The Heritage IJN squad from West Virginia first began playing organized basketball together in November at our National Showcase, where they had obvious chemistry issues and looked somewhat lost on the court—both individually and as a team. Since then, Coach Justin Dempsey has made strides with this group that many folks didn’t deem possible, especially this early into the process. They’ve dealt with major injuries to key contributors (namely Robertas Jonaitis and Shaumba Ngoyi), yet have been able to keep their heads above water. Heritage secured back-to-back victories at our Palmetto Winter Classic, upsetting Ben Lippen and AC Flora to make an improbable championship run. They did all this while playing two eighth-graders and only two upperclassmen, as most of this team is freshmen and sophomores. Their chemistry and overall feel for the game noticeably improves each time they suit up. No team in the region plays harder than this group and that’s a big factor in what propels them ahead of more “talented” teams. So remember this collection of prospects over time, as they could be in the midst of something special.
6’3 ’23 Daniel Ntambwe- Truly the most incredible middle-school defender in the country; he lacks offensive polish right now, but the odds are in his favor as his brother, Joel Ntambwe (UNLV), and half-brother, Jonathan Kuminga (top prospect in the Class of 2021), started off on a similar trajectory. He has an unbelievable motor and frame, especially for his age.
6’3 ’19 Przemek Zygmunciak- The main point guard for his team, despite being a natural off-guard; he’s continually improved his playmaking and ability to score off the bounce. He’s the lone senior, but his heart, passion, and leadership have made a huge difference within this group. When Zygmunciak shoots well, this team is extremely difficult to beat.
6’2 ’20 Uziel Muteba- The combo-guard is easily the best perimeter shooter on the team and has enjoyed numerous games with five-plus made three-pointers this season. He offers a nice two-way presence and is capable of handling the ball when necessary. Muteba should be poised for a huge senior season.
6’5 ’20 Robertas Jonaitis- Arguably the most college-ready prospect on the team, Jonaitis is the most reliable and capable scorer on the team. He’s long and wiry, yet surprises folks with his eye-popping explosion. He’s gone from a natural athlete to an all-around scoring threat and can effectively apply pressure from all three levels. Jonaitis still plays well above the rim and already looks like he could be successful playing college basketball, but it’ll just take additional time and strength in order to reach his incredibly high ceiling.
6’5 ’23 Debaba Tshiebwe- The younger brother of West Virginia commit Oscar Tshiebwe, it’s easy to find similarities within their approach. Debaba is only in eighth grade, yet possesses the size and physical maturity of a grown man. He already defends and rebounds well, but could also continue growing and begin to truly dominate the interior.
6’9 ’20 Elonge Ntumba- The oldest big man on the team is Ntumba, despite being relatively young as a junior. He has size, touch, and an intriguing two-way skillset. Ntumba is able to score with his back to the basket or when facing-up from midrange.
6’7 ’21 Landry Palata- Their most unique prospect is Palata, a long, wiry power forward that is capable of causing matchup problems for opponents. He has great size and is able to effectively score from all three levels. Palata is able to handle the ball in transition and make plays for others pretty well. He’s quite intriguing, especially as a sophomore, and should become a Division I prospect in time.
6’8 ’22 Jerome Beya- Arguably the best prospect on the roster, Beya possesses an unbelievable blend of youth, instincts, and physical maturity. He’s built like an absolute tank and already shows flashes of sheer dominance on defense. Beya, like most of this team, plays so far above the rim and often surprises opponents with his explosiveness on blocks, dunks, and rebounds. He’s a legitimate rim-protector that will only continue to improve on offense.
6’9 ’21 Shaumba Ngoyi- Though currently injured, Ngoyi was able to emerge as the clear-cut leader of this group earlier this season. He can efficiently score from anywhere inside the arc and utilizes his length exceptionally well around the basket. Ngoyi is quite mature for his age and displays a quality amount of craftiness when looking to score. He’s also in the early process of becoming a Division I prospect.