Kevin Olekaibe looking for bigger role in second season in the D-League

Photo: Flickr | thenext28days
Photo: Flickr | thenext28days /
Photo: Flickr | thenext28days
Photo: Flickr | thenext28days /

Every player in the NBA D-League has something to prove. Those returning for a second season, however, who don’t have the luxury of leaning on excuses, have even more pressure to live up to the hype. Some crumble under that pressure, while others, like Kevin Olekaibe, relish the opportunity.

“I’m excited to be back,”Olekaibe told U&M about returning to the Canton Charge this season. “I had an okay first year adjusting to the pace. Now, I’m ready to prove people wrong.”

Olekaibe appeared in 28 games for the Charge, averaging 3.5 points in 11 minutes a night. While the opportunities weren’t always there in his rookie season, his confidence never faltered. “I can hang with those guys playing ahead of me,” he said. “I did it in practice and when I got a chance to play I made a good impact on the game. I definitely envision a bigger role this season.”

Though he did not play as much as he would have liked, Olekaibe was invited to the NBA All-Star weekend as a D-League dunk contest participant, which turned out to be the highlight of his rookie campaign. At 6-2 his athleticism is through the roof and although he didn’t win the dunk contest, he had an unforgettable experience.

“Man, it was the best experience I ever had,” he said. “I’m in an NBA arena putting on a show for fans in New York. It was a great atmosphere.”

That wasn’t the only time during the season that Olekaibe got the crowd on their feet, either.

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While his high-flying dunks are fun for fans, Kevin hangs his hat on skills that are more tangible on the court. The Charge and head coach Jordi Fernandez preach defense. They play at a much slower pace than most of the D-League, making Olekaibe a perfect fit for their system.

“It’s great working with all of our coaches and staff”, he continued. “Coach [Fernandez] gives players freedom to play their game but expects defense in return and I like that. I’m in tip-top shape this season and I’m ready to be our team’s defensive stopper.”

Kevin will have some familiar faces with the club to start the season, with both Michael Dunigan and Antoine Agudio returning. Cracking the starting lineup, though, will prove a difficult task. The Cavaliers allocated Quinn Cook to the team and he stands to be the starting point guard. A backup role will certainly be in the cards at least to start the year, which will be Olekaibe’s for the taking if his handle has improved as much as he says.

The D-League is all about taking advantage of your opportunities when they arise. The players that find the most success in this league are ones who come in with the right mindset and Kevin has that in spades. All that’s left to do is show the staff what he brings to the table and the rest will take care of itself.