Catalina Foothills' 6-foot-8-inch senior Tolu Obafemi, right, has grown 5 inches since his freshman year.


Kills might be the most important stat in volleyball. Catalina Foothills' Tolu Obafemi makes them happen.

A lot.

The 6-foot-8-inch senior led the two-time state runner-up Falcons with 31 kills in the TUSD Invitational last week and also led the team in kills as a junior.

"He's a very big boy," fifth-year coach David Thistle said. "Six-eight, super athletic and he moves really well.

"You set a high ball, he'll hit over almost everybody."

It wasn't always like this.

Here's a look at Obafemi's journey to becoming a volleyball standout.

Early years

Before moving to Tucson four years ago, Obafemi lived in Ashburton, New Zealand, with his parents and two older brothers.

He was born in Chicago and lived there for about four years before his father Adebisi, a doctor, accepted a job overseas.

Tolu, which means "give all glory to God," is the only natural-born American in his family. His parents and brothers were born in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to the United States.

While living in New Zealand, the Obafemis took a family trip back to Nigeria.

"All my relatives were there," Tolu said. "It was a good experience seeing where my family came from, and it was really special seeing how life is there.

"It opened my mind to how big the world is."

Arrival in Tucson

After spending about eight years in New Zealand, Obafemi's father accepted a new job in Tucson.

That's also the same time Tolu found his passion for volleyball.

"I played a lot of different sports," Obafemi said. "I played cricket and basketball for my school team, those were my two major sports, and a little track and rugby, but I never played volleyball in New Zealand."

As a 13-year-old freshman (he skipped second grade) at Foothills with no volleyball experience, Obafemi's 6-foot-3-inch frame made a good fit for the varsity team.

"I knew a little bit but my knowledge was pretty much nothing," Obafemi said. "I'd watched it on TV before but I wasn't really sure how to play it."

Obafemi also played varsity basketball the last two seasons and was called up midway through his sophomore year.

Flourishing as a Falcon

Since his freshman year, Obafemi has grown 5 inches and has become even more athletic.

To top it off, he's not even done growing. He turns 17 next week.

Obafemi led the basketball team with 155 rebounds and 39 blocked shots this past season and said he can dunk pretty easily, too.

As far as his vertical leap, he's not sure.

"I don't actually know what it is, but I hope it's pretty high," Obafemi said. "I can touch the top of the antenna (on a volleyball net) but I don't know what that means, it's pretty high."

Obafemi wants to continue playing volleyball in college, preferably in Southern California, but doesn't have any plans set yet.

"I love the state so anywhere would suit me," Obafemi said. "It's also a big volleyball state so it'd be ideal to play there."

In the event that doesn't work out, he said he was already accepted by the UA and wants to study biochemistry wherever he ends up.

Watch list

• Jamie Becker, Jr., Catalina

• Ivan Escareno, Jr., Sabino

• Basilo Furest-Cataldo, Sr., Canyon del Oro

• Jimmy Gehrels, Jr., Salpointe Catholic

• Tolu Obafemi, Sr., Catalina Foothills

• Tyler Sayne, Sr., Canyon del Oro

• Kyle Sherman, Sr., Rincon/University

• Dallis Shingler, Sr., Sahuaro

• Alec Sonderman, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Eric Stark, Sr., Sahuaro

Note: Athletes chosen by Star staff in consultation with area coaches.