May 26, 2012
This feature appeared in the Saturday edition of the K-State Sports Extra.
By Mark Janssen
Victor Ojeleye never starred on the Bramlage Coliseum basketball floor, but today he stands as the school’s brightest star as he is the male recipient of the 2012 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.
The announcement came this week from Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine and the NCAA.
“To be associated with Arthur Ashe in any way is a tremendous honor,” said Ojeleye. “I thank God for this honor. It’s very humbling.”
Very deserving, as well, as Ojeleye was a two-year captain for the basketball Wildcats and played a role on the winningest senior class in school history with 96 victories. He helped K-State to four straight postseason appearances, which included the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years.
In the classroom, Ojeleye has a degree in finance and is working on his final two classes to complete his double-major in accounting. He is one of just seven players in school history to earn Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors three times, and was named to the Fall and Spring Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Rolls each of the last four years.
In addition, he received the Dr. Gerald Lage Award from the Big 12, which is given to student-athletes who have earned 100 or more hours of credits with a cumulative 3.8 GPA, plus he served as Vice-Chair of the Big 12’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council this past year.
“The thing I am most proud of is the time that I was able to take out of my day to share with others. That might be with Special Olympics, just talking with a group of kids, or a Bible study with my teammates,” said Ojeleye, a native of Ottawa, Kan. “I really valued the time I was able to give to others. Not everyone was as fortunate to be able to do what I did, and giving back and showing you care about your school and teammates are very important.”
K-State athletics director John Currie said of Ojeleye, “He exemplifies the term student-athlete and has represented Kansas State with the utmost dignity and class throughout his academic and athletic career. Without question, his selfless leadership and support of his teammates and coaches has played a major role in our on-court success over his career.”
Ashe was the world’s No. 1 tennis player in the 1950s and ‘60s following his graduation from UCLA where he was awarded the first tennis scholarship given to an African-American player.
“I have always been very appreciative and thankful for people like Arthur Ashe, who set the table for those who came after him,” said Ojeleye of receiving the honor that was first established by the Black Issues in Higher Education publication, now called Diverse. “I respect and honor those individuals who opened the door for me, and now my hope is to leave it better than you found it.”
Out of high school, Ojeleye first attended The Patterson School, a prep school in North Carolina.
“I needed more exposure to get the scholarship that I wanted,” said Ojeleye. “It was a bridge between high school and college.”
Even then, the only scholarship offers that came were to mid-majors, NAIA schools and a variety of Ivy League schools.
Wanting to play at the highest level, Ojeleye approached former K-State head coach Frank Martin for the opportunity to walk-on to the Wildcat program.
“He was fully supportive,” said Ojeleye. “He lived a life of taking advantage of opportunities and working hard to accomplish a goal. That’s what I came here to try to do.”
Past winners of the Sports Scholars Award include Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in 2011, former Tennessee standout and current ESPN personality Kara Lawson in 2003 and Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk in 1993.
Candidates for the Ashe Award this year from the Big 12 included Emmanuel Acho (Texas football) on the male side, plus females Chelsea Garcia (Oklahoma State softball), Krista Lopez (Oklahoma State soccer) and Beth West (Texas A&M soccer). Garcia was the female recipient of the honor, giving the Big 12 a sweep of the award.
“To be in this company is something I cherish,” said Ojeleye, who begins a career with Wichita’s Koch Industries on Aug. 6. “This is very important to me, my family, and I hope Kansas State. I look at it not as an award that I accomplished, but one received by what I did to help others.”