Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nebraska Native Is Pleasant Surprise At Believe Academy

Most prep newcomers thrust into their first-ever meaningful minutes on an elevated stage are prone to jitters. Mistakes which tend to reveal their lack of experience at this ramped up level tend to rear their head. Yet for Believe Prep Academy's (TN) Jimma Gatwech, an unheralded recruit out of Nebraska, the transition came with little adjustment.

While the bone-thin guard has a ways to go physically, he showed poise and a prodigious above-the-rim game. Jimma stuck timely three-pointers, leaked out in transition, and showed nary a trace of trepidation going up against behemoth 7-foot rim protectors. Given his 6-foot-2, 155-pound frame, few would expect the dazzling displays of athleticism he's able to inject into head coach Randy Casey's lineup.

While the team is still establishing its identity and forging the pieces into a functional unit, the Class of 2019 Gatwech's pre-season impact has been felt throughout the program. He's a kid who can deliver a ferocious, momentum-swinging dunk.

Yet he's also displayed a "want it" factor in initiating and seizing what the defense gives him. These attributes should make the hyper-athletic source a key component on this year's Believe team, which will criss cross the country while entertaining a rigorous national schedule. This includes appearances in various Grind Session events.

Believe spent this past weekend at Scott Golden's Hoop Exchange All American Jamboree in Apopka, Fla. The poised play of Gatwech, combined with the end-to-end straitjacket defense provided by high-major prospect Devin Cambridge (Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech), were components propelling the program to a 64-63 upset of defending SIAA (FL) state champion Oldsmar Christian. Led by one of the nation's best point guards in left-handed playmaker Elijah Weaver (USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Villanova), Oldsmar has oceanic backcourt depth with mid-major prospect D.J. Mitchell as well as IPFW commit Tione Rollins, Jose Romero, and Braxton Bartlett.

The team features an experienced, proven frontcourt in South Florida-bound Michael Durr and 6-foot-11 Marcus Hopkins, who was recently offered by San Jose State and Alabama A & M. So, beating a team of this caliber on a pre-season stage of this magnitude pumps promise into an under the radar program. Oldsmar had many opportunities in this heated battle, but costly mistakes such as a blown dunk and several other missed shots resulted in an irregular performance.

Coachability, interchangeability, and wowing open court finishing are immeasurable intangibles that make Jimma an appealing Division-I prospect. His desire for a year round basketball focus and a rapid increase in training are what led him to Believe, which has a core of veteran coaches and an around the clock devotion to skill development. And while he may not pass the eye test just yet, the quality is there and the upside is certainly there.

If this weekend's performance is a portent of what is to come, Gatwech likely will not be an unknown for long. Assimilating to the physical demands and rigors of the NCAA level is a focus he must pay special devotion to. Yet the demure kid's focus, work rate, and flair for the big play have registered his presence leading into the 2017-18 campaign.