TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ofelia Rodas Orozco began her Friday in Villanueva, Casanare, a small town in Colombia that sits about eight hours from the nearest airport in Bogotá.
She made the long drive there, boarded a plane to Miami and then later flew from Miami to Tallahassee to be at Florida State in time for her son Braian Angola’s Senior Day celebration.
It was an elaborate plan, hatched by Angola’s friends and family, to ensure that mother and son could enjoy a rare day together.
Angola, however, didn’t know anything about it.
When he talked to his mother on the phone Friday, she told him to play hard, have fun and give her a call after the game.
Then when Angola walked on to the court, arm in arm with his girlfriend and a trusted FSU academic advisor, he was treated to a prerecorded video from his sisters, congratulating him on his achievements at Florida State.
Angola thought that would be the end of it. But there was one more surprise in store:
— FSU Men’s Hoops (@FSUHoops) March 3, 2018
“When I saw her, I just couldn’t hold it in,” Angola said after scoring 21 points in FSU’s 85-76 win over Boston College. “I just started crying.”
It marked just the second time that Rodas Orozco could watch her son play in a Florida State uniform.
With hopes of using basketball to provide for himself and his family, Angola left Colombia in 2012 with barely a grasp of the English language.
His resolve was tested a year later, when word came that Angola’s father had suddenly died. Given the news, Angola figured that his basketball dreams were over, and that he’d be needed back home to help take care of his mother and sisters.
But after talking it over with Ofelia, Angola stayed the course.
“Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve been kind of like the head of the house,” Angola said. “Being far away in another country, it’s kind of tough. My family is what drives me to wake up every morning and work hard. And seeing my mom here was a very special moment.”
Six years later, Angola is set to graduate with his degree from Florida State while playing a key role on an FSU team poised for a second straight NCAA tournament run.
“He represents all those things that are good about college athletics,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.