Outside Shots with Mike Ojo: Global Hooper, Entrepreneur and Writer
In "Outside Shots", professional basketball players from around the world will share their overseas experiences through journal entries, in their own words. Today, meet Mike Ojo.
It’s been a minute since I’ve stretched out my nine fingers to share my thoughts. (Yes, nine. One doesn’t count; that will definitely be explained at some point.) But before I get into that and so much more, here’s a brief introduction.
My name is Mike Ojo, not to be confused with the 7’1" Michael Ojo who attended Florida State. I’m only 6’4" (on a great day), but basketball has taken me around the world from my hometown of Los Angeles, California.
I attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica, former home to Austin Croshere, Baron Davis and Shareef O’Neal. Man, those were some lonely days. I mean, no disrespect to my former high school teammates, but it would have been a completely different experience to touch the floor with those other guys.
Still, Crossroads got the job done. I finessed a full ride to Lehigh University, which at the time was a small and relatively unknown mid-major. Lehigh became (almost) a household name in 2010, when we damn near shocked the world.
As a 16 seed, we gave No. 1-seeded Kansas a scare in the NCAA tournament, led by a senior core of Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington, an NBA star in the making in sophomore C.J. McCollum and me as a junior.
Jump to my senior year in 2010-11. It’s the Patriot League tournament semifinals. We’re on the road and I’m co-captain. We’re down to Mike Muscala (now playing for the Philadelphia 76ers) and the Bucknell Bison with 15.4 seconds on the clock.
Baseline out of bounds, we're in a box set. C.J.’s aligned on the left block, I’m standing on the left elbow, freshman Holden Greiner is on the right elbow and freshman Gabe Knutson is on the right block. Another freshman, Mackey McKnight, triggers the set with a slap of the ball. Holden and I head to set a stagger screen to get C.J. a touch.
Naturally, C.J. is denied curling to the right wing. As the safety on the play, I pop out to the top of the key, catch the ball and attack downhill, triggering a dribble handoff with C.J. turning downhill. C.J. drives down from the right elbow and takes off to finish against Muscala.
But the shot doesn’t drop and C.J. doesn’t get the call. Game over. The crowd goes wild. My dreams of tournament redemption evaporate and tears begin to flow.
Is this the end? Part of me truly thought that I was destined to become part of that 99 percent the NCAA loves to talk about—the vast majority that doesn’t play professionally.
Little did I know, I would go on to play in nine countries, hold multiple scoring titles, become a top five three-point-percentage shooter in the history of a league and represent my mother country in international competitions.
The best was truly yet to come, and I’m more than excited to share these memories and experiences with you. Stay tuned.