Photo by Brigham Berthold
Retire, transfer or try to sign with a professional team oversees—those were the options laid before Kenneth Ogbe last summer before he transferred to UVU for his final two years of eligibility. Ogbe was born and raised in Germany before his on-court prowess brought him to the United States, first as a Ute, and now as a Wolverine.
A once promising career at the University of Utah was derailed by a recurring groin injury that affected the German’s hips. Ogbe played in 30 games his freshman season but saw action in just 22 games his sophomore year. He was healthy for the first few games of the 2015-16 season and scored 13 points against BYU in early December. But suddenly his days wearing a red uniform seemed numbered.
“I really felt like I was back and could help the team,” Ogbe said. But after the game he began feeling the same pains he had battled the previous two seasons. “I just had the feeling. I knew it was coming back. I knew it,” he said.
After working his way back from injury, that moment was the lowest point of Ogbe’s college career. Later on, it was decided to use the season as a medical redshirt year. With his track record of injuries came an uncertain future and tough decisions to be made by Ogbe and the Utah coaching staff. When a consensus could not be reached on his future – Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak encouraged him to retire but Ogbe desired to continue his college career —transferring schools became the best choice for both parties.
Before he could find a new school, Ogbe took on an incredible 27-credit summer semester in order to finish his political science bachelor’s degree and transfer as a graduate with the ability to play right away. Yet, until he was released from his scholarship in July, when most teams have their rosters filled already, he was unable to be in contact with other teams due to NCAA rules and was unaware of which schools wanted him.
Ogbe wanted to remain in Utah to play and UVU seemed like a natural fit because of the atmosphere head coach Mark Pope had created and his style of play. He finished with a week to spare between the end of his Utah summer term and the beginning of UVU’s fall semester.
Now, as his junior season draws to a close, Ogbe is averaging over 24 minutes per game and has played in more than 25 games for the first time in over two years since his freshman campaign. Averaging 10.9 points per game, he feels that Pope’s offensive-minded philosophy gives the players more freedom on the floor, which is important to him.
In the Idaho State game earlier this season Ogbe knocked down a couple of 3-pointers in a row and so the next trip down the floor he launched a highly-contested shot and missed it badly. The next day he walked into Pope’s office to tell him it was the first “heat check” he had taken in his life and now felt like a Wolverine.
“He told me how happy he was that I took that shot,” Ogbe said. “The great thing about Coach Pope was he really brought the fun back for me playing basketball.”
Staying healthy is Ogbe’s number one goal and he has done that thus far this season for the Wolverines. Other than typical aches and soreness, he has not had to play through the pain he experienced at Utah. He credits the coaching and training staff for keeping him healthy in this new stage of his playing career.
Whatever the future holds for Ogbe, he knows one thing: he wants to live in the state of Utah.
“I just love it here,” Ogbe said. Other than his dislike of American pizza, “I’m full on Americanized now,” he said with a smile.
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.