Graduation spotlight: Oglesby finishes what he started
Terrence Oglesby was taking summer courses at Cleveland State Community College when he made a phone call that would change his life.
His professional basketball career almost assuredly in the rearview mirror, Oglesby reconnected with his academic advisor during his days as an undergraduate student at Clemson University.
“It was the summer of 2017 and I was back home in Tennessee,” he said. “I called Leslie Moreland — who’s an absolute angel — and asked what courses I could take that would be transferable to Clemson. It was important for me to graduate from Clemson.
“And that’s when she told me about Tiger Trust.”
A program that wasn’t formalized until Moreland’s boss Steve Duzan and colleague Barbara Kennedy-Dixon from athletic academic services took ownership of it a few years back, Tiger Trust is designed to give student-athletes who leave Clemson in good standing early for a professional career an opportunity to return and finish his or her degree.
Unbeknownst to Oglesby at the time, Tiger Trust would honor the value of the scholarship.
“It was honored in full,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
There was just one dilemma — Oglesby was in the midst of arguably the busiest time of his life. He had been married for less than a year and had just welcomed his second child into the world.
But at the same time, he needed less than 40 credit hours to graduate.
Just one year later, Oglesby — the former sharpshooting guard for the Tigers who recently turned 30 years of age — is on the eve of accomplishing one of the biggest milestones in his life to date.
When commencement begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday for the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, Oglesby will be one of the most eager students waiting to shake hands with President Jim Clements and earn recognition as a newly minted Clemson graduate.
It will be a defining Clemson moment in Oglesby’s complex journey — a journey marked by fierce ambition and brashness that eventually gave way to maturation and triumph.
FINDING A CONNECTION TO CLEMSON
Terrence Oglesby grew up a basketball junkie. In fact, he was born in Norway where his father, Tony, was playing overseas. From the time he was a baby, he can remember having a basketball in his hands.
He returned to the United States shortly after Tony’s professional career ended, and first began to make a name for himself as a standout at Bradley Central High School in his hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee.
He had drawn recruiters and scholarship offers from around the country — Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, to name a few. But a unique connection to former Clemson women’s basketball coach Jim Davis helped put the school firmly on his radar.
Oglesby’s father had served as a camp counselor when Davis was a junior college coach in Tennessee. Shortly after his tenure had ended at Clemson, Davis was back in his hometown taking in a game at Bradley Central. He couldn’t help but notice the shooting abilities of its star player reminded him of one of his former players who also went to Bradley, Amy Geren.
Davis relayed word of Oglesby to the men’s staff at Clemson.
“It all started to fall together,” Oglesby said. “The living situation was second to none, because it reminded me of home. In fact, Clemson was always the kind of place I could call home. Its emergence as an academic institution began to really flourish during that time period.”
During the time of his recruitment, Clemson was experiencing an upswing on the hardwood as well under coach Oliver Purnell. He signed a scholarship agreement in November 2006.
“You talk about never looking back on a decision … Clemson’s been great to me.”
ADJUSTING TO COLLEGE BASKETBALL AND UNIVERSITY LIFE
Oglesby enrolled over the summer of 2007 and didn’t have any trouble fitting in academically.
“I was teaching COMM 250, which was our introduction to public speaking,” said Darren Linvill, a fresh-faced lecturer at the time but now a tenured professor at Clemson. “It was a really tight-knit class. After the final exam, the entire group stayed after in Brackett Hall because they wanted to take a class picture. I’ve never seen anything like that. A lot of the reason they were so tight was because of Terrence. He’s a leader and has a great personality.”
But his assertive personality also led to some initial challenges on the court.
As a freshman on a team loaded with veteran players, he experienced more than his share of strained relationships with coaches and teammates. He also came from a different upbringing than many of his teammates, something he widely associates to the growing pains.
“I didn’t (fit in),” he said. “I wasn’t always the most empathetic person, because I was so driven. I stayed in the gym and worked really hard, probably to the detriment of my body later in life. I took pride in the fact I got a scholarship to play basketball at Clemson.”
Because he had worked hard, Oglesby was a mainstay in the lineup despite being a freshman. He played over 18 minutes per game and averaged double figures in the scoring column over the course of the season. He made 85 three-point goals, a freshman record at Clemson that still stands today.
