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HomeSportsDal men’s basketball’s Nginyu Ngala shines in his fourth year

Dal men’s basketball’s Nginyu Ngala shines in his fourth year

How Ngala battled through hard situations to one of his best seasons yet

Fourth-year Dalhousie University basketball standout Nginyu Ngala has been on fire to start this semester, and with the AUS Championship taking place Feb. 23-25, the guard from Montreal is looking to go home with a championship.

After being swept by the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in a weekend series to start January, the Dalhousie Tigers have gone on a 5-1 run and are now tied for the first seed in the AUS with last year’s champs, the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men. 

Ngala has been a major reason for the recent success. 

Last season, the 5-10 guard led the Tigers in scoring with 17.5 points per game, but Ngala saw a drop in his numbers to start this season. He averaged 9.5 points per game in October during a two-game series versus Cape Breton. In the new year, he has boosted his numbers up to 16.3 points per game and during January he bumped his efficiency up to 42 percent from the field and 38 per cent from three.

“The last couple of games there has definitely been improvement,” Ngala said. “I’m just trying to carry that on.”

The Tigers started February with a game against the University of Prince Edward Island, and the guard showed out. Ngala scored a game-high 24 points and added four steals, and his Tigers pulled away in the third quarter to come out of P.E.I. with a 79-61 win.

The school/basketball balance

During the first semester, Ngala experienced one of the difficulties of being a student-athlete, having to balance the life of being a full-time student, while trying to reach peak athletic form. Due to his class schedule, the management student was forced to miss the two longest team practices every week for the first semester.

“It kind of gave me an off-rhythm with the guys,” Ngala said.

On top of losing out on important practice time, Ngala dealt with sickness and groin and hamstring injuries. However, he has always looked ahead and consistently stayed working, even through the bad days.

The Montreal native had the support of his head coach, Rick Plato, who said that academics are the priority for all his players, but he could tell it had impacted Ngala’s game. Ngala told the same to his coach.

“This semester… everything’s good,” Plato said. “That’s got a lot to do with the stability and consistency in his game because it certainly wasn’t there in the first semester. That’s behind him, and that’s one of the reasons he’s having a much better second semester.”

With Ngala at his best, Plato expects his team to be “tough,” and the numbers back the coach up – when Ngala scores 20 points or more, the team is 7-1. 

Off the court

Plato praised Ngala for his basketball play, but most importantly to Plato, Ngala has shown growth in maturity since coming from Vanier College four years ago. Despite not being one of the more vocal players, Plato sees the leadership that he brings to the team.

“I know him pretty well,” Plato said. “In fact, I tell him I know him better than he knows himself. At least in the team framework, I think that’s pretty accurate.”

While being an athlete for Dal, Ngala decided to showcase the lifestyle of being a collegiate athlete with his Instagram page “Geeskeys,” where he posts his workouts and insight for younger hoopers who have the dream of excelling at the U Sports level.

Ngala started the page after being asked a lot of questions about how he navigates the world of university athletics and how he improves on his off days. 

“Growing up, other people who were in my space and older than me, I always looked to for guidance,” Ngala said. “It’s important for someone like myself to do the same. You never know who needs that guidance or who’s looking for it.”

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