Why Semi Ojeleye can handle big games despite spotty minutes


One of several unexpected things that happened in Monday’s game against the Lakers: Semi Ojeleye (19:29) played more minutes than Daniel Theis (17:12).

Now, Theis’ minute-count was more the result of Enes Kanter (24:05) getting a lot of play. But Ojeleye hasn’t exactly been the No. 3 player off Boston’s bench this year — Marcus Smart and Kanter being the two top guys.

Though, if you look at the Celtics’ last 10 games, there have been three times where Ojeleye played right around 20 minutes: Philadelphia (1/9), Milwaukee (1/16) and now the Lakers.

And the forward has largely done what’s been asked of him on the defensive end, too. His offense is still limited, but he has improved his 3-point shooting (37.3%) significantly from last season (31.5%).

Still, Ojeleye is on the floor to help on the defensive end.

When you look at the three teams he’s logged significant time against recently, there’s a theme: they have big guys who can handle the ball and attack the rim. So it makes sense that Ojeleye played quite a bit on Monday.

What’s more surprising is he’s able to perform in these games despite the fact that, in this same recent 10-game stretch Ojeleye has played less than 10 minutes in five contests.

Brad Stevens has expressed this type of role is not easy for anyone, but it’s been documented that Ojeleye trains as hard as anyone. But how hard exactly?

“I prepare like I’m going to play 48 (minutes) every game,” Ojeleye told WEEI.com “I try to be in shape. I try to keep my body right, keep my shot right. In my mind, going into every game, I’m playing every minute. So, if I’m called upon, it’s not a surprise. But, if I don’t play, then that’s what it is.”

So Ojeleye has the physical aspect down. He touched on the mental game there as well, but Ojeleye had more to add.

“At this point in my life, I just trust God for everything,” he said. “Faith is first. I know God’s going to take care of me. He didn’t put me in this position to let me down.”

Celtics fans may not see much of Ojeleye for a while. He could play a lot against New Orleans if Zion Williamson is active. Or maybe he won’t play again until the Sixers come to town at the start of February.

Either way, Ojeleye will do everything he can to be ready.

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