HBCU to Pro

Switch to ‘Big Boy Basketball’ no draft guarantee for ex-HBCU stars

HBCU Olojubi

Former North Carolina A&T star Femi Olujobi decided to spend his final year of eligibility at DePaul earlier this spring. A transfer from Oakland University, he had a breakout season in Greensboro last year, but decided to take the path that many HBCU basketball stars have recently taken and transfer to a PWI.

Olujobi, a talented 6’8 scorer, recently opened up as to why he decided to leave after just one season on the court after averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“I want to play in the NBA, and I feel like just being here [at DePaul], I know what I have to do because there are no days off,” Olujobi told The Undefeated. “At times at A&T, I could not put my best foot forward and still get away with it. That’s not going to happen here. This is the Big East. This is Big Boy Basketball.“

It’s a reasoning we’ve seen before several times over the past few years. In fact, its the second year in a row that the Aggies have lost their leading scorer to another Division I program. Sam Hunt did the same thing the previous summer, spending last season with NC State. His minutes dropped (from 34.4 to 16.1 ppg) along with his scoring average (from 12.7 to 5.5 ppg) for the ACC squad.

His team did make the NCAA Tournament, bowing out in the round of 64 to Seton Hall, but he and Olojubi would have been a headache for MEAC defenses and might have gotten there as well.

Here is how some other HBCU-to-PWI players have performed in recent years.

* James Daniel was a volume scorer during his three full years at Howard. In fact, in 2016-17, Daniel led the nation in scoring at 27 points per game. After being granted a redshirt following the 2016-17 season, he elected to move to Tennessee as a grad transfer. He averaged a career-low of 5.6 points per game in just 19.7 minutes per game with Tennessee in 2017-18 and was not selected in last week’s NBA Draft.

*Zach Lofton had one great season at Texas Southern, helping the team to the NCAA Tournament while winning SWAC Player of The Year during the 2016-17 season. Instead of spending his final year of eligibility in Houston, however, he decided to transfer to New Mexico State. Lofton actually upped his numbers across the board at New Mexico State, averaging 20.1 ppg and five rebounds per game while helping his team to a 28-6 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Despite those improved numbers, Lofton went undrafted as well last week. He will get a chance to play with the Detroit Pistons Summer League team.

* Deron Powers was the heartbeat of Hampton’s attack from 2012 through 2015, claiming Most Outstanding Player honors as he helped HiU claim the 2015 MEAC title. Soon after, though, he decided he wanted to play on a higher level. He transferred to Hofstra, where he averaged 13 points and 5.2 assists per game during the 2016-17 season. Hofstra did not make the NCAA Tournament that season, however. He was not drafted.

*Rashid Gaston was an emerging force in the MEAC at Norfolk State, averaging 15.5 and 9.6 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15. He left NSU and helped Xavier to the 2017 Elite Eight, averaging 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game off the bench, but did not get selected in the NBA Draft. He played in Japan last season.

*Jermaine Ruttley was the top option his sole season at FAMU, averaging 17.4 ppg and 6.7 rebounds in the MEAC. He elected to finish his college career at Little-Rock Arkansas, where he averaged 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game as a senior. The team did not make the NCAA Tournament and Ruttley was not drafted.

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  1. Gary

    June 26, 2018 at 8:54 am

    And what is the moral of this story for all HBCU athletes…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Stop chasing the fool’s gold. Transferring to these PWIs does not always lead to the NBA. Don’t think people aren’t noticing you, let your numbers, work-ethic, and determination be your calling card. If you put in the work they will notice. I invite you to check out the roster of Hall of Fame players who came from a HBCU program.

  2. Clayton Smith

    June 26, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    I would love for you to do a follow-up article focusing on (and interviewing) Kyle O’Quinn, who is the most-recent player to jump for a Division I HBCU directly to the NBA. Get his take on this situation.

  3. Owen M Lawson, IV

    June 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Astonished that this cat admits he didn’t put his best foot forward and somehow feels he got away with it… and then shares the remark to someone who went public. #1 Failure to “Go Hard” at each opportunity speaks to character flaw that can be worked anywhere… you should not have to head to a higher level of play to extract the potential within you (makes me wonder about what could’ve been in the MEAC Hoops tourney this year… Dominate where you are at, excellent play demands recognition!!!) #2 He thinks he got away with it… #FilmDon’tLie I wish harm or ill-will towards no one. That said dont’ ever delude yourself into believing that you not cultivating your full potential in the present goes unnoticed… you just may not have been mature enough to notice who was taking notes when!!! #3 Mindset matters along with knowledge of history… methinks that the pursuit of NBA cash is being put before the work and maturation needed to really reap the true benefits of being an NBA player. I pray that these are all ingredients he will find within himself regardless of where he plies his talents.

    As a faithful supporter of HBCU’s and my Aggies, I’m disappointed with an athlete that admits he did not give his all for an institution that embraced him and celebrated him and provided opportunities to build. I guess we are all guilty of lapses in judgement. I’m glad that we could launch him and pray that one day he will appreciate the importance of building up institutions like A&T by always playing, competing and learning as if his life depended on it…. Because IT VERY WELL DOES!

    Thanks for the work you’ve done again #HBCUGameDay

    Still #AggiePROUD #HBCUProud

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