Top hoopster getting better all the time

Crusaders’ towering-forward Nyagudi works hard to fill holes in game


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Ramogi Nyagudi is 6-10 and still growing.

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Ramogi Nyagudi is 6-10 and still growing.

His game is expanding, too. He’s been working on his footwork and defence and fine-tuning his shooting touch in the 12 months since he helped the St. Paul’s Crusaders to a AAAA varsity boys high school basketball championship.

Becoming a scoring threat from distance was a priority.

“I put a lot of work in during the summer,” says the left-handed 16-year-old, who has averaged a double-double and three blocks per game this season. “And even before that when I realized that this was a little hole in my game, I knew I needed to work on that. So, I would put up like close to 500, 600 shots every day, trying to get that done. Also my right hand. I had a really big hole on my right (side) and so I need to get that work done.”

Getting better, however, is not as simple as putting the work in.

Nyagudi wants to play the sport at the highest level but his faith means he sometimes has to say no to the game.

His family belongs to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Grade 11 student observes the Sabbath and does not play or practise between sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, a biblical time of worship.

He missed the provincial quarter-final and final last year because of those playing restrictions and he’s also had to sit out four games this season, including an 86-73 conference-final loss to the top-ranked Sturgeon Heights Huskies on March 3.

American recruiters have come calling and Nyagudi’s family has been seeking a suitable Canadian or U.S. prep school that would allow Ramogi to observe the Sabbath rules while continuing to play the game.

Before that, the winner of this year’s Free Press coaches’ poll as Manitoba’s top high school player will lead the Crusaders into the AAAA provincial Final Four.

No. 2-ranked St. Paul’s faces the third-seeded Garden City Gophers at 8 p.m. Thursday. Earlier, No. 1 Sturgeon Heights takes on the No. 5 Vincent Massey Trojans at 6 p.m. Both games will be played at Investors Group Athletic Centre.

Manitoba High School Athletic Association organizers tweaked the schedule to allow the Crusaders to play at full strength, moving the boys semfinals from the traditional Friday time slot. Should St. Paul’s reach Monday’s final, Nyagudi will be able to participate this season.

The high-stakes world of U.S. prep school basketball is another story.

“I’m still discussing with my family, still trying to pray over it, still trying to figure out what God wants me to do,” says Nyagudi, who has been invited to try out for the national U19 team next month. “I’m going to have to make that decision when I turn 18. I’m gonna allow God to lead that decision for me through prayer from my family and also a lot of friends that I’ve got. It’s gonna help a lot.”

Crusaders head coach Jeff Laping says Nyagudi’s all-around game has reached another level.

“His shooting has really become more consistent than last year,” says Laping. “I think his rebounding and defence has improved. He was obviously a great athlete last year that made defensive plays around the basket. This year, he’s been quite a bit more consistent learning how to guard ball screens better and be a really quality individual one-on-one defensive player.”

Laping’s chief concern now is for the future. Should Nyagudi leave home to test himself against bigger and better competition out of province?

“In my opinion, yes, he should,” says Laping. “He should probably leave and go to the States, which is where he’s leaning and would like to go.”

Adds Laping: “(His parents) understand there’s a real need for Ramogi to get that kind of competition, but there’s still a bit of reluctance to allow Ramogi to play on Friday nights and Saturday,” adds Laping. “I think there’s a big concern about trying to find the right fit. A school that is willing to allow him to to remain faithful, but also be a member of their programs.”

Nyagudi knows exactly what he wants to be doing in two years.

“I want to be playing (NCAA) Division 1 basketball — high major, Division 1 basketball,” he says. “And hopefully, by that time, also getting drafted into the NBA, God willing.”

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.


Updated on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 9:13 AM CDT: Clarifies graph

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