NBA draftee Miye Oni bid an eloquent farewell to Yale while following his dream

Yale University is one of the highest regarded and most prestigious educational institutions in the world. It certainly is far from an athletic factory. Even its so-called student-athletes first and foremost enroll there for its educational benefits- to prepare them for a profession, public service, a position in the business world, and for joining a circle of graduates who can and will be extremely helpful to on the road to success.

So when a Yale student voluntarily makes a rare decision to put the books, lectures and term papers, along with the social activities and benefits behind just a year short of attaining a degree, it raises questions and controversy.

Yale is hardly a “one and done” institution. Nor is it a place to stay for “three and flee.” In Miye Oni’s intended graduating class of 2020 there were 31,455 candidates, with only 1,972 accepted, or 6.3 percent. The number of applicants would have been much greater, but it is safe to assume that at least as many as applied chose not to even bother, believing their chances of acceptance were too low in the face of stiff competition.

Considering the above, is someone in the coveted group who matriculated, but does not stay the full four years to earn a degree, depriving another candidate of the opportunity to finish?

That’s what Miye Oni may have done putting his senior year on hold in order to pursue his dream to play in the NBA. He does say he will somehow eventually get his degree, and we believe he means to do so.

Over many years Yale has lost less than a handful of athletes who drop out to play professional sports. Not since Ron Darling became a high draft choice of the Texas Rangers to go on to a great career in baseball has there been a comparable case at Yale. And that was back in 1965.

Oni, who declared for the draft right after the Yale season ended with a loss to LSU in the NCAA tournament, went all the way in the pre-draft route, and on June 20th he was selected as the 58th overall choice, three picks before the end of the second and last round, by the Golden State Warriors, who then sold their draft pick to the Utah Jazz.

Just who is Oni?

Miye Oni is the reigning two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, whose poorest game of the season was when he scored only six points against LSU in the NCAA tournament. It was only the second time in the past season he failed to reach double digits. Had he done better, his position in the draft could have been higher. As it is, some of the scouts probably considered that game an aberration and looked at what he accomplished in three years with the Bulldogs.

What he did was register 1,308 career points, 174 three-pointers, 91 blocks and 287 assists. This past season he averaged 17.1 ppg, with 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and a 79 percent free throw success rate.

He bounced back with a top game at the NBA Draft Combine, in which he led his team with 17 points, including five three-pointers. He pulled down four rebounds, had two blocks, two steals and an assist.

Oni answers the critics

How does an Ivy Leaguer explain to his academically oriented college community why he would take the “play for pay” road and leave an institution where so many parents of other students have sacrificed for years and continue to sacrifice to give their offspring the high quality education Yale provides?

Oni’s response is in the form of an eloquent statement he issued weeks before the draft, which is befitting when expressed by one who has already gained much from exposure to the brilliant intellects of his fellow students and the faculty that make Yale what it is, always has been, and most likely always will be.

So let us defer, word for word, to how Miye Oni expressed himself in justifying his decision.

My three years at Yale have been the best of my life and have opened doors to opportunities I’ve dreamt of forever. Ever since my father introduced me to basketball at 2 years old, it has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA. After going through the pre-draft evaluation process, I believe that it is the right time for me to explore that option.

I leave Yale a better person and player, due to the unwavering love and support from my coaches and teammates throughout the years. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Coach Jones, Coach Kingsley, and the rest of the coaching staff, who were willing to take a chance on a kid with barely any film or Division 1 interest. They gave me the opportunity to play at this wonderful university.

I am also forever indebted to every single one of my teammates, who I was able to learn a great deal from. From the countless road trips, locker room debates, and daily banter, you have all meant the world to me and enhanced my Yale experience tenfold. I do not know where or who I would be today without each and every one of you. Thank you for the lasting impact you have had on my life, I consider you all family forever.

As I embark on this next chapter, I will not just be playing for the name on the front and back of my jersey, but I will be playing for the entire Yale and Ivy League community. I will be playing for the 17-year-old kid with zero Division I offers, I will be playing for the kid who was laughed at for chasing their dreams. I will be playing for the underdog, in any aspect of life, and I hope to be an inspiration to many, just as Hakeem Olajuwon was to me. I will try to be the best role model I can be to the next generation and show them that it is possible to excel in education and athletics and do both at a high level.

From an early age, my family instilled the value and importance of education in me. They have always been my biggest supporters and without their constant love, I would be nothing. My sister has been a role model to me my entire life and is the reason I believed it was ‘cool’ to go to an Ivy League school. Getting an Ivy League degree is one of the main reasons I chose to attend Yale and in accordance with the University, I have made a concrete plan to finish my degree as soon as possible.

–End of Oni’s statement

Oni, a political science major, continued with his classes and final exams until they were over in May. “It was very important to finish out my year at Yale and work towards my degree. That was one of the main reasons I chose Yale,” he said. “My education is very important to me.”


Oni is a 6-foot-6 210 pound guard from Northridge, Calif. His was born on August 4, 1997, as Olumiye Oni. But he is hardly ever referred to by his given name. His father is Oludotun Oni, who is an engineer and a professor at the University of Phoenix. Both father and mother, Opeyemi, are from Nigeria. A sister, Toni (Oluwatoniloba), was also an Ivy Leaguer, having attended Cornell.

Miye went to Viewpoint (Calif.) High School and Suffield (Conn.) Academy for a post graduate year, and then Yale.

The immediate future

There is no guaranteed money for second-round picks. Usually players selected in the bottom half of the second round go to the NBA summer league, which begins on July 5th, or the G (for Gatorade)-League, looking to improve, showcase their talents, and move up to the NBA itself.

Oni becomes the first Bulldog to be drafted since Chris Dudley was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1987. He is Yale’s highest selection since Tony Lavelli, he of the spectacular hook shot, who was chosen by the Boston Celtics in the first round in 1949 as the 11th overall pick.

That was just the third year of an NBA draft and Boston was looking for a hometown favorite. Lavelli came from nearby Somerville, Mass. Others from Yale to be drafted after Lavelli, were Johnny Lee (NY Knicks 1958, who passed on basketball for a career in the business world), Rick Kaminski (1964); Butch Graves (1984), Dennis Lunch (1964), and Bob Trupin (1965).

Dudley played 16 seasons in 886 games between 1987 and 2003 with Cleveland, the Nets, Knicks and Phoenix. Butch Graves appeared in four games with Cleveland in 1984-85, and Lavelli played two seasons – one for the Celtics and one for the New York Knicks.

Lavelli, who was first a musician, quit the NBA in favor of becoming a nightclub act, playing the accordion, as he occasionally did between halves of basketball games while in uniform.

Miye Oni is not up to matching his predecessor in that one.

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