East County Sports

Ogden Jr. leaving his Mark at Dixie State

By Justin Giles


Dixie State forward Mark Ogden Jr. has been a human highlight reel for the Red Storm basketball team since his arrival in 2014 after transferring from Grossmont College.

The 6-foot-9, 215-pound senior not only helped DSU win its fifth Pacific West Conference title in six seasons last year, but scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a double-overtime victory over then-No. 20 Concordia on the road last week.

Thanks to his great length, Ogden is averaging nearly a double-double again this year with 12.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The senior is just one rebound shy of moving into sixth place on DSU’s all-time career rebounding list (317).

When asked about what comes to mind when he thinks about Ogden, DSU head coach Jon Judkins didn’t hesitate to crack a joke as well as rave about one of the most remarkable athletes he’s come across.

“He (Mark) is just so long. We joke about it all the time that he could sit in the car and put both hands out and adjust both mirrors at the same time,” Judkins quipped.  “But honestly, he’s been a tremendous blessing for our team, and it’s been a privilege to be able to coach him and to see the progress that he’s made these past two years.”

Despite the success Ogden’s had throughout his college career, his path was never easy after injuries and being cut from his high school basketball team threatened to derail his dream of playing college and professional basketball.

Second chances
Ogden was a three-sport athlete (baseball, basketball and football) at Steele Canyon High School and was looking forward to either playing football or basketball at the collegiate level. But during his junior season in high school, Ogden’s dream of earning a basketball scholarship vanished after he didn’t make the cut on his high school basketball team.

“At that point I thought to myself that I would hang it all up,” Ogden said. “I ended up showing up at practice the very next day, and as I walked into the gym, Coach looked at me and said, ‘Mark I cut you, what are you doing here?’”

“I told him that I wanted a second chance and that I’d do anything to be on the team,” Ogden added.

Playing the game he’s loved his entire life, Ogden couldn’t imagine life without basketball.

“Even if I didn’t play, I just wanted to practice and to work on my game,” Ogden recalled. “I ended up making the team and was on the practice squad. I didn’t play that year but it didn’t matter to me because I was on the team and doing my best to get better every day.”

The following year, Ogden became one of the leaders on the varsity basketball team, before his senior season was cut short after tearing his meniscus in his left knee halfway through the season.

“At that point I was thinking, alright now I’m really done. It’s over,” Ogden said.

But after months of rehab with Dr. David Chao – who was the head trainer at the time with the San Diego Chargers – Ogden was able to make a full recovery.

“To be able to overcome those two obstacles – being initially cut from the basketball team and recovering from a knee injury – was a really big blessing for me and taught me a lot about myself,” Ogden said.

Grossmont College
After graduating high school and with no scholarship offers, Ogden, with the help from his family, decided to enroll in the local community college in his hometown of San Diego.

“My dad talked to me about attending Grossmont – which was just 10 minutes away – and I told him that it sounded like a pretty good idea,” Ogden said about his decision.

After enrolling, Ogden’s father, Mark Ogden Sr., told him to try out for the basketball team.

“I was shocked when he asked me that because I didn’t do well in high school,” Ogden Jr. said. “Then I was like, maybe I’ll try out for the football team since I played in high school. So as I’m walking to meet with the head football coach, I just so happened to run into Coach Weber, who was the basketball coach. He introduced himself to me and the next thing I knew I was enrolling into the basketball summer class. I made the team and the rest was history.”

In his first year, Ogden Jr. averaged 3.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, before having a breakout year his sophomore season in which he averaged 14.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. After being named to the Pacific Coast Conference second team, schools from all over the West Coast came calling for Ogden, including several PacWest schools (Dixie State, Point Loma).

 The decision
After being initially cut from his high school basketball team, Ogden Jr. was now a top recruit.

“It’s still so surreal how it all worked out,” he said. “That just goes to show that you shouldn’t ever give up and to just keep working hard.”

While his family wanted him to stay close, after visiting with DSU head basketball coach Jon Judkins and touring the Burns Arena, Ogden Jr. knew this was the place for him.

“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even know where Dixie State was located before they started recruiting me,” Ogden Jr. said laughing. “Ryan Sanchez, who was an assistant coach at that time, started recruiting me and was leaving me voicemails on my phone. I never returned them because I had never even heard of that school before.”

With phone calls not getting through, Sanchez showed up at a game and invited the lean, athletic forward out for a visit.

“I loved everything about my visit,” Ogden Jr. said. “The school was great, the people were great and the community was just awesome.”

The icing on the cake came when Ogden Jr. toured the Burns Arena and saw all of the championship banners hanging from the rafters.

“I believe it’s one of the best arenas in all of Division II, and it was hard not to see all of those championship banners,” he said laughing. “I started picturing myself playing on the court in front of all the fans and it all just clicked. It was a tough choice to pass up those California schools because my mom didn’t want me to leave the nest. But it’s been great because everyone comes out and support me whenever we travel to California. I’m glad I choose Dixie State; these past two years have been a lot of fun.”

When asked what his favorite memory has been at DSU, it didn’t take long for Ogden Jr. to bring up last year’s PacWest championship.

“That is something that I’ll never forget,” he said. “It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting at midcourt with all of the fans and taking pictures. What made it extra special was that we won the title after beating Point Loma, which was one of the schools that recruited me.”

Come May, Ogden Jr. will be the first in his family to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in business and is excited about what lies ahead if basketball doesn’t work out.

“The ball will stop bouncing eventually,” he said. “I would like to get into hotel management. I’ve traveled a lot with basketball over the last several years and the people are always nice wherever we go. I think it would be fun to do something like that and would be a good fit for me. I’m definitely a people person.”

Ogden Jr. is a Lakers fan, but his teammates have looked past that and appreciate everything he brings to the team.

“Mark is like a brother to me,” said Trevor Hill, Ogden Jr.’s roommate and leading scorer on the team. “We didn’t know each other when we both committed, but we’ve become really good friends.

The only thing the two don’t agree on is “Pokémon,” of which Ogden Jr. is afraid of admitting that he still plays.

“Oh yeah, I still play ‘Pokémon,’” he said laughing. “It’s fun, but one of these days I will probably grow out of it.”

Whether he’s playing “Pokémon,” helping others, or throwing down sensational dunks in front of the home crowd in the Burns Arena, Ogden Jr. is grateful for the second chances he’s had in life and everyone who has helped him along the way.

Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JustinGilesSportsWriter.

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