One on one with Semi Ojeleye

While his decision to commit to Duke wasn't a big surprise for those who follow such things closely, it was a huge happening in Durham. Now that five star wing Semi Ojeleye has the recruiting process behind him, he's had some time to reflect on everything past, present, and what the future holds. He spoke about it all with TDD.

TDD: How are you feeling now that you've got the recruiting process behind you?

Semi Ojeleye: It's been a really long process for me, but I'm really excited with my decision.

In your post-commitment interviews you mentioned you knew you wanted to commit going into the in-home visit. What prompted that?

We went up on an unofficial visit awhile back. It was just me, my mother and my brother. Just like we had done with a lot of other schools, but Duke was different. We got a really good feeling about everything there, and we were thinking about it on the way back and compared all the other schools to Duke. We talked about it with my dad and my sister and it started to register. From there we started feeling better and better about it as time went on and we talked about it.

What was it about the visit that really grabbed your attention?

The coaching staff for starters. It's the way they are a family, and they've all played for Coach K. Because of that, they all have the same mindset and they all know what to expect from having played for Coach K and they communicated that to me. Plus the campus was a lot smaller than I thought which was great for me since I'm from a small town. Overall it was the way they handled the whole visit, it was awesome.

What do you mean by the way they handled the visit?

They had everything planned perfectly. I got to spend a lot of time with Coach K. He was there the entire time, which is not something you'd expect since you are on an unofficial visit. If it had been an official visit, I would have expected to see the head coach a lot, but this just showed me how much they wanted me to come to Duke. They also told me I'd get a fair shot to accomplish the things I want to as a player, and that's all I wanted to hear.

We also had a chance to eat with the coaches for around two and a half hours, and then went to Coach K's office for a while.

Did you learn anything about Duke during the visit?

At first I didn't think the campus would be that small so I got a different feel for it on campus. Going in, you think Duke is an Ivy League school who also plays basketball, but when I got there you see how much basketball is involved in the day to day focus of the school. Not that Duke is not a serious academic school because it is, but it was cool seeing how passionate everybody is about the basketball team there. That was a big plus for the university.

You said the assistants shared their experiences of being players for Coach K. Can you elaborate?

I was talking with Coach James and I was asking him what Coach K was like when he was real fired up because everybody wants to know that. You know as a player that there will be times where he's going to say something to you because he demands a lot from you. Coach James was telling me that yeah he's going to get fired up, but he's not going to do anything to degrade you, that was good to hear. My parents really wanted me to go to a place where I wasn't going to be treated harshly, it was good for them to have an assurance with that part.

What did you learn about Coach K as you had a chance to interact with him so much on the visit?

I can't even begin to express how many things I like about him as a person and coach. He's just so down to earth, and a normal guy to talk to him and I relate to him so well, especially as a mentor.

You had previously said you were interested in the academic support system. What were your impressions there?

We got to meet with Kenny King, the team's academic coordinator for about an hour and that was really great for everybody. He had a book for each player that he showed us. One of the books where he had all the classes laid out for the player that they would take, they really stay on top of things for you as a player. He showed me, I think it was Mason Plumlee's schedule, it was good to see that.

How do you feel about having the opportunity to pursue a degree at Duke?

It's good because sometimes basketball doesn't work out, so even if basketball doesn't work out in the future, i'll have a Duke degree that I can use to pursue something different in life.

What were the things about the visit that got your mom and your brother excited about what Duke had to offer?

There some things we were talking about on the way back -- they both had their concerns met or exceeded that Duke was a place that I could play and succeed.

How did your dad respond when you got back home and told him about the visit?

My dad's mindset throughout this whole process has been to support whatever my decision would be so as long I knew what it was going to be like to live there and play there. I hadn't really talked with him much about the other schools the way I was talking about Duke, and he said he could tell that I felt really differently about Duke. My brother and my mom talked about what they saw and they saw how I felt and they were all like, 'whatever you think is best, go for it'.

What switched for you from actively considering Duke to deciding prior to the in-home visit that you were sure you wanted to commit to Coach K and Duke?

It was the phone calls. A lot of schools I was talking with the assistant coaches, which was perfectly fine, but to have that much time on the phone with Coach K, it's always good to hear from him directly. When he was calling me frequently, like once a week or once every week and a half I knew he was serious about me and then he was texting me several times while he was London, that was just really awesome. It changed my mind about the school.

Was it the things he was saying to you in those calls or just the sheer volume of interactions that gave you a favorable impression of them?

It was what he was saying to me. He was telling how he thought Duke would be a good fit for me for a variety of reasons and I really agreed with him. Not going to Duke would be a mistake because I saw it was the best opportunity I had.

So what was the motivation in being sure you wanted to commit while he was in your home for the visit?

I just thought I was ready and I couldn't let him come to my house and then leave and not tell him how I felt and that I wanted to commit. I didn't want to let the opportunity slip through my fingers and barring anything crazy happening on the home visit, I knew I wanted to commit. I was pretty sure about that.

When they walked through the door on the night of the visit, I was really excited. You can't describe it, it's just a dream come true.

How long did it take once they were in the home before you told them your desire to commit?

It didn't happen for a couple hours. I wasn't like waiting to tell them right away because I knew they had a lot to share with me and I had respect for that. But they didn't know that I was planning on committing, so they went through tape, what their plans were for me as a player, especially for my dad and my sister that was good to hear what their plans were. I waited through that, and then as the visit was winding down, I just got it done and said I was ready to be a Blue Devil.

What was the reaction like in the room to that?

Man, it was just, everybody was just extremely excited. I think Coach Wojo, he might have jumped out of his chair. They were obviously really excited that I was committing and I knew how committed they were to me being a part of the team.

How did the coaches tailor their presentation to you?

Well,they were showing videos of past wings in their program and also some Team USA stuff. They also showed how they motivated the players, stuff like that. They were telling me that I could play the shooting guard, wing, or big forward positions on the court depending on the match-ups. Because of that they were telling me to keep working on my perimeter game, and to work on my skills.

When we were on the unofficial visit we had a chance to talk about that stuff so in the in-home there wasn't a lot of talk on this because I had had a chance to talk with Coach James and Coach Collins about what they would do in individual development workouts. They talked about how guys play freely and shoot good shots and how they set up to make them.

Have you and your family been working on setting an official visit date yet?

Yeah, it's basically going to depend on my dad's work schedule. Hopefully we'll get it done before my high school season starts. I think we're talking some time in the first couple of weeks in November, those are two of the better date ranges that we might have.

What are you looking forward to about the official visit?

Really just to see what it's like day to day there. What classes are like, to see a game…just to see that, it'll be a great experience.

Is the staff talking much with you about how recruiting is going with your class and the class after you?

Yeah, they talk about it some. They told me that from their point of view, me committing might actually help them with some players. They were concentrating on trying to have me commit first and then try to talk with other players they are recruiting.

How do you feel about your potential role at Duke?

I think it's a really good thing that I'll be able to play all over and do different things. It'll be good because if I can guard guards and forwards, and that's a good position to be in. I'll also be able to play on both ends and help the team in a variety of ways.

Being so driven, does accepting a scholarship to Duke say anything about your development?

I think it says a lot about me. Obviously the opportunity and success has come from God. I've put in a lot of time to develop, but the work isn't over yet, I still have a long ways to go and I still have a senior year to play and I haven't even put on a Duke uniform yet, there's still a lot of work to be done.

How do you feel knowing you'll be playing in front of the Cameron Crazies?

That's going to be real crazy and a lot of fun. They are the best fans in the country. I'm going to love it for sure.

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