Although junior guard Kevin Olekaibe has a shooters touch, a lot of what he does on the court translates to leadership off the court as well.
Personally Olekaibe will like to not only score but also work on his defense to become a more all-around player this season.
Averaging 17.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.3 steals a year ago, Olekaibe is a scintillating talent at the guard position. Acquiring four accolades last season, Olekaibe believes that by continuing to work hard, he can do the same this year.
“I worked hard this off-season, and hopefully I just play my game. That’s what I do and just try not to play outside of myself,” Olekaibe said.
Olekaibe has come a long way from his days playing high school basketball and even his freshman year at Fresno State. He knows how much of a struggle it can be for young, talented incoming freshmen to play in Division I basketball.
“I remember my freshman year and my first game playing here against Fresno Pacific,” Olekaibe said. “I’ll never forget that game because I came in and I was nervous. I was a freshman and I didn’t know what to expect.”
Coming to Fresno State, Olekaibe saw the basketball program as a great place to play because of how close it was to his family and friends. He also enjoyed the brotherhood and atmosphere that the players and coaches brought to the team.
“The atmosphere, the area, and it’s close to home. I didn’t want to go to far from my family,” Olekaibe said. “I like the arena here. The people and the coaches did a very good job recruiting me when I visited.”
Making substantial improvements from his first season to his senior year, Olekaibe is revered by his teammates for his dynamic ball handling skills and explosive moves in traffic. Athletically gifted, Olekaibe has all the right tools to lead the ’Dogs to a Mountain West Conference championship.
Head coach Rodney Terry is pleased at how well Olekaibe has worked with the freshman class and how he has lead through example both on and off the court.
“It’s been good,” Terry said. “Our older guys (like Olekaibe) have been really good with our young guys. They have really tried to bring them up to speed in terms of the pace of the game, how hard they have to play, and the details of the game.”
In his final season, Olekaibe looks to continue his terrific scoring. His role as a scorer should diminish only slightly as up-and-coming freshmen center Robert Upshaw and guard Marvelle Harris will help Olekaibe carry the scoring load.
“I think we’ll have a lot to show on the court as a team,” forward Tanner Giddings said.
“Marvelle is a shooter. He can score,” Olekaibe added.
Coach Terry has brought a lot of excitement to the team not only for this year but last year as well. Although the Bulldogs were 15-17 last year under Terry, they made tremendous strides from the 2010-11 season under ex-head coach Steve Cleveland.
Fresno State looks to begin the season playing number 24th, ranked Texas on the road. This game against the Longhorns should pose a challenge for the Bulldogs.
“We got to come out hard against Texas,” Olekaibe said “If we don’t come out hard against Fresno Pacific, then we won’t do the same against Texas. So it’s always carried over.”
However, Olekaibe, who sustained an injury over the off-season, may be in doubt of starting when the season begins.
“I would say it’s a little bit frustrating just knowing that one of our brothers is hurting,” said guard Tyler Johnson. “But he’s still right there (on the sidelines.)”
Freshman Robert Upshaw has also suffered an undisclosed injury. Olekaibe hopes to return soon.
“I took a setback. But I went over it with coach Terry and he told me what he expects me to do,” Olekaibe said. “I just got to look at this with a good perspective. But I hope to return whenever I feel right.”
If he can return before the start of the season, Olekaibe should be in line to have another outstanding season as the ’Dogs’ primary scorer. And, if he approaches anything near what he did last season, Olekaibe could leading the ’Dogs to the top of the Mountain West.
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