Open Gym Series Spotlight - Vermont’s Michel Ndayishimiye
Vermont is not an especially renowned hub for basketball. The state has never produced a homegrown NBA player. Still, there are plenty of hoopers among the Green Mountains, and at the recent NERR Open Gym Showcase Michel Ndayishimiye made his case that he is one of the best.
Ndayishimiye is a junior guard for Rice Memorial High School and Vermont Elite AAU. An athlete who plays bigger than his size, he is now trying to outgrow the stigma placed on players from his home state.
"I wanted to start getting my name out," Ndayishimiye said. "I'm confident. I work really hard at this." He acknowledges his home state is not as talent rich as others, but there are a lot of hardworking, skilled players who lack the spotlight to break out. Such as himself.
He stood out in every drill. His team had the most wins in both three-on-three and five-on-five. In transition work, he couldn't be stopped. The performance is indicative of just how much Ndayishimiye has grown.
"Michel displayed the ability to score at all three levels (rim, mid-range, and three-point line) for himself and also create for others on drop off passes to bigs or kick out passes to shooters in the Vermont Open Gym ," said longtime Division I assistant coach Adam Ginsburg, who directed the event, "Because of his speed, strength and body control he also demonstrated the ability to draw fouls at a very high clip."
Ginsburg affirms Michel's body is college-ready, evident in his smothering on-ball defense at the event. He would thrive in an up-tempo system that lets him fly around. Those traits bode well for his future, but they came as fruits of hard work.
Sam Jackson, his AAU coach, has been with Ndayishimiye since fifth grade.
"He was one of our worst players when he first came to us," Jackson said. "We saw the upside, but it was pretty ugly to tell you the truth."
Now, Ndayishimiye is one of Vermont’s premier players with a desire to reach low Division I, or high Division II, scholarship basketball. He's performed so well that Jackson says he frequently hears from other coaches that they don't believe Ndayishimiye hails from Vermont.
Jackson lauds Ndayishimiye's work ethic. He puts in the time on his physical capabilities and gets up hundreds upon hundreds of shots. Ndayishimiye turns it back towards Jackson, crediting his coach for teaching him key intangibles and skill development. Jackson's insistence that the team run miles and up hills helped create the footspeed. However, where Jackson really lights up is in discussing Ndayishimiye, the person.
"He's the nicest young man you'll ever meet. He'll do anything for you."
Jackson says Ndayishimiye coaches young players in the program, and that he is a terrific teammate. He challenges others to improve. He can be direct, but it is because he wants them to get better, and he makes sure to break down solutions for a weak area.
"It's very easy to communicate with me,” said Ndayishimiye, "I like to talk. I like to tell my teammates to always keep their head up, stay positive."
He takes a lot of pride and pleasure in his friend group. He really enjoys science class, in large part because many of his buddies are in it with him. He made a point to tell NERR that he feels he has a lot of teammates that are "slept on but going to pop out."
His intensity and drive are what helped him standout out at the Open Gym, however, "he showcased a high basketball IQ and was interested in competing and winning any and all drills and competition he was involved in with both enthusiasm and a business-like approach," said Ginsburg.
Ndayishimiye is also a phenomenal athlete. He has excellent speed and can burst at the rim. However, Ndayishimiye and Jackson agree he can't let up. His first step is much faster, but it needs to stay elite. He needs to finish above the rim, not just reach it. His handle is tight, but it could be better. He loves his teammates but must keep improving his distribution on the ball.
Ndayishimiye wants to cultivate a better offensive skill set. Cut down on turnovers and become savvier.
"I'm very fast, but sometimes I go too fast and end up out of control. And I've got to get better with moving out the ball." He hears this in his feedback from higher levels too. Still, Ndayishimiye is best when the ball is in his hands. Right now, a focus is growing his off-the-dribble shooting.
His high school season at Rice is coming soon. Last year he scored 41 points in their first game, breaking through intense defensive coverage. It was a big moment for him. Cutting through obstacles and assuring himself of his abilities. It is analogous to his ambition to break out of Vermont and make something of a basketball career.
"I like to be the example that if you work hard for what you want, things can happen for you."