But with his successes came plenty of frustrations. When Clemson came within a last-second shot of beating No. 1 ranked North Carolina in its ACC home opener, Oglesby did not play in the five-minute overtime period.
Never one to lack for confidence, Oglesby did something brash you don’t ordinarily see in a 19-year old.
“I went to Coach Purnell and told him I needed to be playing at the end of games,” he said. “He told me that he appreciated my willingness to want a challenge. But it sure raised his eyebrows.”
Two games later, with Clemson in the midst of a double overtime thriller against Florida State, Oglesby exploded. He hit four long-range shots in the extra periods, also a school record, as the Tigers went on to a 97-85 win.
Oglesby made the most memorable field goal of Clemson’s 2007–08 season at Maryland. The Tigers overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half and tied the Terrapins on the road and had the ball with time running short. When the ball swung to his direction on the right wing, Oglesby wasted no time in hoisting a three-pointer. It swished through with 2.3 seconds left and propelled Clemson to a 73-70 win.
A MOMENT OF FRUSTRATION
Some players are seen as polarizing figures. Some endear themselves to the home crowd and receive unrelenting harassment on the road.
Terrence Oglesby fit the bill.
“I look like the majority of a college student section, so in a sense I think that made it easier for them to make fun of me,” he joked. “People are more comfortable saying outlandish things to people who look like them.”
By the time he was a sophomore, Oglesby had grown into a crowd favorite in Littlejohn Coliseum. As soon as he touched the ball — sometimes in the backcourt — fans would holler for him to shoot because of his fearless, gunslinger mentality.
His mentality caught up to him in what he calls to this day “a moment of frustration.” Clemson was playing Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. Early in the second half, Oglesby was attempting to get open for a pass coming off a screen. He elbowed a Wolverines player and was ejected after video review.
“I don’t remember it being a conscious decision to use my elbow,” he said. “I was frustrated because I had been grabbed a lot. But I got tossed, and rightfully so. We lost by three and I took the brunt of that (criticism), which was reasonable. I hate that it happened. That’s part of me living and learning.”
As it turned out, the moment of frustration would be Oglesby’s last impression wearing a Clemson uniform.
Oglesby wanted to process the options in front of him. He thought about transferring. But weeks went by without much communication with the coaching staff, and he began drawing interest from professional teams in Europe. Then, late in May 2009, he walked into Jervey Athletic Center and delivered a typed statement announcing his intention to leave Clemson.
“I thought I’d be best served somewhere else,” he said. “I couldn’t sit out a year by transferring because I love basketball too much. Ambition was driving me more than anything. I thought I’d go to Europe and learn to play the point guard position to give me a chance at the NBA. But I didn’t have enough information.
“A lot of great things ended up happening from the decision to leave. But as far as basketball was concerned, my career wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”
THE MATURATION PROCESS
Oglesby played in Europe across six different countries — Italy, Ukraine, Spain, Sweden, France and Georgia — over the next eight years. He spent the 2015–16 season with the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League before finishing his career with Umea in Sweden.
It was in Sweden where Oglesby made the most important discovery of his life. It’s where he met his future wife, Maria.
“She’d never been to a basketball game before she met me,” Oglesby joked. “We’re very happy now and raising two great kids, Damon and Harper. It’s no longer about me. Not that it ever should have been, but when you’re young and hungry, you think constantly about advancing and getting better. Now you want to advance for different reasons. Things get put into perspective.”
After his final season in Sweden, Oglesby returned home to Tennessee. And that’s when he got in touch with Moreland to begin the process of finishing what he started.
“Terrence was a member of my first class as academic advisor,” Moreland said. “It’s great that he has the desire to finish his degree. The fact he and his wife were willing to move to Clemson shows how important education is to him. They sacrificed a lot to make it happen.”
While it was a phone call Oglesby placed to Moreland that expedited the process, it was one he received later in the summer that gave him the spark to find a new niche.
