Georgia has an SEC Player of the Year candidate down low in Yante Maten. His counterpart along the interior is proving to be quite valuable himself for this year’s team, too.
Derek Ogbeide has seen an uptick in production throughout his sophomore season. A season ago, Ogbeide earned a spot in the starting lineup during the second half of the season. And while he was a quality contributor, even he admitted that there were moments he wasn’t finishing buckets the way he should have.
An offseason was spent working on post moves to improve his efficiency around the rim. The result has been a rise in Ogbeide’s shots going through the basket.
"It was a lot of reps, a lot of repetition – as it is and as it should be," Ogbeide said. "It’s the whole idea of practicing making it perfect."
As a freshman, Ogbeide shot 47.2 percent from the field and didn’t see the offense run through him too often. Prior to Georgia’s game against Alabama Wednesday, Ogbeide was shooting 60.6 percent from the field.
Georgia’s guards are looking for Ogbeide a lot more down low, as the sophomore has been developing his low-post game into more scoring opportunities. Ogbeide’s hook shot off the glass has been on target this season and his ability to get to the rim against defenders has taken some pressure off of Maten.
Ogbeide entered Wednesday averaging 7.1 points per game, which ranks fourth on the team. While Maten and guard J.J. Frazier are the focal points of Georgia’s offense, Ogbeide has carved out an important role.
"Derek is another guy who as a sophomore, mid-December, started to be more productive," head coach Mark Fox said. "He’s welcomed coaching and has really begun to be more productive because the game has slowed down. He’s confident, he’s comfortable, he’s recognizing situations. He’s been able to apply the things he’s worked at. He’s really become a consistent player for us."
Ogbeide has also proved to be a big help defensively. In a loss to Texas A&M, Ogbeide helped limit center Tyler Davis to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. He’s recorded 12 blocks over the past 10 games and has recorded 10 or more rebounds in three of those as well.
His presence on both ends has alleviated some of the pressure Maten has faced as both the focal point of the offense and as a down-low defender.
"He is a great rebounder and that is the advantage of having him next to Yante," Fox said. "He probably doesn’t get as many shot opportunities because he plays with such a great player but he continues to develop."
Having spent the extra time to refine his game has helped things click better in year two for Ogbeide.
He’ll hope to continue producing for a Georgia team hoping to be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth by the end of the season.
"It’s definitely just impacting the game the best I can," Ogbeide said. "I feel like if I can do one thing in a certain aspect well enough, it’ll flow back around to another one. Hopefully that’ll be profitable in other aspects of the game. I definitely feel I’m playing the hardest I can and trying the best I can, and through offensive positioning, more will come."