He’d hear it constantly, the term thrown at him from every angle, every college coach offering a vapid thanks-but-no-thanks to Jimmy Oladokun.
You have potential — but. The potential’s good – but.
“It does hurt,” Oladokun said. “Immensely.”
The word “potential” turned negative for Oladokun, a 6-foot-9 senior forward who came to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon over the summer but is hardly the typical Trailblazers transfer. He was content at La Verne Damien High before the principal of his seventh-grade sister’s school left, sending his family scrambling to find her a solid education, eventually landing on Sierra Canyon and persuading Oladokun to come along for the ride.
“This is definitely something that my family motivated me heavily to do,” Oladokun said of the transfer, smiling softly. “Once I got here, I always had the mindset that once I’m here, I have to make the best out of it.”
On Wednesday, the storm from all the changes in his life finally calmed, Oladokun signing a letter of intent to play for the University of San Diego in the afternoon and leading the Trailblazers to an 85-53 win over King/Drew at night in their first game of the season.
Bronny James, expected to be the team’s senior leader, was out sick Wednesday, and junior five-star prospect Isaiah Elohim was still recovering from a knee injury. But Oladokun shouldered the load, bullying his way to 24 points. Newly minted Memphis commit and fellow transfer Ashton Hardaway’s vaunted three-point stroke was off in his first game, but he proved lithe around the rim on his way to 18 points.
This is a Sierra Canyon program with lofty expectations. Coach Andre Chevalier called it the “deepest team we’ve ever had” at the program’s media day, and point guard Dylan Metoyer called it “comeback season” after losing to Corona Centennial in last year’s Open Division semifinals. But first the Trailblazers must blend a slew of transfer talent into an existing roster — and they have a “long way to go,” Chevalier said.
Early on, Oladokun was overwhelmed at times — starstruck as the team played in front of packed crowds in Europe, missing his former teammates. The pressure of an unfulfilled commitment weighed, trying to impress invisible clipboards in the stands on every play. Trying, desperately, to prove himself.
But after putting pen to paper Wednesday, the weight lifted, and Oladokun soared above the rim. Chevalier said his bigs were playing “soft” at times, and Oladokun took the coaching staff’s challenge to play tough. He was a consistent source of offense as the Trailblazers threw the ball every which way across the gym to start, keeping an overmatched King/Drew squad in the game, before Oladokun scored three consecutive baskets in the third quarter to put the game away.
He might’ve been reluctant to come to Sierra Canyon at first. But he’s essential to the team’s hopes for a state title.
“I want to be here, now that I’m here, and focus on everything I can do to help,” he said.
Bryce James debuts
His first shot in a Trailblazers uniform was a thing of beauty, a double-take baseline drive and left-handed floater over two leaping King/Drew defenders, dad LeBron James miming the lefty finish from his courtside seat.
A different James sibling took the floor for Sierra Canyon on Wednesday night, sophomore Bryce James making his Trailblazers varsity debut in front of parents LeBron and Savannah James. With older brother Bronny James sidelined, the wait for the siblings to share the floor was delayed, but Bryce showed flashes, scoring six points in big minutes.
“Bryce has improved so much … in practice against him, he can shoot the … the ball, ” Oladokun said.
Coach’s son shines
It was a David-versus-Goliath matchup Wednesday, as King/Drew coach Lloyd Webster described. But the Golden Eagles threw a few stones despite a blowout loss, as Webster’s freshman son Josahn made three three-pointers.
It was a tough stage for a first high school game, playing in front of LeBron James. But Webster has a natural confidence. He said his goal by the end of his freshman year was to secure at least one offer from a Division I program.