Johnson Duku dribbles the ball for the Vincent Massey Vikings in the Brandon Sun Spartan Invitational Friday. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
When teams take to the floor against the Vincent Massey Vikings varsity boys’ basketball team this season, they need to watch carefully for where Johnson Duku is on the court.
The 6-foot-4, 164-pound Grade 12 student is extremely athletic and has an ability to change shots or block them if players don’t know where he is at all times. In his first three games of the season — which have come at the Brandon Sun Spartan Invitational tournament this week — Duku averaged two blocks per game and six rebounds. Being a force under the basket is one of the things he does well and takes a lot of pride in.
"It’s just all about the timing, too," said Duku, who also has the ability to dunk and shoot an NBA three-pointer. "You have to time it perfectly and you have to box them out as well. It’s just physical stuff as well."
Duku, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya before his family was sponsored to move to Canada about 15 years ago, started playing basketball when he was in elementary school. He also played volleyball, but eventually dropped that in favour of basketball.
This year has brought some changes to his game. As one of the seniors on the Massey squad, Duku is taking on a lot more responsibility as the Vikings look to him to be one of their primary scorers, rebounders and defenders. Adding to the challenge for him is moving from post out to wing.
With only three games under his belt in his new position, the 17-year-old Brandonite is still learning where to go and how to move on the offensive end of the court as well as getting used to shooting first instead of thinking about driving.
Once he gets that sorted out, Vikings head coach Brett Nohr believes Duku — who is averaging 11 points per game — can be a top player, since he can beat smaller defenders with his height and he’s fast enough to get around taller defenders.
"He’s dynamic and he gets right up there," Nohr said. "He’s got good timing and eventually his offence will come when the other guys’ offence comes as well. Sure it’s an individual game when you have the ball in your hand, but if you don’t have four other guys who know what they’re doing or work with you, it’s kind of hard to get your shot off."
Duku is also trying to add some muscle to his very lean frame. Late last year, he started lifting weights and has become more serious in the gym this season. It’s starting to pay off as Duku could only play in about four-minute spurts last year, but he can go five or six this year and still be fresh.
He decided to focus more on lifting weights to help the team and also improve himself. That dedication will be important, as well as improving his ball-handling skills, if Duku wants to keep playing basketball after high school and move on to the college or university level.
For now, Duku wants to help his team improve so it can make a run at a city title.
"Just playing to the best of my ability," he said. "I would like to win, but if we lose it’s fine with me as long as I play the best I can and my team plays as best as it can."
The BSSI wrap ups today, with Massey vying for fifth place in the Tri-Star (Tier 2) Division. The Tri-Star title will be decided at Neelin at 5:10 p.m., followed by the Victoria Inn (Tier 1) Division final at 7 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 14, 2013