May 28, 2024

INTRODUCTION

While the spotlight in the world of sports often shines on athletes and coaches, ReboundNG takes a look at Ojobo Owoicho’s remarkable journey as a basketball statistician in the heart of Nigeria’s bustling basketball scene.

In this article, we delve into the work of “Coach Ojay” as he is fondly called-one of Nigeria’s finest basketball statisticians.

THE EARLY PASSION

Ojobo Owoicho’s journey into the world of basketball statistics began with a deep-rooted love for the game.

As a young basketball enthusiast, he was drawn not only to the on-court action but also to the intricate details that make each play unique.

basketball Statisticians
Coach Ojay(1st from left)

This fascination with the numbers behind the game led him to explore the field of sports statistics.

OJOBO’S DEDICATION TO LEARNING

Becoming a basketball statistician in Nigeria wasn’t an easy task. Ojobo Owoicho embarked on a journey of continuous learning, studying the in’s and out’s of the sport’s statistics.

He delved into areas like player efficiency ratings, advanced metrics, and game analysis. Ojobo’s dedication to honing his craft allowed him to develop a comprehensive understanding of basketball statistics.

Zenith Women’s league, 2019 in Zaria. First time operating the FIBA LIVE STAT software

We hope you enjoy this Q and A session with  “Coach Ojay” as he is fondly called-one of Nigeria’s finest basketball statisticians.

AT WHAT POINT DID YOU SWITCH FROM ACTIVE BASKETBALL TO BEING A STATISTICIAN?

The road to the NBA is far- and since I didn’t get good exposure early enough I felt like it was too late to start pursuing a career in playing especially when I wasn’t comfortable with reducing my age. Or maybe I just wasn’t good enough.

I was only exploring options if/when I decided to stop pursuing a playing career.

HAVE YOU COACHED ANY TEAM?

Yes sure. Officially I am currently coaching Raberto Schools Abuja, under the Jr NBA Power Forward project.

ARE YOU FIBA-CERTIFIED?

No, I have not had the chance of taking the FIBA certification examination since I entered the field of Basketball Statistics in 2019.

 

I heard there is a specific procedure in place, and it is the federation that makes recommendations to FIBA much like they do for referees, so I’m patiently waiting for my time.

basketball Statisticians

I consider myself fortunate to work as a Basketball statistician. Even before I fully understood the role, I had the opportunity to work in an international game.

I must express my gratitude to Tunde Ayodeji for this privilege. He guided me, taught me the ropes of the job, and introduced me to the right people.

CAN WE GET A LIST OF COMPETITIONS YOU HAVE OFFICIATED?

I have worked in;

  • AFRICA BASKETBALL LEAGUE ELITE 8 2019- DEFENDERS NIGERIA VS. ASS MOROCCO.
  • ZENITH BANK WOMEN’S BASKETBALL LEAGUE 2019.
  • NBBF PRESIDENT CUP 2019.
  • FINAL 8 ORGANIZED BY FEDERAL MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORTS DEVELOPMENT 2021.
  • MARK D BALL CHAMPIONSHIP MEN/WOMEN 2022.

These are the majors I’ve done stats on my own for the ACBL final 8 in 2019 and 2020.

NO BARRIERS BASKETBALL LEAGUE for Girls by Ada Mark Foundation was the main tournament where I sharpened my skills.

Thanks to Coach Obande Ogbole (Uncle Obee), one of the oldest statisticians in Nigeria- I learned from him directly.

Basketball Statisticians
With Coach Obande Ogbole

ARE THERE FEMALE BASKETBALL STATISTICIANS IN NIGERIA?

Shola Sarah Alhassan, Sefiya Galadima those are the only two I know, they could be others. They’re both my seniors and I learned from them also.

IS THERE AN ASSOCIATION/BODY OF SOME SORT IN NIGERIA FOR BASKETBALL STATISTICIANS?

