When Georgia Tech faces Boston College on Sunday evening at McCamish Pavilion, it will be the last time Sylvester Ogbonda, Brandon Alston and Abdoulaye Gueye will take the floor at home in a Tech jersey.
Ogbonda, who is a junior in his fourth season, decided to forego his final season of eligibility with the Yellow Jackets and graduate in the spring. He has the opportunity to transfer to another school and play his final season as a graduate transfer if he chooses, but he said he is keeping the door open to play professionally as well.
“Hopefully pursue the NBA and play basketball, so that’s my plan for right now,” Ogbonda said. “Probably going to make a decision after, probably after the season is over and I’ll know what to do from there.”
Coach Josh Pastner said he talked with Ogbonda about his decision to graduate.
“He and (Gueye) are closer than just friends. They are literally like brothers, and they really look after each other,” Pastner said. “So I think it was with A.D. leaving, I think they want to go out the same time together. And actually when (Sylvester) was in my office talking about it, about making that decision, just thinking that him and A.D. are going to be apart at some point here, he was very emotional about that.”
Ogbonda was born and raised in Nigeria. In a speech he made at the Georgia Tech Athletic Association Endowment Dinner in January 2018, Ogbonda spoke about how he came to the United States at 15 when he earned an opportunity to pursue basketball. He struggled with his basketball skills, but continued to put in the work and received an offer from Tech. He visited campus, and knew it was where he wanted to continue both his athletic and academic careers.
He had a goal to earn a bachelor’s degree, and graduating in the spring from Tech will be accomplishing one of his personal milestones.
His journey has been a bumpy road, Ogbonda said, as his biggest struggle was not earning the playing time he had hoped. He has played in 12 games this season for a total of 77 minutes and scoring 25 points. Through the difficulty of not playing, he talked with Gueye and Pastner about his struggle to earn time on the floor.
“Sylvester is a wonderful young man,” Pastner said. “He’s been a great team guy, a great team player. I know the minutes haven’t worked out for him that he’s wanted, but he’s always brought it every day in practice.”
While his next step is still in the works, he looks forward to finishing his time at Tech with Gueye next to him. Ogbonda remembers meeting Gueye in person on his first visit to Tech. They had spoken before he came to visit in 2015, but when they met during his visit to Tech they became close friends.
Their friendship helped Ogbonda in his transition to collegiate basketball. He could watch Gueye and learn from his example. Gueye arrived at Tech in 2014 and Ogbonda in 2015, and each redshirted a season. Now the two are leaving together.
“I would say if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t still be here,” Gueye said. “We’ve been like big brother, little brother.”
Pastner said the high character of Ogbonda, Alston and Gueye helps establish the culture at Tech.
A graduate transfer, Alston played two seasons at Lehigh before coming to Tech and played his final two seasons of eligibility with the Jackets. Pastner said he has seen Alston develop into a stronger player over these two years and worked to achieve his highest ability.
He finished the 2017-18 season with the Jackets playing in 32 games and scoring 174 total points.This season he has played in 26 games, scoring 192 points.
Pastner believes Alston will be very successful in his life outside of basketball. Alston will graduate with a master’s degree in economics from Tech, after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Lehigh.
“Those guys, like A.D. (Gueye) and Sylvester (Ogbonda) and Brandon (Alston), have continued to help that trend of being good people,” Pastner said. “Good people want to be around good people.”