Victor Ojeleye’s devotion to exercising due diligence on the basketball court and in the classroom served him well at Kansas State. But there’s so much more to Ojeleye than baseline jumpers and a stellar grade-point average. He also has the heart of a servant.
Those character traits affirm the choice of Ojeleye as this year’s male recipient of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine.
Ojeleye’s college career ended in March when Kansas State lost to Syracuse in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Yet, he felt compelled to help out when Coach Frank Martin opted to leave K-State for the opening at the University of South Carolina. “Even though Victor’s eligibility had expired, he’s been extremely helpful to our new coach [Bruce Weber] even though he won’t play for him,” said John Currie, Kansas State athletics director. “And quite frankly, he helped me to figure out how to best manage the transition. That’s an example of his selfless character.”
During the past four years, Martin has witnessed Ojeleye’s ability to effectively connect with his teammates. His passion for life and for people, the coach explained, is undeniable.
“With him, everything is about being thankful for the opportunities that we get,” Martin said. “It’s about being thankful for having another chance to get better. He’s uplifting to everyone that he touches. I learned how to become a better basketball coach just by having him there every single day. He taught me how to become a better communicator, a better teacher.”
Academically, Ojeleye (pronounced Oh-jah-LAY) is a bona fide superstar. He sports a near-perfect 3.95 cumulative grade point average and graduated in May with a double major in accounting and finance. After graduation, a position in accounting and finance awaits him at Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate corporation based in Wichita, Kan.
As a four-year walk-on, Ojeleye earned more than $26,000 in academic scholarships during his time at K-State. Most notably, he’s a three-time first-team selection for the Big 12 All-Academic team. Equally impressive is that he was honored with the inaugural Dr. Gerald Lage Award, given to student-athletes who have earned 100 or more hours of academic credit with a cumulative 3.8 grade point average, from the Big 12 Conference (2010-11).
“It’s a testament to God,” said Ojeleye, who was born in Nigeria and came to America when he was 4 years old. “But I also have a responsibility to make sure that I do my part. It takes a lot of determination. There are a lot of people in my life who work hard, and their example drives me to continue to do what I need to do no matter how difficult things may get.”
Ojeleye is a four-year letterman, two-time captain and part of the winningest senior class at Kansas State with 96 victories. Though Ojeleye was not one of Martin’s recruits, the coach quickly noticed his work ethic and dedication. Towards the end of Ojeleye’s junior year, he was named the team captain.
“Without him, we don’t get through difficult times during the season,” said Martin. “I made him captain because of the level of respect his teammates had for him and the commitment he had to doing his part. In his own way, he demanded the same from them, and he made those who were around him better and more committed to the betterment of the team. That’s what he did every single day.”
Ojeleye was voted by his peers as the vice-chair of the Big 12 Conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council. Aside from his work with the council, he’s heavily involved in community service work through programs such as Special Olympics, Adopt-A-Family and Camp Hope, to name a few. The concept of giving back is part of his DNA.
“Servant leadership is very important to me,” he said. “It allows me to find a sense of fulfillment. What’s important is helping others achieve their goals. I’m fortunate in that my family has been the motivation for me to do well in life. As I’ve grown older and matured, I’ve seen the need for other people to have someone there for them.”
Ojeleye has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish as he prepares to embark on a career in international business development. But he also makes it clear that his greatest satisfaction has more to do with being of help to other people.
“In terms of leadership and impacting lives, I want to be someone who enriches those whom I’m around and just let them see the love of Christ through me,” he said. “Whether that’s being at a big company and being a CFO, or an accountant at a CPA firm, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to live an encouraging life to others.”