By Jensen, Randy on August 31, 2017.
The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s basketball team has had good fortune shopping locally.
With the 2017-18 Canada West season around the corner, the Horns shopped outside the confines of southern Alberta and landed a prime recruit, announcing the signing of Edmonton native Awak Piom.
After starring with the Harry Ainlay High School Titans and winning back-to-back provincial championships in 2014 and 2015 before taking part in the 2015 BioSteel All-Canadian basketball game, the six-foot-five wing from the north now takes his game to the deep south.
“I’m pretty excited to be here,” said Piom. “To be honest, it’s been a long time for me. I’m excited to get back on the court with this group of guys. I thought it was a really good fit for me. It made a lot of good sense. I have a good coach who trusts me and believes in my game. So I think I’ll be alright for the next five years.”
At the BioSteel game, Piom played alongside NBAers Jamal Murray and Thon Maker and was the sole Alberta player to participate, scoring seven points in 12 minutes of action.
The game featured the top 24 Canadian-born or enrolled in a Canadian institution players born in 1995 or later.
“He is one of the biggest, high-profile recruits we’ve landed,” said Pronghorns head coach Mike Hansen. “We’ve always traditionally done well in southern Alberta, but recruiting nationally has always been difficult for us. For, us to be able to pull a kid out of Edmonton away from the (Alberta) Bears is a coup for us. He had a lot of opportunities with different schools recruiting him and it means a lot that we’re moving in the right direction (that) a national recruit would choose us over other programs.”
Prior to coming to the Pronghorns, Piom spent some time at prep school in B.C.
“It didn’t really work out, so I came back here. I took some time off and now we’re here,” he said.
The newest Pronghorn brings his game to the 1st Choice Savings Centre, where he won one of his two high school provincial titles.
“I think I’ll be able to adjust pretty quickly,” said Piom. “I can attack to the rim, (I’m) very athletic, I think. I shoot the ball well and find my teammates.”
Hansen said it was as much the person as the player that made Piom an attractive recruit.
“When he came for his visit what stood out to me is who he is as a person off the court,” said Hansen. “Southern Alberta is a very unique place and we’re always looking for kids that can come in here and really fit with us and with our culture. I think he brings all of that. He’s tough and has a lot of grit. He’s been through a lot already in such a short life and he’s been very resilient.
“I know how much passion he has to continue his education and to continue playing basketball. That, to me, was the swaying factor. We all know how talented he is and certainly he’s ready to step in and immediately make an impact. I think he’s going to be a Rookie of the Year candidate. To get a kid who can come in and make an impact right away is huge for us.”
With the addition of Piom, the Pronghorns have added five players for this coming season with commitments earlier from Saren Westrop, Kyle Pederson, Nick Myndio and Canyon Lewis. The Horns also announced that Jeff Rodehutskors is transferring from the University of Calgary, but isn’t eligible until the 2018-19 season as per U SPORTS transfer rules.
As well, Boomer Heggie will join the program following his two-year LDS mission.
“I’m really excited,” said Hansen. “With the additions of Pederson, Westrop and Rodehustkors coming off his red shirt year, we’re adding four real impact players to the roster. We lost a couple of kids in the spring, but we’ve been able to fill those holes and with (Dejon) Burdeaux in his fifth year and with (Zac) Overwater coming in, I’m really excited about what we can do this year in the Canada West.”
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