Former Florida State Basketball Player Michael Ojo Dies at 27: 'A Wonderful Human Being'
Former Florida State University basketball player Michael Ojo died Friday at the age of 27 after collapsing during a training session, according to reports.
The Nigerian-born athlete was training in Belgrade, Serbia when he collapsed, the Associated Press reported.
Ojo was reportedly taken to the hospital, but doctors were unable to resuscitate him.
Local media reported that Ojo died of a heart attack, but the player was also said to have tested positive for and then recovered from the coronavirus.
“The sudden and shocking death has deeply shaken everyone in the club,” Red Star Belgrade, his former team, said in a statement, according to the AP.
Ojo was a starting center for the Florida State team between 2012 and 2017, and once served as team captain.
"He always had a smile on his face and never met a stranger," his former team said in a statement on Twitter. "He will forever be remembered for the positive impact he had on the Seminole family."
After going undrafted following his college career, he played for FMP Belgrade, and then later, in 2018, signed with Red Star Belgrade.
The club had recently released him, and Ojo was reportedly in search of another team in Europe.
At 7-foot-1 and with a shoe size of 21, Ojo towered over his teammates. While he played for FSU, Nike reportedly had to spend $15,000 to create a machine that could make a size that would fit him properly, according to CBS News.
“In all of my years of coaching, I’ve never been around a person who captivated the emotions of everybody he came into contact with like Michael,” FSU basketball head coach Leonard Hamilton said in a statement. “He had to be the most popular person in Tallahassee, and, certainly at Florida State University. Michael Ojo was a wonderful, wonderful human being.”
Hamilton continued: “He was a great teammate and really represented what the Seminole spirit is all about. He was one of the purest Seminoles that I have ever been around; he will be missed tremendously by the whole Seminole nation.”
In a 2017 interview with Warchant, Ojo said it was a “privilege to be on” the Florida team and have Hamilton as a coach.
“Even when I wasn’t good enough to do anything — when I was missing all my layups and stuff — just believing that this kid might just become something in life,” he said of Hamilton's faith in him. “Become a good citizen. A good friend. Good husband. Good father."
“[Hamilton] always says his greatest joy is seeing his players being successful 15 or 20 years down the road,” Ojo continued. “Either you’re playing basketball or you have your own business or you have a job. You're a good husband and a good father. He said that’s what makes him happiest. That’s the joy of being a coach to him. I’m sure someday in the future I’ll be able to come back and thank him and thank FSU for the opportunity. I can’t be more thankful.”