Edmonton family of NCAA player Aher Uguak 'so proud' of his success

The childhood home of college basketball player Aher Uguak was quiet as his family intently watched the first few minutes of the NCAA Final Four game on Saturday.

The family watched Saturday's game between the Loyola Ramblers and Michigan Wolverines

The family of NCAA basketball player Aher Uguak watched the Final Four game between the Loyola Ramblers and Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. (CBC)

The living room of college basketball player Aher Uguak was quiet as his family intently watched the first few minutes of an NCAA Final Four game on Saturday.

His mother, Akon Uguak, and his four younger siblings watched as his team, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, took on the Michigan Wolverines.

When the Ramblers scored, Akon clapped and let out a small cheer.

Her son wasn't playing in Saturday's game, but the family watched from their Mill Woods home regardless, hoping for a Ramblers win.

"I'm so proud," Akon said.

Due to league rules, Uguak isn't allowed to play in the 2017-2018 season because he transferred from another school, the University of New Mexico. He'll be able to play next season.

The Ramblers ultimately fell to the Wolverines in Saturday's March Madness game.

'Work hard or don't play at all'

Uguak, a 20-year-old Harry Ainlay High School graduate, moved to the United States two years ago to play basketball on scholarship.

Since then, he has been encouraging his younger siblings to pursue their dreams.

His brother Lwal is following in his brother's footsteps, and is expected to move to the U.S. this summer to play football.

"I started to believe I could do sports and when I saw my brother do it, I thought 'OK, this goal is reachable,'" Lwal said.  

He recalls first playing football with Uguak while growing up in Mill Woods, but jokes that his brother was quick to drop the sport because he couldn't handle playing in the cold weather.

Aher Uguak of Edmonton plays for the Loyola Ramblers. (Instagram/Aher Uguak )

But Lwal stuck with it and was recently awarded a University of Connecticut football scholarship. He credits his older brother for teaching him to try his hardest in order to succeed.

"We have a kind of saying that you need to work hard or you don't play at all," Lwal said.

It's something they learned from their mother.

As a South Sudanese immigrant, Akon said it wasn't always easy balancing work and her children's busy schedules. She would often book her work shifts around the boys' practice schedule.

Akon and Lwal Uguak watched the NCAA Final Four game from their home on Saturday, March 30, 2018. (CBC)

Akon said her children wouldn't be where they are today without the help of the community. She said other parents would often offer to drive her kids to practice or help financially so the young athletes could continue to pursue their passions.

Akon said her kids have worked hard to reach their goals. She would often tell them to keep at it, since things won't always come easily.

"They worked hard for it," Akon said. "Sometimes they'd get up at 5 a.m. to practice, go to the gym and all those things. They deserve it."

About the Author

Stephanie Dubois is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has more than a decade of experience reporting in print media, television and radio. Share your stories with Stephanie at stephanie.dubois@cbc.ca