High hopes for Manitoba hoopsters Confident Canada games squad expects to challenge traditional powerhouses

Manitoba won’t be favoured to win it all at next month’s Canada Summer Games 18U men’s basketball competition but Waqo Tessema and his teammates just might have a surprise in store for the tournament heavyweights.

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Manitoba won’t be favoured to win it all at next month’s Canada Summer Games 18U men’s basketball competition but Waqo Tessema and his teammates just might have a surprise in store for the tournament heavyweights.

The 18-year-old point guard is thinking big. Big dogs like Ontario and Quebec better watch out.

“For us, it’s not that big of an upset,” said Tessema recently. “Manitoba has that reputation where they’re kind of always in the middle of the pack but I feel like we have something coming in this year that we know is going to be pretty good but others may not see it.”

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Manitoba has that reputation where they’re kind of always in the middle of the pack but I feel like we have something coming in this year that we know is going to be pretty good but others may not see it," says Waqo Tessema (right).

The skill available to head coach Jonathan Janzen is considerable, with perhaps the deepest talent pool in provincial history.

All 12 players on the roster and four-man coaching staff come from Winnipeg and the crew has spent the last eight weeks working diligently in practice while playing 10 games and two tournaments in the U.S.

Janzen’s team will play a handful of local exhibition games before leaving for the Games, which are being hosted by Ontario’s Niagara region (Aug. 6-21).

“We’ve got depth at every position and we’ve got guys who do different things at every position,” said Janzen. “We’ve got guys who can defend, guys who can score, guys who can shoot and we’ve got guys who can play big and rebound the ball. And we’ve got we got guys who do a little bit of everything.”

An expected starting five that includes guards Tessema and Lorence dela Cruz and forwards Elijah Mensah, Brendan Amoyaw and Ryan Luke is a good place to start.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The team will play a handful of local exhibition games before leaving for the Games, which run Aug. 6-21 in Ontario’s Niagara Region.

Mensah, at 6-8, and the 6-7 Luke are both heading to the University of Winnipeg this fall after stellar high school careers, while dela Cruz, the province’s top graduating high school player from St. Paul’s, signed recently with Central Wyoming, a junior college where he hopes to attract NCAA Division I recruiters.

Meanwhile, Amoyaw, a 6-9 power forward who recently suited up for Canada’s 18U squad at the Pacific Cup, and Tessema, a late cut from the 18U national team, are coming off excellent seasons at Lincoln Prep in Hamilton, Ont.

Tessema, who left Glenlawn after Grade 11 to hone his skills in Ontario, will move to Fort Erie (Ont.) International Academy in September to further refine his game but insists he’s already made big strides playing against tough competition in Ontario.

“I feel like one of my roles on the team is also to be a leader,” said Tessema. “So, there are times when it can get pretty hectic and since I’ve been through that, it’s my responsibility where if some of the guys feel a bit rushed or face something they haven’t seen, it’s my job to calm them down… to kind of lead by example and lead vocally.”

Marco Guaring, dela Cruz’s backcourt partner at St. Paul’s and a recent recruit to Canadian Mennonite University, will be part of a reserve wave coming off the bench that also includes 15-year-old prodigy Ramogi Nyagudi, the 6-8 forward who enters Grade 11 at St. Paul’s in September

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Coach Jonathan Janzen (in grey) gives pointers to the team.

“I think we have a really talented team,” said Guaring. “In terms of our current play, I think we have a lot of strong guards and it’s the same thing with the bigs and wings. We’ve got a lot of height.”

Janzen expects Tessema and dela Cruz to carry much of the scoring load. Tessema won’t shy away from expectations.

“Well, I’m a point guard and a lot of the decision-making, the IQ and all that kind of stuff comes with experience,” said Tessema. “The more experience I’ve gotten I feel like I’ve become a better player. I’m a lot stronger and I use my body better.”

Manitoba plays its preliminary round opener at the Canada Games against Prince Edward Island on Aug. 8. Janzen hopes his team is playing for the gold medal at the end.

“The top two are probably going to be Ontario and Quebec and in practice (we’ve) talked about our road to gold here and where we see our path,” he said. “And likely going through one of Ontario or Quebec (or) even two of them is going to probably be what’s toughest.”

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Fifteen-year-old prodigy Ramogi Nyagudi (in black) is a 6-8 forward who enters Grade 11 at St. Paul’s in September.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

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

TEAM MANITOBA 18U
MEN’S BASKETBALL ROSTER
Forwards: Brendan Amoyaw, 18; Amrinder Bhandal, 17; Ryan Luke, 17; Elijah Mensah, 18; Ramogi Nyagudi, 15
Guards: Lorence Dela Cruz, 17; Marco Guaring, 18; Kato Jaro, 16; Mekhi Lisan, 18; Enny Suliman, 18; Waqo Tessema, 18; Michael Uzonna, 17
Alternates: G Paul Bocalan, 16; F Chinonso Njelita, 17; G Chisom Njelita, 17
Head coach: Jonathan Janzen
Assistant coaches: Scott Martin; Patrick Mart; Keith Mason

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