Trip to Rwanda gives a new definition of toughness to Adam Seiko

Adam+Seiko+%28left%29+plays+defense+during+a+match+against+Colorado+State.

Jason Freund

Adam Seiko (left) plays defense during a match against Colorado State.

by Justin Cox, Staff Writer

SDSU senior guard Adam Seiko said he prides himself on his toughness.

His defensive mentality on the court has led to him becoming one of the Aztecs’ best defenders as well as being a leader, but while playing for the Ugandan national basketball team in the AfroBasket tournament in Rwanda, a Rwandan tour bus driver gave toughness a new meaning for Seiko.

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 killed between 500,000 and 800,000  among the Tutsi ethnic minority community. One of the Tutsi who survived happened to be the tour bus driver for Seiko and his family as they toured Rwanda on his first trip to Africa.

“He was actually left stranded, basically for dead, for three days,” Seiko said. “My mom actually waited to tell me until after the trip because she didn’t want to tell me earlier, but he always had a smile on his face. He was always fist-pumping us and being the happiest person. That really touched me, and I understood this guy is tough and showed me that I can be tough too.”

Seiko displayed his usual toughness on the court as well, as he averaged 13 points per game and played solid defense for Uganda during their five-game run in the tournament. It was his first time playing for Uganda — his mother’s home nation who came to the U.S. in 1997 while pregnant with Seiko — and he was very excited to represent Uganda.

“I was born in Boston and there are actually a lot of Ugandans there,” Seiko said. “Every weekend I would go to church with a bunch of Ugandans and over the weekends I would go out to events with Ugandans. It’s my culture, it’s not foreign to me, so when I got the [invitation to play on the national team] it was a burst of emotion because I knew I could represent all of my family.”

Even better, Seiko was able to share the court with his brother Arthur Kaluma, who is currently playing at Creighton University.

“We’ve never been on the same team competitively before, so for us to be on the same national team together, it’s just a blessing from God. It was great to have him on the floor with me,” Seiko said.

Seiko said he hopes to take this experience with him to the 2021-2022 SDSU basketball season as the team looks to earn a second consecutive Mountain West Conference title and NCAA playoff berth, hopefully with more success after falling to Syracuse in the Round of 64 last season.

Aztecs’ head coach Brian Dutcher noted the differences he’s seen regarding Seiko’s mentality since coming back from his international experience, in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“He just seems a little extra focused,” Dutcher told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “You represent a country, you’re playing meaningful basketball and meaningful minutes in those games, that makes a difference. Any time you play that kind of competition, that kind of event, it only can help you, and I think it’s helped him.”

As a fifth-year senior, Seiko’s main goal remains winning a championship with his teammates in his last season as an Aztec, but he also hopes to stand out as one of the best defensive players in the country.

“I don’t talk much about individual awards, but defensive player of the year is something I’d love to accomplish because I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Seiko said.

Seiko’s defensive abilities have a lot to do with his toughness, and after his trip to Rwanda, he knows it can take him a long way both on the court and off.