Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
Progress In The Paint
Progress in the Paint
By Kevin Wilson
Special to BASN
MARYLAND (BASN): At age 13, standing 6-foot-2 and wearing size 13 shoes, Derek enrolled at Kenmoor Middle School knowing little about basketball, but eager to learn all he could about the game. “I wasn’t very good; tryouts didn’t go well, but on cut day, I saw my name on the list, and I was happy,” Derek recalled.
He said he truly believes he made the team primarily because he was tall.
Today, at 6’9, 240 pounds, Derek is committed to the University of Georgia as a highly sought-after recruit, who also had caught the attention of Memphis, Arizona, Houston, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech and Tulane Universities.
Born in Benin, Africa to Martin and Justina Ogbeide, Derek grew up as a citizen of the world, having lived in Nigeria, England, and Sweden prior to coming to the U.S.. As a single parent, Justina simply wanted a better life for her son.
In the 8th grade, Derek and his mother, moved to Prince Georges County and lived with his uncle Victor Richard, near the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Md. One gorgeous sunny day, Derek and a new neighbor decided to visit the Sports and Learning Complex. At the customer service desk, two men were chatting about sports. A middle-aged man suddenly turned around and noticed Derek’s shoe size, arm length and height.
Sylvester Wilson, a former athlete, asked Derek if he wanted to play basketball. “Yes, Sir,” he gleefully answered. Derek walked Sylvester to his car. They talked about basketball and Sylvester gave Derek his business card. That same day, Sylvester acquired permission from Derek’s mother to let him assist Derek with his desire to play basketball.
Prior to school team tryouts, Derek hung out at the South Bowie Recreation Center, where he worked out rigorously, enjoying every second. It was also where he learned the word “ambidextrous” and which hand to use on either side of the basket.
Not born accustomed to basketball, Derek was athletic at an early age, starting with soccer while in Nigeria; and it wasn’t long before he was bitten by the basketball bug here.
He and his mother left Nigeria and moved to London, living with relatives for a few years. Then he spent a couple of years in Sweden, then moved to Atlanta, where he lived with his father as a fourth- and fifth-grader. He saw the Atlanta Hawks, twice.
After fifth grade, it was back to Nigeria for two more years, Derek was surprised on his 11th birthday when his father sent two rubber, inflated basketballs that Derek happily pumped up and then threw against a wall pretending it was a basket.
In January 2011, Derek abruptly transferred to St. Angelo in Toronto, Canada, for the second half of his eighth grade year for personal reasons. Unfortunately, upon his arrival, basketball season had ended. For the next two years, the honors student attended Monsignor Percy Johnson High School. Each day, he proudly wore a Navy blue polo shirt, with the high school’s crest on the left side, black pants and black shoes.
At 6’5″, when he finally started playing, he was the team’s center, and was nominated Ontario Basketball Association “Defensive Player of the Year,” MVP and the team were tournament winners under Coach Perry. During the summer, he represented the Northern Kings, an AAU team, acquiring recognition on Canada Hoop Hype.com from college scouts.
Surprisingly, Derek moved again, after his father, who lives in the Atlanta area, requested that he return to the U.S.. While growing four inches over the summer, Derek played for the Southern Stampedes- Nike EYBL under Coach Pat Harper. A Vimeo clip by Johnny Hines highlighting Derek’s talent is highly impressive on Courtside Film.
From day one, Derek worked hard to become one of the best at his position. The Stampedes have produced a great number of Division 1 players, mainly from the metro Atlanta and Southeast region of the U.S.. Derek played with Prince Ali (committed to UCLA) and Ty Hudson (committed to Clemson).
“Derek is very motivated to be a great player, and the biggest accolade was helping his team make the Peach Jam Classic this past summer, where he was one of the leaders in rebounds and blocks,” said Harper, a skills development trainer and an AAU coach for 10 years.
Ogbeide’s presence in the paint made a rapid change in the Falcon’s hoop program. He made second team All State, Player of the Month in January and February, and Defensive Player of the Year nominee; leading the Falcons to a 24- 6 record, but losing by six points in the 6A finale at the Georgia Dome.
Returning for his senior year at Pebblebrook-High in Mableton, Georgia, at 6’9″, 240 pounds, Derek could hardly wait to make another Final Four appearance.
Four visits to Division 1 colleges(the Universities of Houston, Tulane, Georgia and Memphis) changed the tone and purpose for Ogebide. While in Houston, Derek met Dwight Howard and NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon towards the end of his visit. “Seeing Hakeem was surreal, I picked his brain and he shared about working with me,” Derek said. “That’s the reason why I wear ’34.’”
