Victor Ojeleye: The model student-athlete

Two days after Kansas State went on the road and defeated Missouri to all but lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Victor Ojeleye leaned against a wall at Bramlage Coliseum and said he was feeling tired.

Not because he pushed himself physically against the Tigers or in practice the next day, mind you. Though he worked as hard as he could on the court those days, he long ago grew accustomed to that. On this occassion, he was having trouble shaking the lingering effects of maintaining a high GPA while traveling and playing Division I basketball all at the same time.

“Don’t tell coach,” he said, “but I’ve been up until 2 a.m. studying the last couple nights.”

That kind of dedication is admirable considering he doesn’t have anything left to prove from an academic standpoint. He was the valedictorian of his high school, he has made an A in all but two of his college classes, he has been named to the Big 12′s All-academic team three times, he is on pace to graduate in July and he even has an accounting/financial job lined up with Koch Industries.

In short, he has been the model student-athlete during his time at Kansas State.

Knowing all of this, I asked Ojeleye what was still driving him in the class room. He could afford to make another B. Why not kick back, relax and enjoy his senior year a little bit?

“I don’t want any doses of senioritis — at all,” Ojeleye said. “You can’t just change who you are because things are looking good. You’ve got to continue to do what you do, continue to do what got you where you are. Working hard now, that’s something you’re going to enjoy later.”
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Semi Ojeleye creates buzz after big game

If you didn’t know Semi Ojeleye scored 50 points in a high school basketball game earlier this week, you need to pay closer attention. Seriously, it was all over the Internet.

But if this is the first you’re hearing about it, here’s the skinny: Ojeleye, a 6-foot-6 junior small forward out of Ottawa who is the brother of Kansas State senior Victor Ojeleye, hit eight three-pointers, made all 10 of his free throws and scored a career-high 50 points during a 103-70 win over Spring Hill.

“I started off the game making my first three or four shots,” Ojeleye said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me. We moved the ball really well. I got into a good rhythm and everything just came together for me.”

Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith was reportedly in attendance for Ojeleye’s big game, but college coaches everywhere heard about it. They were already paying attention. Ojeleye says he has scholarship offers from K-State, Wisconsin, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Marquette and Missouri.

With more 50-point efforts, that list will surely grow. But he’s trying not to think about that at the moment.

“A lot of people have been telling me, ‘Good game’ lately,” Ojeleye said. “I’m just trying to stay humble, be positive and stay thankful.”
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Frank Martin challenges Jamar Samuels

Of Kansas State’s seven returning scholarship basketball players, it’s pretty easy to identify who will make up the core of next year’s team.

Rodney McGruder will likely be the best player on the roster. Will Spradling is eager to enter the starting lineup after a promising freshman season. And Jamar Samuels will be a fifth-year senior.

Yes, Shane Southwell and Jordan Henriquez ended last season on upswings, and walk-on Victor Ojeleye could very well be named a captain, but those are the three who (for now, anyway) figure to make the biggest impact for the Wildcats next season — both on and off the court.

I asked K-State coach Frank Martin about all three earlier this week, and it turns out he has a pretty good idea of who his most dependable players will be next season, too.

But instead of a trio, he sees a duo.

He is most confident in McGruder and Spradling.

“Those are the two guys that have shown the willingness to be consistent with who they are, with their approach, with their work ethic,” Martin said. Read More »

Mailbag: Lots of love for Victor Ojeleye

Shortly after writing this feature about Victor Ojeleye last week, my inbox was flooded with e-mails from people who have met the Kansas State junior walk-on. They all wanted to let me know he was deserving of recognition, and reiterate just how caring both he and his family have been over the years.

Here’s one from a reader named Wendy: “I thoroughly enjoyed your article on Victor Ojeleye! I remember watching him play high school basketball and seeing what a great athlete he was. Not only that, he was an awesome student and had great character. It’s nice to see him recognized for those qualities at his current college level. He deserves it!

Here’s another from a reader named Clint: “I don’t know what triggered your article on Victor Ojeleye, but I want to say, ‘Thank you.’ I’ve known him since he got to the U.S. I knew his dad for the four years he worked to get the family here from Nigeria (an incredible story if you’ve never heard it). I can tell you firsthand that their family is the real deal. You will not find more genuine people anywhere.”

The second e-mailer was right. The Ojeleye family does have a pretty neat story. Victor’s father, Ernest, currently runs a medical practice in Ottawa. Victor’s mother, Joy, regularly volunteers in the community. And Victor’s brother, Semi, is one of the top high school basketball players in the area. K-State is already showing interest in him.

But before they built their lives in America, they had to move here from Nigeria. Not an easy process. Victor Ojeleye filled me in on that back story earlier this week.
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Postgame: K-State 81, Gonzaga 64

How big is today’s CBE Classic championship game between fourth-ranked Kansas State and top-ranked Duke?

So big that there is virtually no way to over hype it.

The Wildcats are striving for a marquee victory that will prove themselves capable of handling high expectations. The Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski are, well, Duke: the defending national champion everyone loves to hate. Except Frank Martin, that is.

“I look at two things,” Martin said. “No. 1, it’s hard to be good for one year. They’ve been good for 28 years. They’ve competed for national championships and conference championships for 28 years. That’s ridiculous.

The other part of it, which shows the kind of man that leads that program, and the people that he demands to have in that program, USA Basketball had become the laughing stock of the world. All of a sudden he engages in USA basketball and now USA basketball is back to dominating the world.

“It’s going to be a privilege to tell my grand kids one day that I was able and fortunate enough to sit on the bench opposite Coach K, and try to prepare a team to compete against his.”
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Postgame: K-State 76, Presbyterian 67

In the wake of Thursday’s way-too-close victory over Presbyterian, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin talked a lot about leadership.

Right now he doesn’t think the Wildcats have much of it.

“We’re the most immature team I’ve ever coached,” Martin said. “Great team. Great kids. But we’re the most immature team I’ve ever coached.”

After watching an uninspired effort that led to a 76-67 victory over the Blue Hose, he labeled junior walk-on Victor Ojeleye as the best leader on the roster and said what the Wildcats’ locker room needed most right now was the return of Luis Colon.

Not even senior guard Jacob Pullen is apparently doing his part.

“Jacob was great early,” Martin said. “He hasn’t been lately.”
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Ojeleye excited about trip to Kansas City

When Victor Ojeleye talks about Kansas City, he talks about home.

The Kansas State sophomore grew up in nearby Ottawa, and routinely visited the City of Fountains when he was in high school every chance he got.

“I used to go there a lot with my family,” Ojeleye said. “My mom always used to go up there to grocery stop and stuff. It’s common area. I remember going to basketball camps and AAU tournaments in the Kansas City area on a lot of weekends.”

When he’s not on the basketball court, he has a few favorite places to visit.
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Postgame: K-State 88, Texas A&M 65

Kansas State’s lopsided 88-65 victory over Texas A&M said two things about the Wildcats.

1. They are very hard to beat at home.

2. They are capable of showing great balance.

K-State never trailed against the Aggies, and for the most part the game wasn’t close. Afterward, the majority of attention deservedly went to senior guard Denis Clemente for leading all scorers with 24 points, but the Wildcats received great production from the entire roster.
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Postgame: K-State 92, Loyola-Chicago 54

How to take this game?

The Kansas State basketball team defeated Loyola-Chicago 92-54 in its season-opener and did so rather easily, which is good.

But coach Frank Martin was so angry with his team’s performance that he said his players should be “embarrassed,” which is bad.

As is the case in most situations like this, it’s best to fall somewhere in the middle. That would make K-State’s performance on Friday at Bramlage Coliseum fairly average.
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