Meet the two basketball players celebrating their roles in the Newcastle Eagles

ITV Tyne Tees is celebrating Black History Month this October with a series of special reports recognising the achievements and contributions of people in our Black community.

In our fourth report, we have been following two basketball players from the Newcastle Eagles.

Orieoma Chukwu-Etu balances playing for the Newcastle Eagles with studying to be a pharmacist - and Themba Yabantu is making a name for himself in the Men's first team. 

It’s just nice to have a month where I’m seen – more Black people are recognised for their achievements and being celebrated, so I do enjoy the month celebrating.

Hi I’m Orieoma Chukwu-Etu and I’m a pharmacy student at Newcastle University but I also play for the Newcastle Eagles.

I wasn’t born and bred in Newcastle, I moved here from Nigeria when I was 7.

At first it was quite hard adjusting to the different cultures and the different environment – but since then I felt like I’ve been a part of the culture and I’m enjoying it as well, there are really friendly people around.

I got into basketball when I was 13 years old and I started off in my high school - the Eagles foundation coaches would come and coach us a bit.

Growing up in the North East there isn’t a lot of Black female representation for me to aspire towards or look towards.

For me growing up I was looking at Serena Williams and Venus Williams, and my parents would help me look at, and at one point I wanted to play tennis, but that wasn’t for me.

Getting into basketball for me, I want to change that and I want people to inspire young Black women to get into the sport.

Orieoma helped to administer Covid jabs in the Eagles arena.

This summer I was working two jobs – working in the Covid vaccine centres at the arena and also at the Covid test labs testing samples if people positive or negative which was really fun being mixed in both environments and to help out as well.

Hi I’m Themba Yabantu, a professional basketball player for Newcastle Eagles.

Obviously I am Black so I’m always representing me, but a whole month that is just specifically for Black people is very special.

Where I grew up, it might have just been my family around the whole estate and different streets, where we were the only Black family.

It was a pretty small area where I lived, but we all knew each other so I didn’t feel any different.

I just played basketball I didn’t think it would go anywhere, I kept playing every year, and improving every year and now I am here.

I definitely get a different response from fans, they know me as a local lad as they say, so as I came up through from the Academy, they’ve seen me 15, 16, 17 and all the way up – they’ve literally grown with me, it’s definitely special.

I do feel sorry for other sports that do experience a lot of racism, cause if you’re a young kid, a young Black kid trying to play football, you might say I don’t want to play because there’s racism – and that might ruin your dreams of football.

I feel that basketball is a predominately Black sport so I feel that if you’re racist and you support basketball then it’s a crazy thing to do really – so personally I haven’t experience that or heard of anyone experiencing racism from fans.

The Eagles team is very successful so it makes me feel very proud to be part of the team and be from Newcastle as well.