One on one with Semi Ojeleye

With the summer recruiting period winding down, several prospects are taking a step away from basketball to recharge before refocusing on high school seasons around the nation. One such prospect is five star small forward Semi Ojeleye. The Ottawa (Kan.) standout spoke to TDD about that and much more this weekend while providing a number of updates.

TDD: With the July recruiting period now over, what are your thoughts on how the Spring and Summer went?

Semi Ojeleye: I'm excited that it's over, honestly. It was very busy, but I'm happy that our team did well in the tournaments we were in. It's great to get back to Kansas City.

Your name has exploded nationally in terms of fan interest. How are you dealing with the attention?

I just take it in stride, and continue to work on my game and to improve. I am always listening to my coaches, and they are telling me to keep working harder every day.

Overall, what did you learn about yourself from your summer experiences?

I learned a lot about my maturity level, and my strengths as a player. That being said, I also learned what I needed to work on. I really learned that I could play at this level if I continue to put in work on my game and stay humble. It's a big blessing to get invited to the camps and tournaments.

Did you make any new friendships?

Yeah I definitely did. You become a lot closer with you guys as you work out with them in camps or play against them in EYBL, it's good to spend time with them.

Who were some of those guys ?

Guys from all over, guys from Dallas, Virginia, New York, all over really. So many that I can't even being to name them all.

Who was the toughest competion for you this summer?

The guys from CIA Bounce, from The Family, and my team from MoKan. We're really a unit and we know that most other teams have big stars, so we just tried to stay ready to compete.

How much did you pay attention to the discussion about where you could rise to the player rankings after the summer you had? Is that a big deal to you?

No, not really at all. I'm never online, and I just call people and text with friends and coaches. My role is to work on my game and be who I am.

What kind of things were you trying to work on during the summer?

I tried to work on my ball-handling for starters. I definitely need to get better with that. Also I worked on my toughness, and how to be a better driver, and more versatile. Just trying to become that pillar on the court, be more mature on the court, especially with my shooting and my passing touch.

You seem to alternate between playing in the post and working on the perimeter. I'm curious as to how you view yourself as a player and what your role is on a team?

I definitely say I started off in the post when I was younger, and as I continued to grow I'd work on guard things. I like to think that I'm a versatile wing. I've been watching NBA guys like LeBron James to learn how they post up, but I don't want to just play in the post. I want to be more versatile than that. I've just been working on improving my game and I think it got better.

How did doing LeBron Camp benefit you?

I think it just gave me more opportunity to play. I love playing all summer even though it was hard traveling every week. The coaches were great at the camp, playing against a different group of guys each game, it was great.

Did you get a chance to interact personally with LeBron?

Well, while we were there we got to go to a Team USA practice and got the opportunity to take pictures with him. That was pretty special, it was real motivating to see him.

Did you just see a practice or was there more to it?

It was just a practice. We got to be on the side watching, and we watched Blake Griffin and those guys do dunks and scrimmage. It was pretty cool getting an inside look at what the pros do.

What did you learn from watching the NBA guys practice?

You really learn a lot. You see how vocal they are, and how they lead guys in practice.I learned a lot from that.

Did you get to interact with Coach K while there?

Not really. We were there because they were wanting us to see them get ready for the Olympics, what they did in practice.

How much are you watching them now?

I've watched pretty much every one of their games, as well as a lot of the other sports too. It's just great watching the best in the world compete in different sports.

Talking about your phone interaction with coaches, what are your opinions of the new phone rules?

I've been managing it well, and I'm just taking my time and trying to approach it professionally. I've got an older brother who has given me a lot of advice, just getting back to messages from coaches. I try to listen to what they say because it's a big blessing to have all the coaches calling me.

Are you primarily handling the communication?

Lot of the coaches call my mom, and my family, but me the most. They tell my parents what their goals are for me as a player.

Which coaches are making the biggest efforts to reach out to you at this point?

Basically all of them, especially some schools who came on a bit later in the summer than others. Even though my dad works a lot, my mom relays a lot of info to him, with the new open phone rules it helps, coaches are doing a good job talking with us.

How do your parents respond to the recruitment?

They are very supportive of me. Like, with my mom, she drives me everywhere and she's there at tournaments. She really understands what she wants in a school that I go to.

Since they've been through it with your brother before, how are they handling your process?

It's like in business, and you are trying to improve all the time. They've learned with some things to stay relaxed and with other things to take them more seriously. Past experience helps them make good decisions right now, but they still let me have fun with it. There's a lot of different components to recruiting with phone calls, traveling, basketball in general, they've learned what's important and not important.

What's really important to you guys to learn from coaches as they are recruiting you?

A couple things for sure: Academics, and what they can do for me first. Coaches can re-assure my parents that where I'm going is a good academic school. Also, how I can be improved in their program as a player and how I can have an immediate impact in their program.

There's the little things too, such as how I can bring value to their system. My AAU coach and my mom have been helping me a lot with this, they carry around the NCAA rules with them on when the different periods are so they can know that coaches are doing things the right way. That's a big help for me.

What makes you take that stuff seriously when most people don't think like that?

My brother served on a NCAA committee, and he's told me how important the rules are especially for prospective student athlete. He's given me advice just so we can make sure we do things the right way because that's a big deal to me, doing things the right way on and off the court.

Are you already involved with getting your info submitted to the NCAA Clearinghouse and schools you are evaluating for officials?

I definitely am. My SAT score, I'm looking at taking that again potentially and with school starting up in the fall, and I'm looking forward to that.

