I'm not thinking about next season, says Ojo
MICHAEL OJO says his focus is firmly on this season and not his long-term future at Marjon Plymouth Raiders.
The 23-year-old guard from Los Angeles, California is enjoying a fantastic second campaign with Raiders and in professional basketball.
Raiders recruited the then rookie out of Lehigh University, Pennsylvania last summer.
He arrived with little fanfare, but ended 2011/12 as a key component of coach Gavin Love's rotation.
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Now, Ojo is a star.
He is ranked second in the BBL in scoring, averaging 22.7 points per game, second in steals, second in free-throw shooting and third in three-point shooting, converting a deadly 47 per cent from deep this season.
Love was happy to reveal in early January he hopes to persuade Ojo, who also has a British passport through his mother Cindy, to spend a third year at the Pavilions in 2013/14.
Love wants to recruit Ojo, who will be out of contract, early in the off-season and build his team around him.
"It was flattering to read that," said Ojo, who with Raiders visits Glasgow Rocks in the BBL Championship this Sunday (5pm).
"Obviously it's a good thing to know that people want to bring you back to the club.
"But, in terms of next season, I'm not thinking about anything at the moment – I'm just thinking about finishing strongly this year.
"I don't want anything like that to get in the way of my focus."
Ojo added: "I definitely enjoy it here. I'm having a better time than I had last season.
"At the end of the day I'm in Plymouth to play basketball and perform, so as long as I'm doing that I'm having a good time."
Ojo has graduated to Raiders' starting line-up this season after coming off the bench behind James Jones in 2011/12.
As a rookie, Ojo averaged 13.6 points and shot 39 per cent from the three-point arc in 25 minutes per game.
Now, Ojo is averaging 32 minutes per game and forcing established veteran Drew Lasker to come off the bench.
"I had a decent year last season and I surprised a few people I felt," said Ojo.
"I also felt I was overlooked by people for individual accolades.
"I took that personally, but instead of getting mad about it I used it as motivation to just become better."
Ojo arrived at the Pavilions last summer with a reputation as a dogged defender and dangerous three-point shooter.
This season he is much more comfortable and confident handling the ball in Raiders' backcourt.
He is now able to put the ball on the floor, go by defenders and attack the basket.
Ojo has also added to his offence the ability to pull-up en route to the rim and make mid-range jump-shots.
Ojo said: "I worked on a lot of things back home last summer, so now I've got the opportunity to display that.
"I'm always my biggest critic. I feel there were games this season where I could've done better defensively and offensively where I could've made better decisions.
"But I have to say things are going okay. I'm not going to say things are going amazingly well.
"I just want to keep my head level so I hopefully keep moving in the right direction now."
Raiders are buoyed by last Sunday's 100-93 win at Cheshire Phoenix.
Raiders built a nine-point lead late in the third quarter before holding off Phoenix, who twice rallied back within two points, in the fourth.
Ojo led Raiders with 40 points on 15/22 shooting, which included 3/3 threes and 7/7 free-throws.
"Last Sunday went well for us at the offensive end, but defensively we didn't do as well as we wanted to," said Ojo. "Both teams were just trying to outscore each other.
"We're more than capable of being a good defensive team, so we don't want to fall into the habit of trying to outscore teams. That's not a sure-fire way of getting victories."
Raiders' record in the standings improved to 14-6 as a result, narrowly behind 14-5 Surrey Heat, who tonight visit Manchester Giants and then next Saturday (February 16) the Pavilions in a crunch match-up in the top half of the league.
Ojo was sidelined with a fractured eye socket when Raiders visited Rocks on January 6 with a depleted six-man rotation.
Raiders made light of such losses and hit Rocks with a decisive 23-4 run which created a 65-45 gap late in the third quarter and killed the contest in a 97-69 win.
Lasker and centre Matt Schneck combined for 50 of Raiders' 97 points.
Rocks have since won four league games on the spin and added British-Canadian big-man Jamie Vanderbeken to their roster.
The 6ft 10in 25-year-old has averaged 7.7 points per game in three league appearances.
Last time out, Rocks rallied from 19 points down to London Lions at home to win 69-66.