M’Baya ready for next challenge
The most decorated Niagara high school basketball player in recent history is heading to Niagara College this fall with hopes of continuing his basketball career.
Saint Francis point guard Igor M’Baya, the proud owner of three Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association medals and four straight Standard tournament titles, decided Welland is his preferred destination.
“I felt that it was best for me to stay close to home and keep developing,” the 19-year-old St. Catharines resident said. “Coach (Phil) Mosley has known me for long time and I know that I have been on his radar.”
The 5-foot-10 player is heading to Niagara with no guarantees, but he is fine with that situation.
“It’s good to know that I am even being looked at and I am confident in myself,” the 12B student said. “I am just going to keep working hard and keep getting better every single day.”
He hopes that will help him reach his on-court destination.
“My goal is to work my way up and be able to contribute to the team. If I get better every day, you never know what could happen from there.”
Mosley, who has been watching M’Baya play since he was 10, is looking forward to see what the former St. Catharines Rebel can bring to his team.
“He is a very strong point guard and his size allows him to be strong on the floor with the ball,” he said. “He shoots the ball really well and has a good basketball IQ. He understands offensive and defensive concepts.”
Mosley feels M’Baya will need to adapt to Ontario Colleges Athletic Association play.
“His size is going to be an issue to cover other OCAA guards and I have to make sure that he is quick enough to cover his position.”
Mosley appreciates M’Baya’s attributes away from the basketball court.
“I like that he is a character kid, He is a good citizen and a good student and he checks all the boxes for the type of kid that I am looking for our program.”
His background at St. Francis should help at Niagara.
“He comes from a really good and highly respected basketball program and that is a factor I certainly believe in,” Mosley said.
St. Francis coach Jono Marcheterre has watched M’Baya develop as a hoopster and a person over the past four years and describes him as a dynamic player.
“He is not your typical point guard who purely facilitates. He is a complete scorer, especially as a shooter but, like the prototype point guard, he always put the team first,” he said. “Despite being a tremendous shooter and scorer, he could still make a great impact while taking a backseat points-wise.”
Some of M’Baya’s best games were when he scored five or 10 points because he was putting his teammates in the right position to score in bunches.
“He also is a great defender, on ball and off of it,” Marcheterre said.
He is looking to seeing M’Baya develop under Mosley and play at the next level.
“He is a fierce competitor who is fuelled by his desire to win and be the best,” Marcheterre said. “He was always the easiest player to motivate in practice or in games, simply by telling him that this guy or that guy was shooting better than him that day or looked faster in a drill.”
In the past few seasons, M’Baya feels he has become a much better leader and decision-maker.
“I have tried to improve every single aspect of my game because I know you can never be too good at something,” he said. “There is also something to get better at and learn every day.”
His next step as a player will involve getting in the weight room and building his speed, strength and explosiveness.
M’Baya, who is planning to study business accounting at Niagara, came to Canada from the Congo when he was 10 and didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was in Grade 8.
“I love what basketball does,” he said. “It brings everyone together and when I have things going on, whenever I play basketball it clears my head and puts me in a better mood.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the multiple Zone 4 Top 10 All-Star is doing everything he can to be ready when life and basketball return to normal. He works out in his basement and shoots hoops in his driveway every day.
“I wish I could go to the gym but obviously I can’t do that so I am just trying to stay prepared and in shape and maybe even get in better shape.”
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