Alex Olsen occasionally thinks about how life as an average college student would be considerably easier than being a Creighton basketball walk-on.
Mo Oginni does, too, but he, like Olsen, quickly pushes those thoughts from his mind.
“Basketball helps me balance,” said Oginni, a pre-med major and a third-year sophomore for the Bluejays. “If I didn't have basketball, I think school would overwhelm me. Basketball is one of my favorite things to do, and once I get on the court, I try not to think about other things.
“I'm happy for the opportunity that I have at Creighton to do both. I'm living my dream right now.”
It was hardly a dream for the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Oginni to have to square off against massive Gregory Echenique the past two seasons in practice. Olsen, a 6-6, 195-pound sophomore, has had to cover two-time first-team All-American Doug McDermott in daily drills.
Olsen figures that comes with the territory. He knew what he was getting into when he decided to join the program as a recruited walk-on out of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln.
“A lot of what we do has to do with the love of the game,” he said. “once you get here, you form bonds with the team and you get close to the other guys. You get to the point where you don't mind coming up here and playing even though you know game minutes are going to be limited.
“We still get all the perks that everyone else does. We get to travel the country, and especially this year, see all these classic venues we'll be playing in. Those are the things that keep you going and get you through the tough times.”
So does the realization that their work on the scout squad in practice helps prepare teammates for game-day challenges. They've seen how former teammates such at Matt Dorwart, Ross Ferrarini, Derek Sebastian, Taylor Stormberg and Joe Kelling have embraced the role that some players would shun.
Those players helped show Olsen and Oginni the ropes the past two seasons. Now it's their turn to lead a new crop of walk-ons — sophomore Steve Ferrarini and freshmen Tyler Clement, Eric Roberts and John Burns.
“Alex and Mo will make sure that the scout team is doing what it's supposed to do,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “They've been around a couple of years, and they've seen what other guys have done and the value they've brought to our program.”
Oginni, a forward from St. Louis, might be as athletic as any Creighton big man. But he admits others have more polished basketball skills.
“I've always been a raw offensive player,” said Oginni, who averaged 8.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a high school senior. “In high school, I could use my athleticism, but once you get to college, everyone is just as athletic.”
Oginni redshirted his first season and then played 18 minutes in 10 games last season, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds.
“When I first got here, everything was moving so fast and it was hard to catch on to everything they were teaching me,” he said. “Now, in year three, I feel like I understand what they want me to do and my responsibilities. The game has slowed down for me.”
Olsen played four sports in high school, earning all-conference honors in football and second-team all-state recognition in basketball as a senior. He averaged 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds in his final season, setting single-game school records with 47 points and 26 rebounds.
Olsen has earned a reputation as one of Creighton's hardest workers in practice, and he typically leads post-practice conditioning sprints.
“I think every team needs guys willing to come out and work every day even though they know that limited time on the floor is all they're going to get,” he said. “Your job becomes not to always make yourself better but to make the team better.”
Olsen said neither he nor Oginni has lost any desire to make bigger contributions.
“I think everyone still always has that feeling in the back of the mind that if someone goes down that you're right there,” Olsen said. “You could get your shot. At the same time, you accept it that it might never happen.”
Two more Creighton home games sold out Wednesday, while the number of tickets the school has sold for the Big East tournament rose to 1,456.
No tickets remain for games Jan. 12 against Xavier and March 8 against Providence. The Bluejays have sold out nine of their 17 home games since single-game tickets went on sale Tuesday.
Friday is the deadline for purchasing tickets for the conference tournament. Creighton's total exceeds the 1,440 that St. John's sold last season. That was the most sold among the seven schools that moved from the old Big East to the new conference.
Syracuse sold 1,800 tickets to last year's tournament, making it the only school in the old Big East that sold more tickets that St. John's.