Debuting for the Boston Celtics on the opening night of the NBA season, Semi Ojeleye became the first SMU basketball player to play in the NBA since Quinton Ross retired in 2011.
Ojeleye has gotten minutes with the Celtics. He has appeared in five of the Boston’s first six games this season, amassing 57 total minutes. The stats have not been eye-popping for Ojeleye. His totals of three points and four rebounds on the year are a far cry from the 19 points and 6.9 rebounds he averaged at SMU, but his stout defense has garnered attention.
Ojeleye has guarded superstars LeBron James, Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo already — a steep climb from the AAC players he defended last year. Ojeleye played well against all of them, but his defense against Antetokounmpo opened people’s eyes.
Antetokounmpo, who is currently a fan favorite for the NBA MVP, was stymied by Ojeleye. The Milwaukee Bucks’ star forward tried to back down Ojeleye with no success, and Ojeleye slid his feet to take away a drive from the Greek Freak later in the possession. Ojeleye’s muscular frame and quick feet — predictive signs of a good defender — were two of his biggest positives going into the draft.
Ojeleye also proved himself to be a leader in a time of trauma. After Boston superstar Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome leg injury, teammate Jaylen Brown said that Ojeleye led the team in a prayer as it tried to gather its composure.
Sterling Brown is the other former Mustang in the NBA this season. Brown has appeared in two games for the Milwaukee Bucks. He knocked down a 3-pointer in his debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ojeleye’s next nationally televised game will be against the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday, Nov. 3 and will be shown on ESPN. Ojeleye and the Celtics will visit Dallas to face the Mavericks Monday, Nov. 20.