The 5-foot-10 guard from the Lefrak City section of Queens just completed his junior season at Martin Luther School in Maspeth. With a student body in the low hundreds despite having grades 6-12, MLS has never been known for its basketball program, but this past season the team enjoyed a level of success it hasn’t witnessed in years.
Ogyiri, a key part of the Cougars this season, averaged 15 points and three assists per game as his team finished 18-8, the most wins for MLS in a decade.
Led by first-year head coach John Sanchez, it was early in the season when the Cougars established themselves by emerging victorious in the early-season Martin Luther Invitational for the first time since the 2008-09 season after defeating Avenues School, 72-59, in the final.
“We proved to the school, league and coach that we are a new team this year,” Ogyiri said. “If we do well, people are going to see it. We’ve just got to play in the right place, play in front of the right people, and we’ve just got to get better.”
This season marked Ogyiri’s first on Luther’s varsity team. Ogyiri had previously spent time on John Bowne’s junior varsity squad, where he averaged about nine points and 3.3 assists per game. Ogyiri described his previous time at John Bowne High School as a life-changing experience.
“Being at John Bowne made me more mature because in a big public school you’re pretty much on your own,” he said. “It got me ready for the real world and made me realize that I’m growing up quick. In terms of basketball it made me more of a leader and that’s what I need at the point guard position.”
He arrived at Martin Luther after friend and current teammate Cameron Thompson, a talented guard in his own right, convinced Ogyiri to make the move to Maspeth.
In one of their first games of the season, the Cougars were crushed by perennial PSAA favorite Lawrence Woodmere 114-78, a loss in which Ogyiri described as the low point of the team’s season. However, it was shortly after this lopsided defeat that the Cougars turned around and played some of their best ball of the year, which included the aforementioned ML Invitational gold medal.
“Although I had 34 points I didn’t perform the leader role and it just wasn’t a team game,” he said. “It changed us as a team though, because after that loss we were hungry and went on an eight-game winning streak.”
While the Cougars did finish with a great record before losing to Grace Church in the first round of the PSAA Playoffs, Ogyiri says that the team could’ve had even more success had they not struggled with players’ academic eligibility to the level which they did, an issue that also plagued the school’s basketball teams in years past.
“When something happened with someone on the team where they couldn’t play, in the locker rooms we would just say this is for that person, let’s win this one for that person,” Ogyiri said. “Let’s win this one for coach because coach would be upset about how we didn’t have a full team. We could’ve been way better if we had a full team.”
Ogyiri always had a basketball in his hands, but took his love for the game to the next level in the sixth grade. The Queens-born combo guard also has friends in high places with a circle that includes elite class of ’17 recruit Hamidou Diallo, former Christ the King forward David Cole, and ex-Wadleigh guard Lenny Kadisha.
“In Lefrak City a lot of people play basketball, we’ve got sections,” Ogyiri said. “When I really started in sixth grade, a friend of mine who’s now a five-star guard (Hamidou), I really hung with him. Him, Lenny Kadisha, and David Cole, we have a little group that goes around and plays all over the five boroughs.”
With Cole set to attend Robert Morris University in the fall, Kadisha taking his game to the New Mexico Military Institute, and Diallo, who’s gaining significant interest from power conference schools, Ogyiri also aspires to take his game to the height of college basketball where many other players strive to go, the Division-I level.
Martin Luther doesn’t have a laundry list of past D-I talent, or even college basketball players in general, but Ogyiri, who has some Division-II interest, is seeking to buck that trend by playing in many high-exposure events in anticipation of a big senior season.
“I’m playing Live Periods, I’m playing Live in AC, Fab 48, I’ve been to a couple of HoopGroups, and I’ve been playing in a couple of local tournaments getting my name up,” Ogyiri said. “I’m on a pursuit to get a Division-I scholarship.”
In order to get to that level, Ogyiri understands the advantages of becoming better-rounded, and at his size, that means an adjustment to more of a pure point guard. The sweet shooter rattled off a game-high 23 points in a 70-50 victory in the 11th annual Queens Jam Christmas Classic, something he is looking to do with more regularity moving forward.
“Yeah I want to become more of a point guard because I’m short,” Ogyiri said with a laugh. “I’ve got to get stronger, college coaches tell me I’ve got to get faster.
“I’ve just got to work at that, getting a better jumpshot and staying consistent is just where it’s at right now,” he added. “If I have 20 in one game and two the next game, I’m not really bettering myself or my team.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.