How much are you learning about the academic support available at schools for student athletes?

We are definitely looking into that, and seeing what schools have to offer to help you succeed, and challenge you. That's something very important to me that I not only get to play basketball, but also have the opportunity to be a student athlete and earn my degree.

Have you met any team academic coordinators on your visits?

Yeah, every school I've visited, from Indiana to Duke to Stanford and others has let me meet key important people. They have given me a chance to view the academic support system that they have for athletes. I've met a couple of Deans of Admissions, that was cool academically to see their vision for the schools. I've always asked the coaches who I can meet academically at their schools and they've always let me meet different people involved in that area. It's great when you visit and the schools show you through and through what they are all about, that's a good thing.

Have you had any visits recently?

No, not yet. Basically what I'm doing right now is laying low, I took this week off to be with my family, get a chance to relax. With school starting up soon what I'm thinking about doing is looking at my school schedule so I can see openings on Thursday through Sundays that work for visits. I want to make sure that my academics are right before I go on visits. That's my plan.

Have any schools asked you to come visit on a specific weekend yet?

Yes, there's been several who have done that. Right now we're looking at the schedule to see if we can make that happen. You only get a certain amount, it'll be fun but we've got to make a tough decision on where to visit.

Which schools have asked for a specific date for your visit?

A couple have, the Stanford coaches have given me a date, and UCLA has asked me too. A couple other schools are working on getting me the date they want me to visit. Most of the schools their time they want me to visit is built around there being a big game, whether it be basketball or football, they just give me the dates and say hey, this would be a good date if you can make it happen.

Have any schools asked you to be your first visit or your last visit?


Is there a pecking order in terms of when you hope to visit schools time frame wise?

I think I definitely have some in mind like that, kind of a rough idea, but it's really difficult because there's more than five schools I'm interested in. Trying to figure out who I want to go visit last is something I'm thinking about, but it's a hard decision since there are so many good schools. I'm just trying to narrow it down to determine the best fit for me to go visit.

Are you indicating to schools you are a fall or spring decision?

Not really, that's like three or four steps down the road. I'm not there yet.

What's the big purpose for you with the official visits? What are you going to be looking for?

The main thing is seeing the scene "active", you know? Seeing the school in session, on a game-day weekend, not necessarily just for the game, but also seeing the student life active when they are there. It's also good getting to see all the players and coaches there because with the unofficials, not often do you have all the coaches and players there, so that's important too. Seeing the entire university, that's what I'm looking at.

Are you friends with any current players at schools that are recruiting you?

No, not really. I'm sure I'll spend time with them on my visits, but the only guys I'd know in that way would be guys from camps who were college counselors. I would get to know those guys when I visit.

Who are you bringing with you on the visits?

I'm definitely taking my mom and my dad, because I think the visits will include stuff for them and stuff for me. I think my brother might come on some but I'm not sure about all of them because he's working a lot.

Has there been anything you've learned from the coaches as they have recruited you that's really surprised you?

I've learned a lot about what their future goals are for their programs. That's really important because as you see their vision you can compare for yourself to see if you can see yourself in their vision or not. Some schools are going to recruit four or five guys and that's it. Other schools will tell you how they want to win a championship, while others will want guys that can make an impact right away. Some will also tell me that they have a void at my position, and they want you to be that guy. All those are great opportunities for me, it's such a talented class in 2013, I'm fortunate to be a part of it.

Are schools making you aware of guys that they are recruiting?

They won't give you specific names, but they'll say we'll be losing three to five guys so they are trying to bring in a big class and you can see your opportunity with that. I'm just soaking that all in, seeing what situation fits best for me.

Can you compare how you evaluate a school who will have immediate playing time available on the wing versus another who you know you'll be competing for minutes?

Basically I think the main thing to understand is that when you get to college, you are going to have to work hard to be successful. Whatever they tell you now, I've just been the person who seizes the opportunities that come my way because you don't get too many. Whatever coach gives me the inclination that I know fits me best, that's what I'll evaluate.

Has anybody indicated a potential role for you that is of concern to you or are you pretty happy with the pitches?

I've been pretty happy so far. There's a lot of different styles that they are transparent about.

Do you just want to be a wing player in college or do you want to also do things in the post as well?

I'd really like to be a wing, but I'm open to playing in the post too. I want to be versatile and keep improving so I can do different things in college.

How are things progressing with Duke's recruitment of you?

Everything is going great with them. I've been text messaging and calls with them. We've been taking time and really building a relationship with one another.

How much interaction have you had with Coach K of late?

I've had a few phone calls and messages with him, but he's been busy with Team USA during that time so I haven't talked with him a lot. I've gotten a couple text messages from assistants too. They were at a lot of my games this summer.

What's your opinion on Coach K coaching the Olympic team?

I think it's a wonderful opportunity for both the NBA players to be coached by him and also for the coaching staff it's good too. He's a well known coach, and he's great for the game. It's been fun to watch them play and see something different.

Is your list pretty firmed up now schools wise?

As far as who I have now, there are the 11 or 12 schools who have expressed interest, and I feel pretty good about them and with the communication we've steadily had. I"m thankful for the interest I've had but there hasn't been any really new schools who have tried to start recruiting me.

How do you anticipate addressing the process of narrowing down schools?

I think I'll do it fairly soon because you can only have the five official visits. The process will really be me sitting down with my family soon, and figure out where I want to take the visits to. We'll take it one day at a time, I'm not even sure what those schools are going to be yet.

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