There’s supposed to be, just like the referee’s council but since the factional issues with the federation, none of those bodies have been active. To the best of my knowledge.

AS A STATISTICIAN WHAT ARE THE CONS OF THE JOB, GIVEN THAT IT FORMS THE CORE OF A NORMAL BASKETBALL GAME?

As a statistician, you are considered a game official and cannot participate in tournaments you’re officiating.

A couple of times, I was caught between playing and working as a statistician in the Division 1&2 leagues, the premier league in 2021 and Mark D’ Ball tournament in 2022. But I took working as a statistician as the best option.

WHAT ABOUT THE PROS?

I knew that I would make more impact being a statistician by identifying and putting spotlight on outstanding players.

Also because I would earn more from being a game official than I will from playing.

Getting Tips from Shola Alhassan

As a person, it’s another way of staying connected to the game that I love. It has helped widen my scope of the game and has made it easy for me to identify and write about good players.

DO YOU THINK THAT BASKETBALL STATISTICIANS GET THE LEVEL OF RESPECT THEY DESERVE?

Statistics as a concept doesn’t get enough regard so let’s not even talk about statisticians.

Only very few coaches request stat sheets between and after the game. Most coaches and players just take it to check for the highest scorers.

Aside from evaluating players’ and teams’ performances Statistical data is essential for scouting the opposing teams. Identify the strengths and weakness of a particular player, and how the player performs with a particular defender on him.

IS THERE A STANDARDIZED METHOD FOR COLLECTING PLAY-BY-PLAY DATA?

Yes the FIBA live stat application makes it super easy. Basketball stat in Nigeria has not gone past play-by-play for each game.

That’s why we can hardly identify the highest scorer with how many points he scored exactly. Same reason why player comparison can be difficult.

I was privileged to engage with Mike Schimtz the Assistant GM of Portland Trailblazers and head scout during the last Jr NBA clinic in Abuja.

Interestingly some of the things he mentioned are the things that I do and can do for teams in Nigeria but the league is not consistent so I can’t even pitch it to these teams.

Dibia Paul, Fine Country McArthur & Coach Ojay

ARE THERE COMPLEX METRICS ON THE PLATFORM ESPECIALLY FOR A LAYMAN?

It looks tricky at first. But, it’s actually easy to navigate around the FIBA Live Stat Application.

Also, the developers are constantly adding updates to make it even simpler to operate.

IS THERE SOME SORT OF DATA PRIVACY AND SECURITY IN BASKETBALL STATISTICS?

Discussing the topics of privacy and security requires that there is some inherent value in what we aim to keep private or secure.

In Nigerian basketball, there is a notable scarcity of data collection, and very few, if any, individuals take the additional steps to conduct data analysis.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD WANT TO CHANGE IN NIGERIA’S BASKETBALL STATISTICIANS HEMISPHERE?

Initiate training sessions for both coaches and players to convey the importance of statistics and how they can be utilized as guiding tools.

This includes decisions like player selection, defensive and offensive strategies, and timing for substitutions.

There is a need for substantial investment in data analysis. So that In the long term, we can also establish a system to acknowledge and celebrate players for their accomplishments.

Following that, we should explore the business and publicity aspects.

FINAL WORDS ON NIGERIA BASKETBALL IN GENERAL AS WE WRAP UP?

We must adopt a long-term perspective when evaluating the state of basketball, much like how the NBA can easily compare teams from different eras using statistics as a reference. In the world of basketball, numbers hold tremendous significance.

I have a strong belief in the untapped potential of Nigerian basketball. However, our most significant challenge appears to be a short-term mindset that encompasses everyone, from players, coaches administrators and other stake holders.

We should shift our focus towards the future. It’s crucial to realize that the seeds we hold today have the potential to grow into thriving trees in the next 5, 10, or even 20 years.

Instead of merely consuming the present, let’s collectively plant, nurture, and cultivate these seeds for a brighter future in Nigerian basketball.

Image Credit: Ojobo Owoicho

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