2012-13 Men’s Basketball Profiles: The Walk-Ons
We are profiling each member of the 2012-13 Creighton Bluejays men’s basketball team. Check in weekdays leading up to Creighton’s regular season opener against North Texas (November 9) for an introduction to this season’s Bluejays. Today we feature the walk-ons for this year’s team.
Check out our photo gallery of the walk-ons (courtesy Adam Streur and Mike Spomer for WBR)
Everyone filing into the CenturyLink Center on Friday night will be excited to see this year’s Bluejays and how they handle the pressure of being a top 25 team at the start of the season. To help Creighton prepare for every game are the guys who sit at the end of the bench hoping everything goes well so they will get an opportunity to get into the game at the end to help celebrate a decisive victory. These are Creighton’s Walk-Ons.
Each of them go through the same grueling practices as the scholarship players just because they love the sport of basketball. One of these guys probably played the role of Tony Mitchell, one of the Bluejays opposing players on Friday night, to help the Bluejays get a feel for what to expect. This means they double-up on their knowledge, learning the Creighton playbook and defense while also learning what the opponents do.
Despite no scholarship money to go with it, all four of this season’s walk-ons wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s a chance to get to know Taylor Stormberg, Alex Olsen, Mogboluwaga Oginni, and Joe Kelling.
Taylor Stormberg (#2 / G / 6-0 / 190 lbs. / RJr.)
Taylor Stormberg is the veteran of this season’s walk-on group. He is heading into the fourth year in the program and has seen the court more than most walk-ons have in the past. Like most of the walk-ons Stormberg redshirted his freshman season, but in the 2010-11 season, he appeared in 16 games scoring his only basket, a three-pointer against Oregon.
Last season, Stormberg started filling up the stat sheet a little more making three field-goals, but also recorded five assists and two steals while committing no turnovers.
“It has been fantastic, absolutely a great experience,” said Stormberg. “I don’t regret a moment of it. To be able to come here and enjoy stuff like this is something that most college kids don’t get an experience to do. It has been an unreal experience for me. I’m excited for this season and what is coming up.”
Stormberg has been a shining star on the academic side of things. The finance and accounting major scored some scholar-athlete awards last season including the Elite 18 award from the MVC for having the best GPA of a player to appear in the tournament from one of the finalists. Being able to be that successful in the classroom is an testament to the dedication he has to the team.
“Doing basketball and school at the same time is the biggest challenge. A double major in finance and accounting is pretty tough while going to practice everyday, traveling and stuff like that. I think there was one point last year where I missed at least two days of class each week for the first six weeks of the spring semester. It is pretty tough to do both, but love it. “
One of the advantages of being part of the team are all the venues players like Stormberg get to experience. He definitely has his favorites.
“The experience to be able to travel around the country and see different venues is just great. I remember my freshman year I got to go to New Mexico when we played in The Pit and that was an unreal experience. Going to the NCAA Tournament is everyone’s dream when you grow up playing basketball and we got to do that last year. Winning the MVC tournament last year was fantastic.”
Although only a junior, this will be Taylor’s final season with the Bluejays as he plans to graduate in May. “Being able to be part of a team is something that I hold so dear and close to me, it is hard to explain.”
A graduate of Creighton Prep, his experience with the Bluejays has been life changing and he looks forward to the season.
“When I first came in I was a little intimidated because I knew I wasn’t going to be the best player on the team. But now being here four years, I’m here playing with guys that get to play 30 minutes a game and that is something special to me.”
Alex Olsen (#40 / F / 6-6 / 190 lbs. / RFr.)
Alex Olsen starts his second year on the Bluejay roster after redshirting last season. Olsen was a star athlete at Abraham Lincoln high school in Council Bluffs. He earned 10 varsity letters in track, basketball, and football. In hoops he averaged 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds as a senior including setting a single-game record with 47 points and 26 rebounds. Last year, Olsen joined the team despite offers from several other smaller schools in the region where he could get an opportunity to play more right away.
Olsen has appeared in two exhibition games so far in his Creighton career including scoring three points and grabbing a rebound a week ago against the University of Mary. Things will be different for Olsen this season with more opportunities.
“You are just a lot more used to how everything works, the speed of the game and everything like that,” said Olsen. “Nothing is really new to you anymore and more is expected of you.”
During the offseason, Olsen spent some time working to improve his game just like everyone else.
“I have gotten a lot of shots up whenever I can. I have been working on ball handling and basic things to build off of.”
This year Olsen will get to travel more with his fellow teammates, something he is really looking forward to, as well as enjoying great chemistry with his teammates.
