Friday, March 13, 2009 | 7:54 a.m.
As important as Sean Ogirri's 17 points were in Wyoming's 75-67 upset over New Mexico in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday night, it probably isn't enough to get him on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Oh well. The fifth-year senior has been there, done that.
On March 27, 2006, Ogirri graced the cover of the most-read sports magazine in the country. Back then, Ogirri wasn't a Cowboy though, he was a sophomore for a Wichita State team that had just advanced to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.
"The thing I remember most about that run was just playing great teams," Ogirri said. "Even though the competition was better though, if you wanted it you could get it. I got the tenacity to win games and never give up because of that."
Ogirri was at his best that postseason, dropping 23 on Seton Hall in the first round and 12 in a second-round win over the No. 2 seed Tennessee. The Shockers were finally booted out of that '06 tournament by another unknown team that ended up going to the Final Four -- George Mason.
But after three years at Wichita State, Ogirri decided to transfer to Wyoming prior to the 2008 season when his coach, Mark Turgeon, left the Shockers for Texas A&M. The decision was based on his relationship with Cowboys associate head coach Fred Langley, who coached him in AAU basketball when he was a rising prep in Denver. Due to NCAA eligibility rules, Ogirri had to redshirt last season. Now in his one and only year as a Cowboy, the 23-year-old is trying to use that experience he earned in his tournament run to propel Wyoming to its first MWC tournament championship in school history and first NCAA tournament bid since 2002.
"He's been to a place where I want to go, he's been to the Sweet 16," said teammate Brandon Ewing. "He's told me what that experience was like, I ask him about it everyday. I'm just thankful that he came to Wyoming."
Although Ogirri was left off the all-conference selections, he's left his mark on the MWC this year. He's averaged 14.9 points per game this year for the Cowboys while knocking down 103 three-pointers, setting the conference record for most in a single season.
He also left his mark Thursday night, connecting on five shots from beyond the arc. With less than two minutes to go and the Lobos trailing by seven, Ogirri assisted teammate Djibril Thiam for a wide-open dunk that put the game out of reach.
"I'm a huge Sean Ogirri fan," said Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer. "I'm shocked he's not on one of the three all-conference teams. He broke the record for threes made in this league, that alone tells you what he is capable of doing. He's been an absolute joy to have in this program."
There's only one thing left to do now for the only player on the Cowboys' roster with NCAA tournament experience -- get there again and share it with his new teammates.
"I definitely made the right decision to come here, I knew it was the place for me," Ogirri said. "It's definitely been a dream come true. Now we've got two more games to win and I'll be back in the tournament with a different team. And I think we can make a lot of noise."