju stated, “I feel like the key for me is to make this my obsession, or maybe my secret obsession. I’ll play basketball for now, but I’ll keep [animation] on the side for sure.”

Despite the current animation work and plans for a master’s program, Lakoju wants to make it clear that he still plans to play basketball for as long as he can. “I’m trying to find a pro team to settle on out there, just finishing stuff over with my agent,” he explained.

In the meantime, @amiboy_edits on Instagram shows promise to continue going strong.