In his 25 seasons as a head coach Leonard Hamilton has encountered just about every problem you can think of.
Hamilton thought he had seen it all. Until this season that is. As the season began he was unable to get true freshman center Michael Ojo into the mix. He couldn't run the 7-foot-1, 290-pound Nigerian because he couldn't find shoes to fit the big man.
Ojo needed a size 21 shoe with a width of size 70, which meant Nike had to specially make the shoes for Ojo while he tried to make due with a pair of 17s. Hamilton was unable to get Ojo, who was already an extremely raw player with just a little more than two years of basketball experience, into playing shape and was forced to keep his center on the bench.
Thanks to Nike, Ojo now has shoes that are big enough, and wide enough to have the orthotic support in them so he can run conditioning sprints with the rest of the team in practice to gear up for ACC play.
"It's unfortunate but this is the first time he's ever had a pair of shoes that fit," Hamilton said. "I think he came here with a pair of (size) 17s. I think he wears a size 21 or something, 70 width. It took a while for Nike to get shoes that fit him. It's a process. Not very many people have size 21 feet with 70 width. To be honest with you we have not been able to run him from a conditioning standpoint because we knew he needed the arch support that the orthotics would give him. But the orthotics would not fit in the smaller shoe that he was just getting by with so he could get through practice."
Ojo has played just 34 minutes in eight games this season, scored five points, has two blocks, one steal, and an assist. Now that he has shoes that fit Hamilton will be able to get Ojo into physical playing shape.
He also will have to continue working with Ojo on his mental game. According to Hamilton Ojo has only played in 20 or so official games, including his senior season at Tennessee Temple High School in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"This guy is coming from a limited amount of exposure so mentally, emotionally what is going through his mind when he actually goes onto the basketball court is an adjustment," Hamilton said.
Ojo has shown it at times that he is still adjusting to the game he was just recently introduced to. Against Louisiana-Monroe on December 17 Ojo found himself all alone under the basket with the ball, but instead of stuffing it home he tried to softly lay it in and missed instead.
Dunking is just part of the game that Ojo has to adjust to in America, after not being allowed to do so back home in Lagos, Nigeria.
"I'm going to tell him we have extra rims," Hamilton said. "So if he breaks these we'll put up another one. In his home country they wouldn't let him dunk the ball because if he tore the rims up they didn't have any replacements, so he came to America not really dunking a basketball."
Now that he has shoes that fit and is becoming more comfortable in Tallahassee, Hamilton feels that Ojo will be ready to help FSU in the second half of the season.
"He's made such significant progress," Hamilton said. "Left hand. Right hand. It's amazing sometimes when you're a big guy like that and you haven't been playing against other big people- and he hasn't played very much at all- how sometimes it takes you a little while to get that confidence that it takes to get you to go out and play the way you practice. I'm sure that before too long you'll start seeing what we are really seeing in practice."
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