Siena’s Ogunyemi Finding Comfort on the Court


When Siena forward Brett Bisping went down with a toe injury that is likely to keep him out until February, if not the rest of the season, coach Jimmy Patsos called on sophomore big man Javion Ogunyemi to take on a more significant role. Already projected as a likely starter during the preseason, Ogunyemi’s role had been magnified once already when senior center Imoh Silas was lost with a season-ending knee injury. Facing tough times is nothing new.

Ogunyemi has faced adversity before. At the height of his recruitment, the former Troy High standout suffered a severe ankle injury at the end of his junior year. He was able to bounce back averaging 18 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game while  leading Troy to a sectional title and state semifinal appearance.

After reportedly receiving offers from Iowa State, Fordham, James Madison, Deleware, Rhode Island Holy Cross, Buffalo and Albany and interest from many others, Oguynyemi ultimately opted to play for the Saints. But, before he could even begin his college career, Ogumyemi was dealt the toughest blow of all, the death of his mother Thomasina Schultz who died of lung cancer in the August before his freshman year, at the age of 37.

Again Ogumyemi fought back, dedicating himself on and off the court. After showing promise early, he suffered another ankle injury that would cause him to miss 8 games last season. He came back and finished the year averaging 1.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10.8 minutes of play per game.

Now, with two of his top front court teammates out, Ogunyemi is answering the call and elevating his game. After struggling in the first couple games after the Bisping injury, he is now emerging as a key ingredient to the Saints’ lineup.

“I think the first couple of games I struggled a little bit just because I wasn’t used to having that role,” said Ogunyemi. I think the last couple of games I’ve been coming on a lot better.”

Now averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.2 minutes of play on the season, Ogunyemi has been outstanding in the last five games in particular, averaging 11.2 points 6.8 rebounds over that span. He ranks third in the MAAC in field goal percentage (54.4%) and describes that he is simply becoming more comfortable on the court and benefitting from experience.

“I’ve just been playing a lot more,” explained Ogunyemi. “When you play a lot you’re in a lot of situations and involved in a lot of plays. My teammates do a  good job of looking for me on offense and just telling me to be aggressive when I get the ball.”

“When you start having success everything becomes easier,” continued Ogunyemi. “It becomes easier for you to defend, rebound. It just makes the game a whole lot easier.”

Senior Evan Hymes sees a more assertive Ogumyemi and describes his evolution as a player.

“We were watching film the other day from against Fairfield and he went in to that Beast Mode.,” said Hymes. “He got two or three and-ones. He’s been playing great for us, rebounding the ball. We just want to continue to feed him the ball on the inside and he’ll continue to finish.”

According to his team mate, although soft-spoken, Ogunyemi has the drive within that is becoming more apparent on the court.

“He plays with so much heart and emotion and he just wants to get out there and get after it,” said Hymes. “We  definitely will get him the ball and he’s gonna continue to make plays for us.”

While still early in his career, Ogunyemi is showing that he has what it takes to become a force in the college game and his proven ability to face adversity will continue to serve him well.

“It’s like climbing Mount Everest,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “It’s harder as you go up. I think Javion has done a great job. He’s a really smart kid. He does well, had another great semester academically. Smart guys figure it out. He’s figuring out that it’s harder as you become the guy because they focus on you.”

Ogunyemi scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds against MAAC favorite Iona on Sunday and was a key to victory in a one point win the game prior at Fairfield with 15 points, 6 rebounds and a game-saving blocked shot in the closing seconds.

“His block against Fairfield, against Gilbert was unbelievable,” said Patsos. “That won us the game. He’s fun to coach. I like watching him grow.”



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