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How would Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye fit at Wisconsin?

A 6'8, 230-pound small forward is available and the Badgers were in the thick of his original recruitment once upon a time. Does Ojeleye makes sense now?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomore forward Semi Ojeleye announced on Sunday that he is leaving Duke at the semester break and will transfer to another program. After sitting out a year, the former Top 40 recruit in the 2013 class will be a junior available in the spring of 2016 and then have one more full season of eligibility left.

Wisconsin was the first big school to go all in recruiting Ojeleye several years ago. Benjamin Worgull reported that UW has already contacted Ojeleye to express interest in him since his announcement.

That revelation is surprising for a couple of reasons.

First, the Badgers rarely pursue transfers. In fact, Bo Ryan has never taken a pure scholarship transfer other than one JUCO (Zach Morley). Sharif Chambliss was worthy, but had to walk-on per Big Ten intraconference transfer rules; Zach Bohannon was a walk-on who received an extra scholarship.

Secondly, Wisconsin will have a glut of forwards on the roster, even after the departure of Frank Kaminsky, Duje Dukan and possibly Sam Dekker. If Ojeleye is looking for playing time, it won't be automatic in Madison.

Nigel Hayes is the next face of the program and possesses similar skills as Ojeleye. It would be doable, however, since Hayes could slide to the power forward spot or vice versa to accommodate Ojeleye. The bigger issue is the effect Ojeleye would have on the young players stacking up in UW's arsenal.

Vitto Brown has flashed a nice shooting touch, shooting 59 percent and rebounding well in his increased role this season. Promising forward Ethan Happ is a lock for future playing time based on how close he came to breaking into the rotation before his decision to redshirt as a freshman. Happ would probably be the most affected by a run at Ojeleye because a redshirt season would in effect place Ojeleye in the 2014 class, one year ahead of a redshirted Happ.

Not to mention Wisconsin has incoming recruits like Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas coming in next fall. Do you risk alienating those recruits to go after a player you really liked in the past, like Ojeleye?

With the unproven depth at guard besides Bronson Koenig, you can probably assume Wisconsin will stick with a frontcourt heavy rotation for the next few years. So it's reasonable to think UW could find a use for Ojeleye a year from now when it might be looking at only true freshman to spell Hayes, Brown and Happ. (Knowing what Diamond Stone is thinking would help here, wouldn't it?)

When it comes to depth up front, the best case scenario for Wisconsin would be the worst-case scenario for an Ojeleye-Wisconsin connection actually:

Scenario 1

If Dekker returns for his senior year and Diamond Stone commits, how many minutes will Ojeleye see?

2015-16 2016-17
Sam Dekker
Nigel Hayes Nigel Hayes
Vitto Brown Vitto Brown
Semi Ojeleye* Semi Ojeleye
Ethan Happ Ethan Happ
Diamond Stone Diamond Stone^
Alex Illikainen Alex Illikainen
Charlie Thomas# Charlie Thomas

*available spring semester
^anticipated early draft entry
^anticipated redshirt

Scenario 2

If Dekker declares for the NBA Draft and Stone commits elsewhere, Ojeleye fills an immediate need. The team remains talented up front, if undersized.

2015-16 2016-17
Nigel Hayes Nigel Hayes
Vitto Brown Vitto Brown
Semi Ojeleye* Semi Ojeleye
Ethan Happ Ethan Happ
Alex Illikainen Alex Illikainen
Charlie Thomas# Charlie Thomas

In the end, the reason to go after Ojeleye is simple: he's really talented and can help the team, plus Wisconsin has a scholarship available to take him. Ojeleye's physical gifts are incredible -- you won't find a more chiseled 230-pound player in college basketball. As a freshman, he won the preseason dunk contest at Duke after averaging 38 points per game as a high school senior in Ottawa, Kansas.

Ojeleye is not without his faults, of course. He fell in love with the three-pointer at Duke (16 of his 18 attempts were from deep this season), but he didn't make many of them. Maybe in addition to being passed over for minutes by young players, Ojeleye feels stuck in between positions with the Blue Devils. Those issues will have to be addressed no matter what school Ojeleye commits to next.

Kansas and Missouri are two major programs that have expressed interest in Ojeleye so far. Kansas State, where Ojeleye's older brother played, could be a factor as well if distance from home is important to him, though the Wildcats have not reached out as of Tuesday. Stanford, Oregon and Indiana were Ojeleye's other finalists before selecting Duke.

Other Big Ten schools that pursued Ojeleye orignally include Illinois and Northwestern. Though Indiana apparently will not go after Ojeleye this time around, it appears Maryland will get involved in the chase as well. Butler has reached out too.

Ojeleye was averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 63 total minutes this year with Duke.

* * *

A previous version of this story incorrectly noted Ojeleye would have two full season of eligibility remaining after sitting out as a transfer. It has been corrected and the projected depth charts updated to reflect this.


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