“Lucas McKay, director of basketball operations at Clemson, called me,” he said. “I was running a little low on gas, but it changed my direction. I was approaching 30 and was tired of waiting for a job. He gave me an opportunity to stay in the game and be a part of the Clemson program. When they offered the chance to help out during the season, it was a no-brainer.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
Moreland put Oglesby in touch with his new academic advisor, Lori Pindar of the communication department, to lay out a plan to satisfy his degree requirements. Ironically, Pindar was a tutor at Vickery Hall during his first tenure as a student-athlete.
In the fall of 2017, he returned to the campus he first roamed as a student 10 years before. And with a new outlook on the future, Oglesby did what he’s always done best — grit his teeth and get to work.
McKay and head coach Brad Brownell wanted Oglesby to be a student manager, helping the program in as many areas as allowed by NCAA regulations.
“I helped cut film, helped with player development, jumped into scout team situations and helped players on the team when they wanted to put up extra shots,” he said. “I even got to do some work with the radio broadcast team. I’m not the most patient human being, so I wanted to jump right in. I realize there’s a lot to learn, but it’s been nice to get a glimpse, all while taking 15 hours in the fall and 16 this semester.”
Many days had Oglesby at morning shooting drills at 6 a.m. and on campus for the duration of the day until finally seeing his family about 12 hours later. When Maria and the kids were in bed, he found time to study.
“It made for some full days without much sleep,” he said. “But that’s part of it.”
While it took some time to earn complete acceptance, one thing that helped him was coming in as a new face alongside Director of Player Development Terrell McIntyre and Assistant Coach Antonio Reynolds Dean. All three had played professional basketball overseas, a great resource for the players making up Clemson’s 2017–18 roster.
With Oglesby on board, the Tigers went on to a banner season, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years. Clemson tied a school record by winning 25 games, a memory Oglesby will take with him for a lifetime.
“I developed not only as an aspiring coach, but I also developed friendships,” he said. “We had a great group of young men. It gave me the spark I needed to realize I was meant to do this.”
THE DOORSTEP OF GRADUATION
They say things in life often come full circle. Linvill, instructor of the first college course Oglesby ever took at Clemson, also taught his final course — COMM 4950. The course serves as a student’s senior capstone seminar. It involves the in-depth exploration and analysis of special topics, culminating with a final project.
Linvill taught it this semester as a class on civil discourse, broaching important and widely debated topics saturating the national media.
“It was the perfect class to have a guy like Terrence in,” he said. “When he was first here, he was a cocky kid, but he was bright. To see him come back as an adult with the type of life experiences he’s had, including his time internationally and now as a husband and father, has been great. He brings different viewpoints I would’ve never considered in a lot of situations. I have so much respect for him.”
Because of everything he’s experienced in this journey, Oglesby said he’s learned more this academic year than his previous two combined at Clemson. He made the Dean’s List both semesters.
He’s invested in his academics, something Moreland said is to be commended.
“Terrence performed at the highest level of his academic career this year,” she said. “He gained a lot of maturity and was ready to meet his academic obligations. He set a timeline for himself and when he saw the degree was attainable, he worked hard to get it done.”
Oglesby has worked not only for the benefit of his family, but also to honor a fallen brother. While he will be the second of Clemson’s three-man signing class from 2007 to earn a degree, he’s played a big part in making sure the third — late teammate Demontez Stitt — also receives his.
Working closely with President James P. Clements and others on campus, Oglesby made a strong push for Stitt to be honored with a degree. One of Clemson’s best leaders in recent memory, the four-year starting point guard passed away on July 12, 2016. Stitt, who needed just five credit hours to graduate, will receive the honor posthumously. His family attended the athletic department’s annual graduation brunch celebration Wednesday as well.
“He deserved it,” Oglesby said. “He was such a good person.”
And so is Terrence Oglesby. Eleven years after he first stepped foot on Clemson’s campus as a brash, ambitious country boy from Tennessee, he is on the eve of graduating from a top-25 public institution with his bachelor’s degree.
“Sometimes what you want right away isn’t what’s best for you all the time,” he said. “Sometimes you need to delay the short term for the long run and you’ll be better off. I still struggle with that.”
It’s a struggle that paid off in the end. Oglesby gets to add another adjective to a long list attempting to define him on what has been a complex journey.