Georgia basketball player carries on royal family legacy

Kathryn Skeean/The Red & Black

Gerogia's Derek Ogbeide dunks in a game against LSU in February. The senior has been an important part of the basketball program, ranking eighth in school history in rebounding.

Derek Ogbeide claims a few important titles: He is a forward for the Georgia men’s basketball team and one of the best rebounders in school history. But in his father’s homeland, he has a very different title.

In Benin City, Nigeria, Ogbeide is known as Prince Derek.

The senior is a member of the royal Ogbeide-Ihama family, according to Ogbeide’s father, Martin Ogbeide.

“It’s a royal name in Benin (City) that everybody knows,” Martin said. “If you are from Benin (City), and you say you are Ogbeide, everybody raises their head and ... (says) ‘my prince.' They would give you that respect.”

Ogbeide’s paternal great-grandfather, Chief J. Ogbeide-Ihama was the brother of the Oba, or king, of the Benin Kingdom. As part of that lineage, Ogbeide is a prince.

With a great title comes great expectations. As the eighth-best rebounder in Georgia history, Ogbeide must know that.

But a complicated upbringing, which included living in five different countries, has prepared him to shoulder that burden, both now and into the future.

Always on the move

Ogbeide visited Benin City as a child several times but never lived there. Still, he has lived in more places than some would visit in a lifetime.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Ogbeide moved to London, then Stockholm, back to Lagos, then Mableton, Georgia, then Landover, Maryland, and Toronto before moving back to Georgia to live with his dad in time for his junior year at Pebblebrook High School.

Ogbeide’s address wasn’t the only thing in flux. He alternated between living with his mother and his father. Martin separated from his wife Tina and left Africa for the United States when his son was still an infant.

Ogbeide’s mom moved around with her son as she searched for jobs. Martin tried to get Ogbeide and Tina to the United States but the documentation process lingered until Ogbeide became a citizen around fourth grade, when he moved to Georgia to live with his dad.

The parenting styles of Tina and Martin contrasted sharply, with Ogbeide’s mother offering a supportive voice while his father provided the voice of a stern disciplinarian.

“Those two different parenting styles kind of went hand-in-hand in developing me,” Ogbeide said. “Too much of one would have probably been bad ... It was the right mixture of the amount of discipline and the amount of warmth that I needed.”

But no matter where he went, Ogbeide had to be respectful to his elders.

“That’s the discipline that comes with the territory of being an African person,” Martin said. “We expect more from our kids … It’s not something you compromise.”

Tina has admired Ogbeide since he was young for his ability to follow her instructions.

“He’s my hero,” she said.

‘Who’s the big kid?’

The Northern Kings cut a prince.

An AAU team in Toronto, the Kings didn’t have room for Ogbeide, a chubby high school freshman with limited basketball experience since he picked up the sport as an 11-year-old in Africa.

“I don’t think anyone knows how out of shape Derek was at one point,” said Vidal Massiah, the head coach of the Northern Kings. “To look at his body now, you’re like, ‘Wow, he looks like a physical specimen.’”

Massiah missed Ogbeide’s first tryout so it wasn’t until the next summer that he was able to see who the Kings cut.

“Hey, who’s that kid in the gym?” Massiah said. “Who’s the big kid that just walked in?”

An assistant coach responded, “Oh, that’s the kid that came out last year, Derek something.”

Incredulous, Massiah exited a meeting with his players’ parents and pulled aside another assistant to ask him if Ogbeide was actually cut the year prior. The assistant confirmed the news.

“You guys are crazy,” Massiah said to the assistant. “That guy is a Division I player.”

Overlooked no longer, Ogbeide quickly became a popular prospect when he arrived on the AAU circuit. He received a call from Canada Basketball within a few weeks.

But it was soon time for Ogbeide to leave Toronto.

According to Massiah, Ogbeide didn’t live in a good area and needed his father’s guidance as his on-court stock soared while playing for the Northern Kings.

So Ogbeide moved to Mableton for the second time to live with Martin. Tina moved to Sugar Land, Texas, because of a family connection and a job offer. Ogbeide flourished at Pebblebrook and received offers from five Division I schools before selecting Georgia, making good on Massiah’s promise that he would be a Division I athlete.

‘Ready to take the next step’

Before Tom Crean became Georgia’s head coach, Martin talked to the team’s academic advisor every Wednesday at 1 p.m. to ensure Ogbeide was succeeding in the classroom.

The pair would collaborate and discuss Ogbeide’s coursework. As a kid, Ogbeide wanted to be a psychologist before marketing caught his eye. He eventually settled on consumer economics.

“I chose consumer econ because I wanted a different perspective,” Ogbeide said. “Looking at it from a consumer standpoint, it’s something I felt can really help me understand the business world even more.”

But the only business Ogbeide wants to enter now is a professional basketball league.

Playing overseas is a real possibility, according to Ogbeide, his father and Massiah.

“I’m sure there is way more he could do on the offensive end that he’s yet to unleash,” Massiah said.

Prince Derek could soon start his professional career where he started his life: outside the United States. His parents and coaches have fully equipped him to succeed.

“I’m absolutely ready to take the next step,” Ogbeide said.

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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