PHILIP LABONGO, a 6-foot-4 guard with the Dakota Lancers high school basketball team and Manitoba high school basketball player of the year, has slipped through the recruiting fingers of the University of Manitoba Bisons, Winnipeg Wesmen and Brandon Bobcats and will wear the red, gold and black of the University of Calgary Dinos this fall.
This marks the second straight year that Calgary coach Dan Vanhooren has snagged Manitoba's best male high school prospect. Last year, two-time Manitoba player of the year Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson made Calgary his choice for university ball.
Although the Manitoba universities were eager to land Labongo, he said Thursday he was looking to go away from home for university.
"Also, at the time, U of M was in a rebuilding stage and Winnipeg had just changed its coach," he said.
Calgary was actually a little late in contacting him, but Labongo said the Dinos looked like a perfect fit. "I like the program that they run there. It's one of the top programs in Canada, and the coaches do everything they can to help you on and off the court."
In a news release, Vanhooren said the Nairobi-born Labongo is "quick, tough, he can score in many ways, and he's strong on the defensive end as well. He's the real deal."
In his senior year at Dakota, Labongo averaged nearly 30 points per game, scoring 66 in the final of the St. Vital Invitational Tournament, and took his team to the provincial semifinal.
"To get the top player out of Winnipeg is huge for this program," Vanhooren said." We're really excited about our future."
"This is the best opportunity for me to get the most out of my five years of university (basketball)," Labongo added.
Ball hockey youth season about to begin
THE Manitoba Minor Ball Hockey Association is about to begin its inaugural youth season, joining thousands of players ages 4 to 17 who participate in the sport in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.
MMBHA director Ray Cook said that "currently, we have about three teams per division."
As in ice hockey, ball hockey is played in arenas, but with the ice removed, and rules are similar to those of ice hockey. The major exceptions are that the game is played in running shoes rather than skates and there is a floating blue-line, a rule that extends the offensive zone of attack to the whole half of the rink once the ball crosses the blue-line. Essentially, the red centre-line becomes the new blue-line to clear once the attacking team gets the ball over the blue-line.
Although scheduling won't be complete until next week, Cook says registration of new players is underway at www.mmbhl.com or by calling 925-5602. Divisions include 7 and under, 9 and under, 11 and under, 13 and under, 15 and under, and 17 and under categories.
"No one will be turned away," Cook said.