Osunde embracing opportunity after family moved away from gang-plagued area of Toronto

Griffins leading scorer Matthew Osunde will lead them into action against Brandon this weekend (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Griffins leading scorer Matthew Osunde will lead them into action against Brandon this weekend (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jason Hills 
For MacEwan Athletics 
EDMONTON – When Matthew Osunde was in Grade 5 and his family moved from Toronto to Morinville, Alta., it had to be a big-time culture shock. 

Adjusting from Canada's biggest city to small town Alberta was a big change for Osunde, but he learned to adapt, fit in and flourish. 

And the standout point guard with MacEwan has had to do a lot of the same throughout his three seasons with the Griffins. 

"I had never heard of Edmonton, let alone the town of Morinville," laughed Osunde. 

"My brothers and I had to adjust to a much different culture. There was certainly a different pool of kids growing up." 

Osunde's family made the move to Morinville because his father was working in Fort McMurray, and he wanted the family to be closer, and not have to make the long flight back to Toronto during his days off. 

They also wanted to get away from their neighbourhood of Driftwood, which is well-known for lots of gang activity in Toronto. 

"I didn't know how bad it was until I got older," said Osunde. 

"A lot of kids I grew up with in Toronto, their childhood went a different way. My parents did a great job of sheltering us and then getting us out of that environment. 

"I had a couple family members and friends that have done stints in jail. They got caught up in the wrong crowd. They've turned their lives around, but it really hindered and altered their trajectory in life." 

When Osunde joined the Griffins for the 2021-22 season, he certainly was thrown into the fire. With the program going through a complete rebuild, Osunde got ample opportunity as a rookie to show what he could do. 

Each season, he's grown on and off the floor and has had to learn to be a leader amongst a young core group of players. 

"That's been a big adjustment for me to take on that level of responsibility as a leader, because I never really was put in that role in high school, or on my club team," said Osunde, who played for Strathcona high school. 

"I've had to learn to be a leader with the younger guys, and I'm a young guy myself, but at the end of the day, I really appreciate that the coach's trust me with that responsibility. 

"Last year, (the coaches) asked me to be more vocal and be more of a leader than I was in my first year, and it's something I'm still learning, but I love being put in that role." 

Osunde and the Griffins (0-10) will face the Brandon Bobcats (8-4) this weekend at the David Atkinson Gym (Friday, 6 p.m. and Saturday, 3 p.m., both Canada West TV).

UPDATE: Friday's matches between the teams have been postponed due to the weather.


Matthew Osunde looks for an open teammate during action against Mount Royal earlier this season (Robert Antoniuk photo).

On the court, Osunde has improved his game, averaging 8.2 points in his first season, to now averaging 13 points in his third season. This year, Osunde's averaging a career-high 4.4 assists, and the point guard isn't afraid to crash the glass, either. He's averaged 6.5 and 5.4 rebounds per game the past two seasons. 

"Being able to play as much as I did in my first year, really helped with my development. I was able to play through my mistakes," said Osunde, whose older brother Chris Ogie wrapped up his university basketball career last season with the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, and his younger brother is currently at a prep high school in Ontario, pursuing his basketball dreams. 

"Being able to play through the mistakes and then watch film with our coaches and learn has been invaluable for me." 

It's been quite a learning experience for Osunde being part of a rebuilding program that has gone winless throughout his entire tenure, but when you watch Osunde on the court, he competes hard every shift, and remains positive through the tough times. 

"Going through this experience teaches you a lot about resiliency and keep going when you get knocked down. It's so important to keep a positive mindset and know there will be light at the end of the tunnel and the struggles won't last forever," said Osunde. 

Osunde wants to continue to help turn the Griffins program around and establish it as a team that can compete in the Canada West conference. He also aspires to play professionally when his university career wraps up. 

"That's my main motivating factor and why I train so hard in the off-season. It's why I started to play basketball," said Osunde. 

"I love what the CEBL (Canadian Elite Basketball League) is doing allowing U SPORTS athletes to play in their league, and I'd love to put my name in the hat for consideration, but if that doesn't happen, after I'm done playing university basketball, it would be a dream to turn pro."