Amid discomfiting news about Lance Thomas and a near-six figure jewelry purchase, Duke received a welcome distraction on Sunday night when Semi Ojeleye committed during Mike Krzyzewski’s in-home visit.
A 6-6, 215-pound wing forward at Ottawa (Kan.) High, Ojeleye chose the Blue Devils over UCLA, Indiana, Arizona, Illinois and others. He’s a strong, intelligent and aggressive power wing who, at Duke, conceivably could slide down to the big forward spot whenever the Devils opt to deploy a small lineup.
Ojeleye competed for MoKan Elite on the Nike-backed travel circuit. He performed solidly at the NBPA Top 100 Camp during the early summer and then elevated his game at the Peach Jam during July. In seven games at the tournament, he averaged 17.6 points per game — No. 9 among all players — and defended ferociously as well. His scoring numbers had been relatively modest at the other four Nike events, and the Peach Jam marked high points for both his visibility and achievements against national competition.
Getting close to the basket is the key to his game. He attempted seven free throws per contest at the Peach Jam and knocked in an impressive 86 percent from the line. He relies on muscle and deception due to the fact that his first step is just average, but few players at his age and height possess the strength to prevent him from backing his way inside.
Unlike most Duke wings, Ojeleye doesn’t shoot particularly well from the perimeter. Some fans therefore may be inclined to expect another Gerald Henderson, but that comparison doesn’t work because Ojeleye is far stronger yet also less athletic.
In addition to his physical tools, Ojeyele competes with the alertness and vigor preferred by Krzyzewski. He anticipates well both offensive and defensively, leading to steals, offensive rebounds, sharp cuts to the basket for lay-ups and quick passes to open teammates. Some scouts refer to him as a “grinder,” and that description works to a great extent due to his versatility and maximum effort.
Through June, my expectation was that Ojeleye would land somewhere in the top 50-75 range nationally. But after the Peach Jam, he earned the No. 45 position in my post-summer rankings. (Brick Oettinger has Ojeleye at No. 48 in his rankings.) He’ll need to improve his jump shot and dribbling in order to climb further, but clearly he’s physically ready to compete at the college level and projects as a steady four-year contributor in Durham.
Examining fit, he may be called upon to guard the best player an opponent features within the 6-5 to 6-8 range. He’s muscular enough to battle in the post yet slides his feet well and should be able to handle most perimeter wings on dribble penetration. He’s slightly too lumbering to defend opposing wing guards, however, and he definitely slots better as a potential combo forward than he does as a 2-3 swingman.
Duke remains in search of an elite senior catch — Jabari Parker and Julius Randle are major targets within the top five — but Ojeleye and sharp-shooter Matt Jones give them a pair of quality pickups in the 2013 class.