2016 center Tshimanga commits to Nebraska
Nebraska fans set their alarms for bright and early Monday morning hoping to hear some of the best recruiting news they’ve heard in months, and they ended up getting just that.
Springfield (Mass.) MacDuffie School center and NU’s top 2016 target Jordy Tshimanga announced early last week that he planned to make his final decision between Nebraska, Minnesota, and UNLV.
At a formal ceremony at his school at 7 a.m. CST on Monday, Tshimanga made it official that he was going to be a Husker.
The final days of the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Montreal native’s recruitment were full of twists and turns. After officially visiting Minnesota and Nebraska, reports came out that Tshimanga planned to take a third and final visit to Oklahoma State.
Two days later, those plans changed and he ended up scheduling a visit to UNLV this past weekend.
Even though the Running Rebels and Golden Gophers made strong pushes late in the process, it was the relationships built with Nebraska - led by lead recruiter Kenya Hunter and head coach Tim Miles - that ended up being the difference in Tshimanga’s college decision.
"It was a tough decision, because he had great opportunities to choose from at three institutions," Yannick Tshimanga, Jordy’s older brother, told HuskerOnline.com. "There were good relationships that were there, and he got a little confused. But I think his choice was based upon everything that had to do with outside of basketball. He felt like he could get the same opportunities basketball-wise from all three institutions, but it had to do with everything outside of basketball, as far as how he felt with Tim Miles, and most importantly, with how he felt with the guys on the team. That was something that kind of helped shaped his decision.
“When I think back on that, it’s all really thanks to Kenya Hunter. He’s done a tremendous job. I know Kenya outside of Jordy, and he didn’t take for granted that I knew him. He took it as, ‘I’ve still got to convince the kid to come here.’ He understood that decisions would have to be made based on facts and the opportunity for the kid to maximize his potential. It won’t be made on anything else, and he understood that, and I respect him for that.
“I applaud him for the work that he’s done for coming to campus, visiting the kid and having sit-downs with the kid. You have a lot of coaches who just want to go see the kid play in games, and I’ve known on one or two different occasions where Coach Hunter has come out here just to watch practice and get an opportunity to have a conversation with the kid. Those things might not get talked about as much, but it carries weight.”
What makes landing the three-star prospect such a pivotal development is Tshimanga brings desperately needed help to the Huskers’ front court, which didn’t feature a single player on its roster taller than 6-foot-8 prior to Monday’s commitment.
Yannick said the opportunity for Jordy to make an immediate impact for NU in 2016-17 was certainly a major factor.
“Immediate playing time factors in heavily, because the kid wants to play, and he’s built the momentum now within the past year where he’s used to playing a lot,” Yannick said. “His physique can take the pounding of the game a lot better than when he first started playing three years ago. So now he wants to build on that same momentum so when he comes to college he doesn’t sit for a couple years and then try to rebuild that momentum.
“We want to try to keep that momentum going, and the only way to do so is by going somewhere where the opportunity for playing time is definitely there and the opportunity to compete against the best is definitely there. I think the Big Ten is pretty huge. You get to face some of the best big guys in the country every night. So that opportunity is there, but at the same time, it’s not an easy opportunity. It’s an opportunity where he’s still going to have to compete against the best of them out there.”
A factor that was equally important in the end was the family relationship Nebraska had built with Tshimanga. Having recruited him for nearly three years, the Huskers had a bond with Tshimanga and his family that the other schools on his list couldn’t replicate.
Yannick also said they wanted a school that would provide strong academic support as well as a safe campus community.
“I think it’s a secure environment,” Yannick said of Lincoln. “Sometimes kids can get lost being in a major city, so I think that’s something that can benefit him. I’ve been to Nebraska. I’ve been to Lincoln before. I’ve seen the fans and the support system that those student-athletes have, and I think it helps a lot on the confidence level. Lincoln doesn’t have any pro teams or anything like that, so I think that’s a positive.
“Also, the access to the facilities that you guys have there. I know a little bit about the academic program there, the support system that you have for your athletes. I also know on the athletic side about the different resources that you have with the top-of-the-line facilities, which makes a difference. Those are just some of the things I can think of off the top of my head that I think Nebraska can offer that will benefit Jordy.”
It has certainly been a long, thorough process for Tshimanga. A kid who only started playing organized basketball and has shed nearly 70 pounds of bad weight off of his frame along the way, there’s no telling how high the ceiling could be for Nebraska’s biggest addition - literally and figuratively - in recent memory.
“Man, 330 pounds to 265 right now,” Yannick said. “From not knowing how to one-dribble reverse layup to now knowing how to one-dribble and dunk on you. From having to pull him out of the game every two minutes because he might pass out, to now we just pull him out for a quick breather. From getting beat down the court to now running like a guard. One thing that I’ve known he’s always had from the beginning is work ethic. His work ethic now is no different from where it was then. It’s just that now his body has changed tremendously.
“He’s still got a ways to go now. I just think a lot of people may think he’s maxing out now, but he’s so new to the game that he’s got such low mileage. This is where schools like Nebraska can make a huge difference, because of access that they have with the latest technology and facilities that they can really transform his body to what it’s supposed to look like. Whatever we’ve done for the last few years, it’s nothing compared to what a place like Nebraska can offer. So we really value what happens off the court, because we think what happens off the court can transcend to what happens on the court.
“Another thing that’s changed is going from spending you’re whole life speaking French and then switching to a full-time English environment (at MacDuffie). That’s been huge. Now I don’t have to hand him books, he gets them on his own and puts in the extra work on his own. Those things that have happened off the court have really translated to the success he’s been having on the court.”
Eric Bossi's take
Here is what Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi had to say about what Nebraska is getting in Tshimanga:
"Finding a true five who wants to play physically around the rim, rebound and clog up the lane defensively isn't so easy these days. That's what Nebraska potentially has on their hands in Tshimanga. He's a big and strong kid who plays ruggedly around the rim, controls his space in the lane and cleans the glass. He has a great frame to work with in the weight room, pretty good touch around the rim and should be a signee with very good upside for the Huskers."