By Kevin Wilson
Traveling to countries, near and far, while maintaining his honor roll status, is nothing new for Derek Ogbeide. The native Lagos, Nigerian played soccer most of his life. Surprisingly, the son of Martin and Justina Ogbeide discovered a new desire.
On his 11th birthday, Derek received two leather basketballs from his father. The special gifts motivated him to put air in the balls and toss them against the wall, pretending that the wall were baskets. A year later, he moved in with his uncle, Victor Richard, nearby the prestigious Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland.
At 6’2, 13 years old, wearing size 13 shoe, he attended Kenmoor Middle School in the eighth grade. He admits that he made the team due to his height. Derek blocked shots without jumping, ran the floor graciously, while proudly wearing Number 55 on his first organized hoop team. Reporting to early AM practices on time, running suicides and being chastised was all a part of the process. Not once, did Derek complain. “I remember those days,” he said. In spite of losing a lot of games, he had a thirst to score, block shots and rebound.
Next stop, Toronto, Canada. Representing Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic High School, the 6’5 center gradually improved, while earning A.A.U. recognition, and being highlighted on Hoops Hype Canada. Following his 10th grade year, his parents made a decision to have Derek go to Mableton, Georgia, and reside with his father. “I will always support Derek and his dream,” says Martin Ogbeide, who hold three college degrees.
Discovering a reputable A.A.U. team did not take long. Derek signed with the Southern Stampedes who’s sponsored by Nike EYBL. He honed his skills under Coach Patrick Harper, and played exceptionally well in the Peach Jam Classic. “Derek has an awesome personality on and off the court, he’s fun to be around, a good teammate, very strong work ethic and very motivated to be a great player,” says Harper, a skill development trainer.
Highly recruited by Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Tulane, Arizona, Houston and Georgia, the visit at the University of Houston he’ll treasure a lifetime. Derek met Rockets center Dwight Howard, another Nigerian and NBA Hall of Famer, Hakeem Alajuwon towards the end of his visit. That’s why he wears Number 34. It was a surreal moment, meeting and taking photos with Hakeem, Ogbeide gleefully stated.
When Derek arrived at Pebblebrook High School, a 6A school outside of Atlanta, in 2013, he was the tallest student in the school taking advance courses. “My side of the family are trees, everyone is over 6’4,” says the father, who’s 6’5. Derek’s height, desire and determination rapidly changed the complexion of the Falcons program. His dominating presence in the paint helped the Falcons to a 24-6 record, losing in the finale by six points at the Georgia Dome. “He’s a gym rat, a great ambassador for basketball and our school, he protects the rim and runs the floor better than any big man in America,” uttered Washington, a four year coach at Pebblebrook.
Senior year- competing against DeMatha, a nationally known team from Hyattsville, Maryland, Ogbeide did his job, tallying 14 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks, losing 61-54. In a great game, we spent a lot of our prep time addressing how we were to play against Derek. “He’s one of the most dominated post players that we have played against in a few years. He should have a very good career at Georgia,” said Stags coach Mike Jones.
Losing to Wheeler High, 59-58 in the 6A championship finale in Macon, Georgia on March 7 was a heart breaker. His last game in a Falcon uniform, the Georgia signer tallied 14 points, 22 rebounds and 7 blocks. “Without Derek all of our success would’ve not been possible,” says Preston Fulton, a senior guard. Ranked as one of the top ballers in Georgia, he looks forward to graduating in May, and starting his collegiate career in June. “I can’t wait to get better and reach higher heights at UGA”, says the 3.7 GPA student- who intends to major in Business Administration. “By the Grace of God, he has come a long way,” says his mother. The desire and determination continues.