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Eighteen year old Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye is already making a name for himself in the BBL and he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity.
The England u18 international had planned on heading to the States this summer, but has opted to stay with Bristol Flyers and complete his college course, while hoping to get more exposure to make the jump to the US.
“I was planning on leaving for America this summer,” he revealed. “But I’m back and getting the opportunity to gain BBL experience for a full year gives me a chance to really develop and could give me better looks (at colleges).
“I want to be going up against the best players and I get to do that in the BBL. It’s a big step up from Division 1 and it’s a great chance to show you can compete at the highest level. I believe more young players should be given this opportunity.”
From putting players on posters in the EABL to earning praise from the likes of Drew Sullivan, after going up against the GB veteran earlier this month, confidence is high for the teenager. The increased competition of the BBL is a challenge that DLO has embraced as opposed to being fazed by it and the faith of his coach is being repaid.
In five league appearances so far, Lautier-Ogunleye is averaging 7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game with his shining performance coming against the Lions with an extended amount of game-time (27 minutes) bringing 10 points.
“I’ve been pleased and feel I’ve started the season quite well,” he admitted. “I’ve been coming off the bench and bringing energy to the team and that’s something I feel I do well.
“It just goes to show all the hard work, and it’s being recognised, which is great especially when the GB captain gives me credit. I just want to continue to prove myself.
“I’m improving on my PG play with my decision making and getting everyone involved. I’ve also been working on my jump shot. I’ve been a threat on the perimeter, making shots and now I keep the consistency.”
Bristol have continued their long tradition of nurturing British talent by maintaining the core of their side whilst strengthening with key additions of three new imports: Doug Herring Jr, Alif Bland and Danish National Team captain Mathias Seilund. And Lautier-Ogunleye highlighted the importance of the trio, both for the team and from a personal perspective.
“Doug Herring is someone I can talk to everyday. He’s been a pro for 8 years and is always giving me little tips I’m learning from. Alif gives us that experience of having played in the BBL and he’s a luxury to have because he does everything from blocking shots to rebounding. And Mathias has just finished college, which is something I want to do so he’s been telling me about his experiences.”
The goal, in the not too distant future, is to follow in the footsteps of a number of young Brits who aim to further their education and playing careers in US colleges. The 6’3″ guard certainly has what it takes and is no stranger to representing his country overseas having been a regular within the England set-up through the age groups.
Lautier-Ogunleye was part of the under-18 squad that suffered relegation from Division A in the summer but he was still able to reflect on the positives as well as looking ahead to his next goal of making the step up to GB level.
“It was great. Playing against the best players across Europe is always a great challenge, especially in Division A. It was the hardest years that we have had but the experience was fun and I enjoyed every second of it.
“I’d love to now be able to play for the GB under-20’s – ideally this year and next. There is a chance that it may clash with college, and that would have to take priority in my first year but it’s something I want to do and it’s too early to predict what will happen.”
The main focus right now is continuing his development and doing all he can to help Bristol be successful in their debut season in the top flight. After springing a few surprises in the opening weeks, the Flyers were brought back down to Earth last weekend with two defeats against North-East opposition.
“It was real tough to take as we were going into the weekend on a high,” Lautier-Ogunleye said. “We knew Newcastle was going to be really tough on the road, but we thought we could take both games then losing at home to Durham was tough.
“We had our game plan ready but there were little mental breakdowns during the game and we just didn’t click. We were a bit off this weekend but it’s a reality check for us.”
The defeats mean that Bristol have a 3-3 record after their opening six games as well as being in the quarter-finals of the BBL Cup and Lautier-Ogunleye believes their early victories made the league take notice. They began the season with a double-winning weekend against Plymouth and Glasgow before repeating their victory over their South-West rivals in the Cup as well as defeating Manchester on the road.
“It was really great to get the start we did because now teams take us for legitimate contenders. It’s better for us, we wanted to shock people and be taken more seriously.
“It’s definitely a tougher challenge already. Newcastle came at us right away because they see us a threat whereas before they might have just taken us lightly.”
Flyers Head Coach Andreas Kapoulas has been a major factor in the nurturing of the rising star’s talent and Lautier-Ogunleye admitted to being pushed hard to succeed.
“There’s so much for me to learn every day,” he acknowledged. “We’ve been together for a while now, after England under-16’s I came straight to Bristol, and it’s been great. I’m always getting set new challenges. He’s tough on me, but it’s good because I know there’s no room for complacency or no time-off.
“I’m grateful to have been given the chance by Andreas, to be able to play in games and get minutes and I’m not going to stop working hard.”
Image Credit: JMP UK
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