Pebblebrook High’s gym was packed on Nov. 14, for a press conference to hear the final collegiate decision of Derek Ogbeide’s.
Appropriately dressed, and turned opposite from the crowd, Derek pretended he had two hats under his blazer, but he really had one. When he eventually faced his peers, faculty and coaches, he pulled out a red, black and white Georgia Bulldog baseball cap, and the gym erupted.
“Georgia gave me a home feel where I can make a statement,” Ogbeide said during a telephone interview.
TOUGH BREAKS IN THE POST-SEASON
Breezing through the first half of the regular season undefeated, the Falcons faced some pretty tough national competition. The Falcons, who were ranked No. 1 in Georgia, flew to California during Christmas break to play in the Max Prep Holiday Classic. On Dec. 30, in the open division finale against the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers, with 1.6 seconds remaining, Pebblebrook up by one, and their ball, the ref called a foul on an inbound play and the Falcons lost 67-66. Derek, who registered a double-double, said he considered that flop, the worst foul call in high school basketball history.
Going south to take on the No. 1 team in the nation, Montverde Academy in Florida, the Falcons lost, 69-61. Ogbeide scored 13 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Falcons returned to Georgia, to play another national powerhouse, DeMatha from Hyattsville, Maryland, in the Hilton Invitational in Norcross.
Ogbeide scored 14 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks in another loss, 61-54. “ In a great game, we spent a lot of our prep time in addressing how we were to play against Derek,” said DeMatha Stags head coach Mike Jones. “He’s one of the most dominate post-players that we have played against in a few years. He should have a very good career at Georgia.”
Derek kept the losses in perspective. The 3.7 GPA student has a reputation for lending an ear to others who seem to be depressed and angry. On a couch in front of the coach’s office, Derek is known to sit and give students a place to vent. He said he read people well. “It’s good to talk it out,” he said. “I like psychology, the study of the mind, and it’s a good practice for what I want to do,” he told BASN.
Hoping to reappear in the finale, the Falcons beat Kennesaw Mountain and Pope High on Feb. 21. convincingly 78-59 with their big man netting 14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. Knocking off the 2013 state champions Norcross and Shiloh set the stage for the finale with Wheeler High on March 7 in Macon, Georgia.
In a packed arena, for the 6A Georgia State High School Association finale, Pebblebrook High and Wheeler High, both teams averaged 70 plus points per game. Down 28-25 at halftime, in spite of 11 Falcon turnovers, Ogbeide had 14 of his 22 rebounds.
“He loves to work, good footwork, a strong performer,” says one of the game commentators. After three quarters, Pebblebrook trailed, 44-43. With a missed free throw by Jared Harper that could’ve won the game, and a blocking foul on Ogbeide, that sent the best player in the state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown, to the free throw line with 0.6 seconds spoiled the Falcon’s dream. Brown hit two free throws to sealed the victory, 59-58.
“There was more I could have done, but I did what was necessary to win, but it wasn’t enough. I can’t control the guard action, I left it all out on the court, and the call was not appropriate. I am coachable; I wish I could have touched the ball more. We should have never been in a close game situation.” says Ogbeide, who tallied 14 points along with 7 blocks.
Preston Fulton, a senior guard, who plans on majoring in Business Marketing says, “without Derek, our success would not have been possible. We appreciate everything the big fella did for us on the court. Usually top players in the state walk around campus cocky and arrogant, but that’s not Derek. He’s very humble. Everyone loves him, and he shows love back.”
Coach George Washington said Derek was a great ambassador for basketball and the school. Admittedly, the four-year coach says, “ the arrival of Derek changed the program. He changed so many shots, and the children love him.”
Pebblebrook ended the season 27- 6, and 14-0 in the region, Derek averaging 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks per contest.
In Derek’s bedroom, there are medals on the wall and trophies on his dresser. A large, colorful poster of Hakeem Olajuwon in a half uniform and suit hangs on the right side of his bed. The 2015 All-Region first team nominee earned Defensive Player of the Month, and MVP awards from hard work.
Due to his Business Administration curriculum, the eloquent speaking teen will start his college career in June; but will have summer breaks.
Otherwise, his plans for the summer are to “Get in the gym and get ready for Georgia.”
Coach Myron Barr, Derek’s first organized basketball coach remembers him, said he was excited to hear that Derek would be attending a Division I school in the fall.
“The progress speaks highly of his determination and character,” Barr says. It’s all about respect and integrity. He’s earning and demonstrating those two words, very well.”