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2023/2024 Triumph and Northstar Prep Pre-Season Overview

Written by Elliot Russenholt


We are approaching the end of the August, which means that the new youth basketball season in Manitoba is almost upon us. By this time in the summer, teams are advertising tryouts and solidifying their rosters for the upcoming year. With that being said, I had the opportunity to attend the two sets of Triumph 204 tryouts that were held. The reason for this was I wanted to share with you all some names that you should be aware of for the 2023-2024 season. While I won’t touch on the 2006’s and 2007’s right away, don’t worry I will get to them. I first want to speak on two names from the 2008 age group. These are athletes who are in the classes of 2026 (in Canada) or the class of 2027 (in the U.S.). I will mention that all of these players were practicing and scrimmaging against one another, i.e. age group vs. age group. Let’s dive into these first two players.


Triumph


Kobe Alejo

While you may have heard of the Alejo name, with older brother Kal-El in the upcoming 2024 class, you shouldn’t sleep on younger bother Kobe. This six foot guard is so smooth, poised and calm with the ball in his hands. He has a high basketball IQ level, being able to read defences and play perfect pinpoint passes. That IQ translates over to the defensive end, where Alejo is good at intercepting passes, and picking defenders pockets at the right moment. Not to mention he has a polished jumper that he uses to stretch defences from outside the arc. His finishing is solid, using that calmness to not be rattled by opposing players as he heads to the hoop. Out of all the players I had the opportunity to see that will be participating with Triumph this fall, he was the most impressive, especially for his age.


Philip Ofime

Another athlete from the 08 age group, Ofime to me at this time is more of a guard/forward, but with a stronger frame. His ability to attack the hoop, get inside and finish around the bucket is his main calling card. Ofime also uses that frame to grab rebounds, and be a little more physical than you would expect. He is also decently athletic, which allows him to be a versatile defender, giving him the option to guard out on the perimeter. The combination of the size and speed makes him a versatile defender, allowing him to guard multiple positions. That athleticism is also key on getting out on the break, then using the frame to finish inside, or clean up offensive boards. Ofime instantly caught my attention when they began scrimmaging.


Drishya Thapa

Ok, I may have lied and not mentioned that I wanted to talk about a third player in this section. The only difference is that this athlete is in the 2009 age group. I can confidently say that Drishya Thapa was one of the best players in that gym, aside from the Northstar athletes that were also participating. For a kid just entering high school, his three level scoring ability was insanely impressive. In three straight possessions I saw, a pull up jumper, a push and finish in transition, and a catch and shoot three. This kid is just over six feet, moves like a guard, and it does not look like he is struggling to keep up with smaller players. Thapa has such a good feel for the game as well for someone of his age, and it amazed me to see his poise against older competition. He is a name that you very much need to be aware of this year, as he could see a meteoric rise.


Having looked at a couple players from the Triumph program, those were not the only athletes I had the opportunity to get a look at, especially on the second day. Before tryouts began for the callbacks, the Northstar Prep squad was running through some of their sets, getting some extra prep in. But once it was scrimmage time, coach Daron Leonard sent them out to play against those other kids to give them a challenge. A challenge they did give them. Here are my thoughts on a couple of players that caught my eye from the program.


Northstar

photo via @waris_njoya on Instagram


Waris Njoya

There is a very good argument that Waris Njoya is the best point guard in the 2025 class. This guy is so dynamic in as many different ways that he can be. Getting to the basket, and scoring around the rim creatively has always been Njoya’s strength. The athleticism he possesses is unreal for a six foot guard, whether that be in speed or vertical. I had the opportunity to speak to Njoya about what he wanted to work on this season, for him to become the best he can be. The first thing he said was his jump shot being more consistent. That has always been a weakness of his, and he was aware he needed it to be something he worked on. Njoya has spent all summer working, making sure that he can be as lethal as possible from the outside. Another thing he wanted to work on was being more of a leader. He understood that he was going to be relied upon a lot this upcoming year, and was aware that he needed to step up and work on his leadership. One thing is for sure, when those scrimmages started, did Njoya show out. Best player in the gym by far. He essentially did whatever he wanted, getting to the rim, taking threes, finding teammates, making plays in transition, and defending very well. It felt more like he was putting on a show than anything. He is so impressive, and I cannot wait to see how good he is going to get.


photo via @shadraklasu on Instagram


Shadrak Lasu

For this upcoming class, be on the lookout for Shadrak Lasu. The six foot eight forward is long, extremely athletic, and a terror on defence. One of the most fun things to watch Lasu do is, get a block or steal defensively, and watch him run in transition. He and Njoya are going to connect on many lobs this upcoming year. Lasu’s finishing is very good against contact, and he uses his length to get to the rim. He doesn’t rely on his jumper too often, but will knock down open looks when given space. As I mentioned above, Lasu’s defence is his greatest strength, and what makes him so polarizing as a prospect, which goes along with what he brings in transition. I truly believe he is going to make a lot of noise on the prep circuit in his post-grad year.


Final Thoughts


There are more than just these athletes within the ranks of both the AAU squad and prep school. Talent was all across the gym, at all different age levels. I also had the opportunity to speak to Northstar Prep head coach Daron Leonard about this season and the roster he had constructed. He was super proud of the commitment and hard work his players had given him throughout the summer. What Leonard was just proud of though, was how the players were carrying themselves off the court. Each one I spoke to were polite, respectful, and great to speak to. They each were even assisting in coaching the younger Triumph age group teams. He believes this will help with not only developing the younger talents, but also helps build team chemistry with the rest of the prep squad, aiding one another in running drills, figuring out how to go about practice etc. That communication will be absolutely key once the season starts. Leonard was really excited for this year for all of the Northstar players to showcase their talents, and thought this was one of the most talented rosters he’d put together since the inception of the school in 2017. The most impressive part about this roster is it is mainly Manitoba (or even Winnipeg) based athletes that have developed their skills and stayed in the province for high level competition. These will both be programs to watch for this upcoming year and as the seasons go by.



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