Josh Ogundele Can’t Lose No Matter What Luka Garza Decides
Josh Ogundele is looking at two scenarios leading up to his arrival at Iowa. He views both of them as being beneficial.
The Class of 2020 English big man is coming to the Midwest by way of New England prep school. If all-American center Luka Garza pulls out of the NBA Draft and returns to the Hawkeyes for his senior season, Ogundele receives a full year of tutelage working behind one of the country’s best post players. If Garza leaves school, he likely sees many more minutes.
“I can’t lose,” Ogundele told HN. “I had a conversation with him saying if he does come back, I would love to learn from him. He could push me. If he were to go, I would probably play more.”
It looks like Garza is leaning toward coming back to college. Depending on how the preseason shakes out, Ogundele could possibly red shirt during his apprenticeship. He’s not conceding minutes no matter who is on the roster, however.
“I have a mindset that whoever is better than me, I want to kill them to get what I want, whether that be in practice by outworking someone or trying to be better than them. I think that’s what will help me fit into the Big Ten perfectly,” he said.
Garza’s return doesn’t clinch a frequent seat on the bench for Ogundele, either. Iowa is looking to replace outgoing inside players Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl. Jack Nunge is the only other big man, and he’s returning from a season lost to a torn ACL.
“If Luka comes back, I will watch behind him, learn from him,” Ogundele said of what the Iowa coaches have told him. “If he doesn’t, then who knows what could happen. But if he does come back, I think the plan is for me to play behind him, watch and learn and see how I can impact the Big Ten.”
Iowa could roll with a smaller lineup like it did last year with Connor McCaffery playing the four spot. However, the opportunity is there for Ogundele to break through with or without Garza.
“He’s got athletic power,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said in November when Ogundele signed with the Hawkeyes. “When you see a wide-body guy, you think he’s strictly a below-the-rim guy. And he does play sometimes below the rim. But he can go up and dunk it on you, block shots above the rim.
“I think it’s important to bring in a guy that we feel is capable of playing right away.”
Ogundele (6-11, 245) sees similarities between his skills and those of Garza.
“I believe we both have good footwork and we’re both big bodies who can use our bodies to our advantage,” he said. “I think I need to improve my shooting more, though.”
Garza can step out behind the three-point arc and drain long jumpers. He boasts a variety of moves and shots on all three levels. Ogundele is working to get there, getting up shots daily with a personal trainer. He believes reps will get him where he wants to be.
“I don’t think it’s forced. My coaches in England did a good job working with me on shooting so now it’s not forced. It’s not unnatural,” he said.
Injuries affected Ogundele’s final season at Worcester (MA) Academy this past winter. He still helped the Hilltoppers to the state championship game.
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“We kind of expected to get there. We just were mad that we lost,” he said.
Shortly after that, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Ogundele was living with a teammate for spring break then Worcester Academy shut down for the year. He returned to England, where he is staying now, and finishing up his academics online.
Ogundele moved to the U.S. when he was 16 so he could raise his basketball profile. He hasn’t gone home much and knows he probably won’t when he gets to Iowa, but his mother was happy he came back with the virus killing people all over the world.
“She’s way more comfortable with me here,” he said. “I don’t come home often, and I’m enjoying the time with my family.”
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Ogundele improved his conditioning during his final high school season. He worked on expanding his game, but his role called for him mostly setting up on the low block.
“I really didn’t get to show my versatility because we have a lot of shooters on our team. I can stretch the floor a bit but I didn’t really need to because no one could really guard me in the post. So, I really just stayed inside, but in college I’m hoping to show more of my game and spread the floor more,” he said.
Ogundele said his wingspan has been measured at more than seven feet, three inches. He’s learning how to use it to his advantage.
“I think it helps me finish. If I’m posted up and go to a hook shot, you can’t really block me because I have long arms. I’m not a shot blocker yet, but I think I have the tools to become one. I think as soon as I lose weight, I’ll be able to jump higher and block more shots,” he said.
Ogundele focused on improving his lateral quickness this past season. It allowed him to guard smaller players.
“In practice, me and one of my teammates, Dasonte Bowen, who also has an Iowa offer, would get into arguments in practice because I would sometimes lock him up,” Ogundele sayd.
Bowen is a 6-3 point guard.
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One reason Ogundele could see himself thriving at Iowa was the conversations he had with former Hawkeye center Gabe Olaseni, who walked the path from England to U.S. prep school to the Big Ten and has gone on to play professionally overseas.
“He talked to me about coming from the same place, knowing the struggles, being in the same situation and knowing how hard it can be coming from England to go to Iowa. He told me that coach McCaffery is a good guy who helped him become the player he is today,” Ogundele said.
He is unsure when his time at Iowa will begin. The Big Ten announced this week that it was extending its suspension of all team activities through June 1 due to coronavirus concerns. It will reevaluate the situation then. Incoming recruits usually arrive on campus in early June, but that could be pushed back.
“We’re getting information day by day. I can’t wait to come on campus, but until then I just keep in contact with the coaches and am building that relationship,” Ogundele said.
Team captains Garza, Connor McCaffery, Joe Wieskamp and Jordan Bohannon have been staying on top of the other players, making sure they are working out and conducting online meetings promoting chemistry. They play video games together as a bonding activity.
“So far I’ve just been playing with Joe Wieskamp. We play Fortnite,” Ogundele said.
Ogundele also is working hard on finishing up his academics at Worcester Academy. He plans on majoring in Business at Iowa.
“From a young age, I’ve had an interest in business, buying, selling, trading. It’s just a field that interests me and I know if basketball doesn’t work out, which hopefully it does, I’ll obviously have something to fall back on,” he said.
As Ogundele readies for his college career, his eyes are looking ahead to an even higher level.
“The end goal is the NBA . The Iowa coaches told me that they have the tools to help me get there. I just need to work. I’m far from a finished product. I still need to lose some of my baby fat. I’m hoping to lose most of it this summer,” he said.