Imagine trying to play basketball while cramming your feet into sneakers two sizes too small.
That was the challenge 7-foot-1, 304-pound center Michael Ojo faced until he was months into his freshman year at Florida State.
Ojo wore the biggest shoes he could find, a "big 18 or 19." His actual size is a 21. Not to mention, he is flat-footed and requires a wide width.
It wasn't until his coach at Florida State connected with Nike that the brand reportedly invested in a $15,000 machine to create a shoe to properly fit Ojo.
"That was the turnaround," Ojo said. "It was a life-changing moment for me. Just being able to wear comfortable shoes, and then to play basketball, it makes everything a lot easier for me. I don't have to think about my feet, my toes getting injured. The shoes fit perfectly well."
Ojo worked out for the Sixers on Monday. The big man averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game in his final collegiate season, improving from 38.6 percent at the free throw line to 80.6 percent. He graduated with an undergraduate and master's degree in international affairs this spring.
Ojo is not projected to be drafted, but could be the type of player the Sixers eye for summer league or their G-League affiliate. His stature and strength are intriguing given the fact he is still a relatively raw talent. Ojo, who grew up in Nigeria, did not start playing basketball until he was a teenager.
"He's a specimen, without question," Sixers vice president of basketball administration and 87ers general manager Brandon Williams said. "He's clearly a challenge from an offensive standpoint. I think he gives you a physical presence, and I'd hate to be a guy he's got to take a foul on. … I think he's trying to learn our pace of play, he's trying to learn the game. I'm sure he would be a long-term development project."
Ojo considers his strengths to be clogging the paint, setting screens and boxing out. He also credits his quick foot movement to help guards defend ball screens.
"My physical presence is a big addition I could bring to the Sixers," he said. "[I have an] ability to play solid defense on ball screens and [am] able to stay in the game in late-game situations because I can knock down the free throws."
Ojo doesn't know where he will continue his career. He is one step closer — literally — thanks to his shoes.
"I want to thank my coach, thank Nike for the rest of my life just being able to do that for me as a basketball player," he said.