Athlete of the Week: Fawaz Ilukoma

An exclusive interview with Fawaz Ilukoma, whose performance on the volleyball team earned him a spot as athlete of the week.


Photo provided by COD Athletics

Lily Goodfellow, Sports Writer

Athlete of the Week: Fawaz Ilukoma

Sport: Volleyball

Position: Outside Hitter

Year: Freshman

Hometown: Hinsdale

High School: Hinsdale Central


Lily Goodfellow: When did you start playing volleyball?

Fawaz Ilukoma: I started in 7th grade. I didn’t make the team, so then I decided to play outside of school. Ever since, I have been playing volleyball. 


LG: How did the team do this season?

FI: I think this year we’re not doing so well, as it says on paper. But we have made connections that have brought us all together more than anything. On paper it doesn’t say that we are doing well, but I think as a team we have gotten so much better,fundamentally and having fun together. 


LG: What are your hopes for next season?

FI: Next season, I’m hoping for a title! But also to make more connections with other people who decide to come to COD and spread the word of volleyball to a lot of people who have not had that experience before. 


LG: Do you have any rituals before a game?

FI: My ritual, I like to dance a lot. So if I see my teammates dancing, we’ll have a little dance-off, just to have fun and bring good vibes before the game. 


LG: What does your nutrition plan look like when you’re in volleyball season?

FI: I like to eat a lot of gummies, like gummy bears, especially before a game too, to have something sweet.


LG: What do you like to do most when you’re not playing volleyball?

FI: A friend of mine who is not on the volleyball team introduced me to making music. This is something that I was very interested in before, but I never got the chance to actually do it. So I like to put beats together and make songs.


LG: What motivates you on and off the court?

FI: Just how much commitment that I’ve put in playing volleyball for all of these years. So, thinking of how far I’ve come and the idea of getting better every single day. You come here to get practice and [get] reps in, and you’re also making new friends, so I think that is something that I keep in the back of my head every single time I step on the court.


LG: How have your coaches helped you?

FI: We’ve made a lot of connections. We traveled a lot this year. We went to New York quite a few times, and we were able to chat with the coaches during those trips, not even about volleyball, just about things in life. So we were able to make a lot of connections and I feel that is what helped us a lot this year.


LG: Do you have any role models?

FI: I would say my mom. She’s a single parent and I have three other siblings. She’s done a lot to get me this far in life, and I’ve always looked up to her. I think she’s a superhero.


LG: What is your favorite holiday?

FI: My favorite holiday would probably be Thanksgiving. I like to eat a lot, so during Thanksgiving you have a whole meal that you can just keep eating.  


LG: What is one of your favorite memories from your childhood?

FI: I would probably say my first football game. I was a very small kid and when I played football my first year I was really small compared to the other kids. So I got knocked down one time and my mom was on the sideline. She ran as fast as she could onto the field and stopped the whole play from going on, but she was able to tell me to get up and to keep going. After that I think I had the best game, so that’s one of my favorite memories that I can remember.   

LG: That’s a very fun memory!


LG: Do you play any other sports besides volleyball?

FI: Not here at COD, but I’ve played so many sports throughout my high school and middle school life. I [been in] wrestling, soccer, basketball, football, and track for a little bit. 


LG: Is volleyball your favorite or just the one you decided to focus on in college?

FI: Actually, I thought that I was going to be playing football in college, but volleyball is the sport that I stuck with the longest and I decided to grow and learn the sport even more. The reason I’m playing volleyball is because it’s the only sport I really stuck with ever since I was little. 


LG: How did you come to play at COD since this was the first year there was a men’s volleyball team?

FI: My volleyball coach in high school was the one who came up to me and told me that COD was going to have a men’s volleyball team. When he was in college he played here as well, but it was only a club team. So he connected me to the coach, and then the coach invited me for a visit. 


LG: Do you have plans to transfer from here?

FI: I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m already [hearing] some rumors about playing volleyball at other schools, so if I can transfer, I’d definitely love to play at another school.


LG: Do you have a favorite movie?

FI: My most recent favorite is Top Gun: Maverick. There’s a lot of action and that’s my favorite genre of movies. 


LG: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

FI: I’ve always wanted to go to Italy.


LG: I went there last summer! It’s a great place to eat.

FI: Well, you know me, I love to eat!


LG: What’s your favorite food?

FI: That’s a hard question, because I’ll eat anything, if I’m being honest. My parents are African, so we have a lot of flavorful dishes. My grandpa is the owner of a restaurant in Chicago and there’s this one dish, it’s called jollof rice. It’s this orange rice and you put ayamase on top of it, which is a brown soup, and it’s very spicy. That’s what I like the most.


LG: What is the name of the restaurant? I’d love to go there.

FI: Qaato. It’s on Clark and Touhy. 


LG: What one word best describes you?

FI: That’s a good question. I would probably say progress.


LG: Thank you, Fawaz!

FI: No problem, thank you!