NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derek Ogbeide took the entry pass and pivoted to his right. On the low block, he turned and put the ball up off the glass with his left hand. He repeated this task over and over, while his teammates shot jumpers around him on the Bridgestone Arena court.
Ogbeide saw many of these short shots go through the hoop. Some still clanked off the rim, with Ogbeide going right back to work with assistant coach Jonas Hayes to correct the mistakes made.
All season, Ogbeide has been a work-in-progress on the offensive side of the ball. But this much is clear: Ogbeide has begun to see a great deal of improvement and has shown better touch around the rim, evidenced by the fact he’s scored 8 points or more in three of his past six games.
Georgia’s mostly relied on four scorers in J.J. Frazier, Yante Maten, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. If the Bulldogs can add a fifth in Ogbeide during the SEC Tournament, then perhaps they can put a deep run together.
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"They’re absolutely trying to me the ball a lot more percentage of the time," Ogbeide said. "I feel like they’ve always been trying to do that. It’s on my execution and me finishing."
Maturity has been a big part to Ogbeide’s sudden surge in recent games. He admitted to being stubborn with his coaches at times, which allowed him to fall into bad habits. One thing he’s learned over the second half of the season is that he must trust the coaching staff with what they want him to do on offense.
Ogbeide’s long held a rebounding and defensive presence for the Bulldogs since overcoming his early-season shoulder injury. Finally grasping Georgia’s offense better has led to some solid late-season performances against Florida (8 points) Vanderbilt (11) and Alabama (8).
"Around the rim it’s trying to get in the right position to do what I need to do," Ogbeide said. "Sometimes I’m not confident with myself or the coaches with what I feel I should be doing. We may differ in those aspects but I have to remember to listen to what they’re saying. They know how it’s played. They know how it’s done."
If Ogbeide picks up where he left off against Alabama then Georgia could be picking up additional offensive production it otherwise wasn’t getting during the season. In four defeats by 5 points or less that Ogbeide’s played in, he’s averaged 4.3 points. In close games, it would appear imperative for Ogbeide to provide that extra scoring option the Bulldogs haven’t had throughout the season.
Ogbeide’s teammates have taken notice of his improved offense, which should help Georgia in its first SEC Tournament game on Thursday against Mississippi State (14-16, 7-11).
"He’s finally coming around," senior guard J.J. Frazier said. "He finally understands the way he has to play. He finally understands the schemes which we play out of. That shows with his performances. He’s always rebounded. Now, his offense is coming around. He’s finally in good shape. I’m proud of him."
Georgia sophomore forward Yante Maten, who plays the post with Ogbeide, said the freshman from Atlanta has worked a great deal on his post game, which has allowed Georgia’s guards to get him the ball in recent games.
"He’s doing really well getting himself open," Maten said. "That helps a lot of big men. It’s the part of getting open. He’s been doing a wonderful job of getting open. It opens up the rim and his scoring ability."
Ogbeide is confident that he can be someone who makes a difference for Georgia during the SEC Tournament. With an improved offensive game to go with his 5.2 rebounds per game, Ogbeide could be the player who raises the overall team’s performance in Nashville.
"It’s all about doing the right things, the correct things that correlate in getting the job done," Ogbeide said. "If we execute correctly and play with overall intensity and effort we’ll be OK."