Q&A: Bucks’ Semi Ojeleye on Fresh Start in Milwaukee, Expectations For Season

Semi Ojeleye spent the first four seasons of his career in Boston, and now the forward is headed to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the NBA champion Bucks in what he calls “a fresh start.”

Semi sat down with Sports Section to discuss his time in Boston, wise words from the Finals MVP, and what he wants to prove on a one-year contract.

You spent the first four years of your career in Boston. What were some of the benefits and challenges from your time there?

It’s an incredible sports city with a lot of great teams all in one place, and every game feels like it’s being played on a national stage. It really prepares you for any type of situation you may be in. On the flip side, that comes with its challenges, as there are a lot of high expectations. When you’re constantly playing in the spotlight, the pressure to perform can really wear on a team throughout the season.

Was there anyone in Boston who took you under their wing? Any advice that sticks with you to this day?

There are multiple guys that really had an impact on me when I first got there and gave me good advice throughout my time in Boston. Gordon Hayward — we worked out together in the offseason in San Diego before he got hurt, so we got to spend a lot of time together. Just watching the way he worked really pushed me and motivated me to get better every single day.

Al Horford was always a complete professional; he really showed the importance of staying away from trouble, that basketball is a career. Kyrie Irving was the guy that told me basketball is a business, and throughout your career you have to make tough decisions, but most importantly to protect yourself. Marcus Morris explained that you have a role on the court and that you have to be all-in. You can’t be all-in all the time, so when you are off the court, that’s your time to recover.

What can Milwaukee fans expect from you?

Fans can expect my winning mentality. Winning is everything to me, I don’t care what I need to do, whether it’s playing defense or making difficult shots. I’m there because I want to win. I really want to make everyone be a better version of themselves and go as hard as I can. Off the court, I’m pretty chill and live a life that glorifies God.

Have you spoken with Giannis, Coach Bud, or anyone on the team? If so, can you get a sense of what their expectations are for you?

I was able to spend some time with Giannis. He gave me background on last season’s run and how tough it was to win. He’s said this a few times, but he also talked about how you can’t predict the future, everyone has to take everything one day at a time. When I spoke with Coach Bud, he talked about how when the team works, we work, and to enjoy our time together off the court because that’s what helps the on-court part.

You’ve had a few spells defending Giannis. What makes you most excited about playing with him?

I gained a lot of respect going against him. Just watching how hard he plays consistently and knowing he will do that as my teammate is something I’m looking forward to. He is someone who is about the team, and having him as a leader is something everyone looks to have.

After four years with Boston, you’re working on a one-year deal with the defending champs. What’s your mindset coming into the season? Do you feel like this is a fresh start?

Yeah, 100%. I feel like I have a completely new space I can operate in. I enjoyed my time in Boston, and I’m really grateful for my time there. But I’m ready to be a part of the Bucks.

Anthony Puccio is entering his ninth season covering the NBA after stops with The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and SB Nation. You can reach out to Anthony at Anthony@fos.company or on Twitter: @APooch.