Jock of all trades
Ronaldo Segu balances Instagram fame, key role on men’s basketball team
By the time Ronaldo Segu reached ninth grade, he had a scholarship offer from Florida State University and an Instagram following that numbered in the tens of thousands.
And by the time he graduated high school, Segu had earned 20 Division-I offers and became something of an online sensation — videos of his signature HESI move have been viewed millions of times.
But while his extensive social media following and numerous scholarship offers meant he could land at a major program, Segu decided in 2017 to take his talents to the Queen City, where he became the third-biggest recruit in UB history, according to 247Sports.
Segu may have ended up in Western New York, but he is a Central Florida kid through and through.
Born in Orlando, Segu grew up playing soccer, and modeled his game after his namesake, the legendary Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. But he always knew he had a passion for basketball; he just needed an opportunity.
In the sixth grade, Segu started putting in some serious work on the court. On days when his parents went to work early, he would ask to be dropped off at the local YMCA, which was down the street from his middle school.
“I’d just be in there dribbling, shooting by myself and working on my game,” Segu said. “I’d then walk up the street to my middle school. So that’s how I got better.”
Segu is a pass-first point guard who presents himself with confident humility. At 6’0”, 160 lb., he is undersized for a basketball player. Because of this, he can often walk through the halls undetected.
But even though Segu often blends into the crowd, he is meant for the spotlight.
In the ninth grade, Segu was working out with his trainer when he was approached about making a highlight video. Ryan Currie had been uploading videos of all the top-level high school athletes in the area to YouTube, and wanted to see if Segu was interested in getting filmed.
The videos — and Segu’s basketball prospects — took off. Segu started to gain traction on social media. He also received his first scholarship offer, from FSU.
Segu has 136,000 followers on Instagram. His posts routinely rack up as many as 30,000 likes. His supporters come from all over the country — he has fans in Central Florida, Western New York and all over the U.S., really.
Still, he remains humble about it all.
“I look at it as something that I have worked for,” Segu said about his social media following. “I don’t really take mind of it. It’s just there. It’s a good tool to have.”
Segu believes in “doing what’s best for yourself,” and in Buffalo, he felt he would have the proper support system and opportunities to do just that. Now in his second season with the Bulls, Segu thinks he made the right choice.
“I have grown a lot here, in many different ways — both on and off the court. I feel like this school is going to help me in the long-run. Just more special moments to come here.”
Things weren’t always easy for Segu at UB, though. He played in all 36 games last season, but for the first time in his career, he was coming off the bench. He averaged just 2.1 points and 0.9 assists per game as he struggled to find minutes behind more experienced guards.
Still, he felt that sitting was an integral part of his development process, and a necessary step in becoming a more complete basketball player.
“I feel like it was a learning experience,” Segu said. “It’s something that my game definitely needed. I feel like a lot of players get comfortable in certain situations. Sometimes I was out of my comfort zone, but I got comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Segu has come off the bench for all 25 regular season games this season, but his impact has often been understated. He provides the Bulls with constant energy and intensity. He ranks best on the team, shooting 86.5% from the free-throw line. And over the past few months, he has taken on a larger leadership role.
“He’s got a good personality, he understands leadership,” head coach Jim Whitesell said. “We asked him to go above and beyond, and he can do that. He’s learning to be the one.”
Whitesell says he has counted on Segu in more situations this season. He wants him to “fast forward” his progression, which means becoming a knock-down shooter by adding bulk to his frame.
“I think him and Jeenathan [Williams], if we’re going to make that postseason run, they are going to have to elevate their game,” Whitesell said.
Segu knows there is plenty of work to be done to reach the next level. He will have to gain weight, work on his perimeter shooting and become a more vocal leader.
But that doesn’t faze him. If anything, it serves as motivation.
“There’s a lot of stuff I can work on, but I think I’m doing a good job and I just want to keep improving my game,” he said. “I want to keep helping my teammates out.”
Justin Weiss is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Jwmlb1