“I will be with them at all times now and just experience a lot more than I did last year. One of the nicer things about the team is for that as many different personalities we have, everyone still meshes really well together. We may get on each other sometimes, but at the end of the day we are all really good friends on and off the court.”
This season, Creighton could regularly get crowds of over 17,000. Olsen is looking forward to playing in front of those crowds.
“It’s definitely a crazy experience. The CenturyLink Center is one of the best arenas for a college team in the nation for sure. When it gets packed, it’s unreal. It is definitely a cool thing to be able to come out on the court to that night in and night out.”
Mogboluwaga Oginni (#50 / F / 6-8 / 220 lbs. / RFr.)
Oginni came to Creighton mainly focused on his future career in medicine (he’s pre-med). But when an opportunity arose to still play some basketball, the high flyer from St. Louis Missouri couldn’t say no.
Oginni took part in this year’s Bluejay Madness event in the dunk contest and he was shown a lot of love from fans after he flew over a person sitting in a chair underneath the basket. It is his athletic skills that will allow him to be an important opponent in Bluejay practices leading up to each game.
“Mainly I practiced on my post moves and jump shot and improve as a player,” said Oginni. “I’m just trying to to what is best for the team and help our team get to the next level, whatever they need me to do, I’m there to do. Whether it is the scout team, running a couple plays or if they need to put me in if someone is in foul trouble, I’m just playing it day by day.”
If you compare Oginni from last year to this year, you might have noticed he is a little bigger and has put on some weight after redshirting last season. Although the official roster shows he gained only five pounds from last season to this season, it looks like more and Oginni agrees.
“Since I came in last fall, I have probably gained about 25 pounds in muscle. I have been in the weight room and the conditioning coaches have shown me the right way to do workouts every week. I went to Gold’s Gym and I am pumping some iron.”
Since Oginni is going into medicine, there are some big requirements to accomplish the things he wants to do down the line. But he has adjusted to balancing both school and sports in his short time on the Hilltop.
“I’m used to having a busy schedule. Whenever I have free time, I am either hitting the library and the books or on the court. I just manage my time wisely and everything works out for me. That is why I am at Creighton is for academics really. Basketball gives the best of both worlds.”
This year, Oginni gets more opportunities to experience D-1 college basketball.
“I”m really looking forward to travel with the team and getting the away atmosphere. As a redshirt last year, I went to a few games, but I am happy that now I am eligible and it is going to be fun.”
Joe Kelling (#30 / G / 6-0 / 185 lbs. / Sr.)
Joe Kelling is someone everyone wanted to talk to on media day. After being on campus since 2009 just as a student, Kelling now joins the basketball team as one of the new members of the team while he finishes his senior year in college.
Kelling joins the Bluejay squad this season after getting encouraged by guard Grant Gibbs to try out for the team. A dean’s list student, Kelling also brings with him some leadership skills that he displayed as a senior for his high school team four years ago.
“Coming into this year, I wasn’t even contemplating trying to walk-on to the basketball team,” said Kelling. “It wasn’t my train of thought. I have medical school right in front of me and hopefully I get in this year. I ahve a crazy schedule, of course, academically. Also I had two jobs I was working, but my first passion has always been sports and basketball.”
Sitting in the crowd cheering on the Bluejays versus playing on the court with them is a whole new experience for Kelling, especially with practices.
“I think the hardest part for me so far is getting my body back in athletic shape after taking three years off. I had major ankle surgery about a year and a half ago and that really hurt me as far as speed goes and recovering from that. I don’t work out five days a week. Usually I am in the library when I would be in the gym. So just getting used to it, my body aches all over the place.”
The balance between school and basketball is the common theme with the walk-ons like Kelling. However, so far it is working out for him.
“We’ve played basketball for about two hours a day before fall break. It will be interesting to see how well it works for me once the season gets going and we are practicing longer and working out in the mornings too. It will be a crazy year.”
Again the advantages being part of the team are the places they go. While there aren’t any games closer to his home town of Kansas City this year, it will still be fun for him to go different places.
“I wish we played at Allen Fieldhouse this year. Every time I walk into that building it gives me chills. My godmother has a nephew that plays for Wichita State and I have some family ties there at Wichita State. I’ve played in their arena before. Otherwise, the experience and going to the NCAA Tournament if that happens, I don’t have any specific places I am excited to go. Las Vegas will be a heck of a time.”
Creighton has a tough opponent on Friday night against North Texas, but if they do well these walk-ons will get their opportunity to light up a victory cigar and hopefully many additional ones as the season goes on.
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