Outside Shots with Mike Ojo: The Overseas Waiting Game

Last time on “Outside Shots,” Mike Ojo reflected on the good times he had in Greece, on and off the court. This week, he reflects on riding an emotional roller coaster while awaiting his professional fate during the summer of 2015.

For some, writing acts as a cathartic release. I happen to be one of those people. With history somewhat repeating itself, the timing of this posting couldn’t be better.

I was on a high in 2015. Post-injury, I felt as if I’d taken two steps in the wrong direction. But in actuality, I managed to thrust myself two steps forward. 

From Sweden to the Greek A1 League? Blessings. And the best part about it all was knowing that I was already signed for the 2015-16 season. There would be no stres—just a calm, cool and collected focus on basketball. This is the definition of the dream. 

Yes, the team owed me a little bit of money, but no big deal. I was going to get it when the next season started. It could all have been so simple.

The reality of it was very different. July 1st rolled around and I got a text from my agent. The team decided to fire the head coach, GM and team president. Every contract on the books for the season to come was void. 

Okay. No big deal. Let me call him and see what he has on the table. 

No answer. 

Okay. Where do we go from here? 

Nowhere other than back to the grind. It was only July. I was playing in the Drew League again and doing damage—like, say, dropping 35 points while going 7-of-12 from three. 

The three- and sometimes four-a-days were paying off. I just needed an opportunity. 

Another week passed. I called my agent. No answer. That was Week 3 of radio silence from him. Almost a full month of no texts back and no calls answered.

I can’t lie: at points, I imagined this must be how getting ghosted feels. Except, this man was getting paid by me. He worked for me.

I started to get nervous. I spoke to some of the vets I knew and got their takes on it. They all told me the same thing.

“Young fella, it’s still just July. Be patient. He’s gonna find you something. Keep your head down and grind.”  

I listened. Late July and early August moved like a blur. In the middle of the month, I finally got a response. Something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, we’re working. We have been too busy to talk.” 

In hindsight, that was absolutely a lie. There’s no way on God’s currently green earth that one could be so busy that they wouldn’t be able to respond to their client for over a month and a half. 

But, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. They had gotten me back-to-back jobs. They knew what they were doing...right? 

Roll on into September—one of the most dreaded months for overseas players. Why the dread? At the start of the month, you’re either in preseason or you're at home waiting for someone to get cut, so you can take their job. September signifies the closing of a major signing period, and it was at this point mentally that things got very tough for me.

I had put in a tremendous amount of work that summer and wanted to reap the benefits of it on a public stage. I wanted to be paid for it. But instead, I was at home still grinding. 

Fortunately for me, a lot of my vets were still around as well. One such vet was Ashanti Cook. He was an extremely talented player, Georgetown alum and also an aspiring actor.  

He suggested I find some other things to do to take my mind off the grind and the monotony of training. He recommended that I go to a commercial audition. I wasn’t having it. I mean, I'm no actor. 

But it was a basketball-related role. It was just one of those days; I was down, frustrated, all the above, but I went. 

Long story short, I end up booking an Apple commercial—a national one at that featuring Stephen Curry. Who would have thought? 

Fresh off the heels of the commercial, I got a text from the agent. 

“You thought I forgot about you, huh?” he said. “I’ve got a job for you in Italy.”  

“You're joking, right?” I replied. 

Whelp, say less. The journey continues…

 

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