OTTAWA, Kan. - Semi Ojeleye has long been in a league of his own. The all-time scoring leader at Ottawa has been named all-state and led his squad to the state championship game.
It makes you wonder what he could possibly do for an encore in his senior season. This is not a bad place to start. The 6'8" forward tossed in 28 points in a season-opening win over St. James Academy.
"Got some nerves out. So, it was good to just get that over with," he said.
Ojeleye should not have much to be nervous about. He averaged more than 30 points per game as a junior. He combines his height with tremendous strength and the skills of a guard. Ottawa head coach Jon McKowen said Ojeleye has dedicated himself to becoming an all-around player.
"Semi has natural athletic ability. I don't think it would have mattered if he played soccer or basketball or football. He would have had Division I scholarships in whatever sport he wanted to do, but he has made basketball his focus," McKowen said.
And Ojeleye is extremely focused. He runs before school. He lifts after school. Then, he goes to practice.
Eventually, he finds time for homework. Ojeleye also happens to be a straight-A student. McKowen said it's no secret why college coaches were calling him off the hook.
"As coaches get to know him, they just fall in love with him. Every school that has made contact and got to know him offered him a scholarship," he said.
That includes Duke.
Mike Krzyzewski traveled all the way to Ottawa to seal the deal. He convinced Ojeleye to commit to the Blue Devils.
"It's really humbling to have them in your home talking to you. You see them on TV. Then, you grow up and they are in your house. So, it's really just a humbling experience," Ojeleye said.
Semi's older brother, Victor, played at Kansas State. So he feels like he has an idea of what he needs to prepare for.
"He told me you have to really get better and you have to get stronger. The pace of the game in college changes. I realize I have to work hard if I want to be good," he said.
The jump from high school to college basketball is a huge one. However, McKowen cracked a smile when asked if Ojeleye is ready for the next level.
"No doubt. He has faced every challenge that is thrown at him on the basketball floor, off the basketball floor. He rises above everything. There's been people that have told him he can't play at that level. He should have stayed close to home. He should have done this, should have done that. It just motivates him. It gets him to stay in the gym longer. It gets him to come in on Sundays or Saturdays on our days off. It's made him a better player," he explained.