“I'm telling them, ‘Stay focused. Don't let the crowd get to you.' Stuff like that,” Olukemi said. “Even during timeouts, I'll run out there and tell (Marcus) Smart, tell Markel (Brown), whoever's out there, ‘Block out. Keep your head in the game. Don't let the refs get to you.'
“I just try to encourage them and cheer them on in any way possible.”
Said teammate Brian Williams: “You'd think he's about to check in, the way he acts over there.”
Travis Ford said he couldn't be more impressed.
“It was so disappointing, because I've never had a player work harder than he has to come back,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “JP worked so hard in the offseason, to the point where the trainers went out of their way to let me know how hard he was working to get back.
“We were counting on him being a major factor on this year's team. Him going down like that could have been very deflating for him, a very negative moment. He has never — and I'm talking about the moment he got injured and knew he was done for the year — he has never pouted. Never said ‘Why me?' Never felt sorry for himself.
“He's been very positive. And I've been very impressed with how he's handled everything.”
There are likely more hurdles to handle ahead.
Olukemi hopes to petition the NCAA for a medical hardship that would grant him a sixth year; a sketchy scenario considering the NCAA's reluctance to grant him extra time through the last appeal. And the Cowboys could be up against the scholarship limit if all those eligible to return for 2013-14 indeed come back.
Still, Olukemi is optimistic, seen in his decision not to go through Senior Day festivities Saturday.
“Trying to come back. Definitely,” Olukemi said. “That's where that's at for me. And crossing the bridges as they come.”