JORDAN HONORS OYEDEJI BY HOSTING 35 STUDENT-ATHLETES IN HOUSTON
HOUSTON – DeAndre Jordan honors his late friend and former Houston-area basketball recruit Tobi Oyedeji before every game with a simple message.
Since Oyedeji was killed in a car accident in May 2010, Jordan has Tweeted “#35 @TobiOye...” sometime before tipoff of each Clippers game.
On Saturday he’ll make an even grander gesture in Oyedji’s honor.
Jordan, who grew up in nearby Bellaire, Texas, is hosting 35 underprivileged students at Toyota Center when the Clippers play the Rockets.
“His number was 35, so I have 35 inner-city kids who are exceling in athletics and academics coming to the game tonight,” Jordan said. “It’s a thing I’m going to do for a very long time.”
Jordan was a mentor and friend to Oyedeji, who had signed a letter of intent to attend Texas A&M, Jordan’s alma mater, on a basketball scholarship. Oyedeji went to high school with Jordan’s brother, Brett, who is now a tight end/defensive end at Colorado State. He would work out with Jordan when the Clippers’ big man would return to Houston in the summer and had long been close to the Jordan family.
Oyedeji was killed in a head-on collision around 6:15 a.m. on May 16, 2010, when he was driving home from a school-sanctioned after-party on prom night. His Toyota Avalon drifted into on-coming traffic and collided with two other vehicles. Police believe Oyedeji fell asleep at the wheel. He would have celebrated his 18th birthday five days later.
“The last time I saw him [the Clippers] were in Houston,” Jordan recalled. “And he had a basketball tournament and they had just won and he came up and hugged me like he hadn’t seen me in years. And he was like, ‘Aww, man, I can’t wait to come to the game. You’re my role model.’
“It was a tough situation. His whole thing was focusing on now being a great basketball player and a great student and being a great person.”
That was what Jordan was stressing by choosing 35 students who have had success in both sports and in the classroom for Saturday’s game. Like the pregame Tweets and the bracelet he wears that reads “#35 Tobi Oyedeji,” it carries on his friend’s memory.
“I definitely feel like I’m playing for him, too,” Jordan said. “There are important things that I’m playing for and he’s definitely a huge part. I just try to keep him alive in that way.”