To be an elite scoring threat in a competitive sports league is one thing, but to do it as a rookie in a new league is another.
Ooks men’s basketball rookie point guard Ephraim Humilde was just that. Humilde stepped right into the Ooks lineup with plenty of talent during the 2022-23 season and was able to shine in his first year with the team. He would end the season earning the Rookie of the Year award in the ACAC North Division.
Such an honour, by his own admission, generates a feeling that’s difficult to summarize. But like he does on the court, he found a way when interviewed for this story.
“I’m truly humbled and thankful for such an award, and it does really mean a lot to me,” Humilde said.
Humilde’s season stats offer a glimpse of just how consistent of a scoring threat he was this year. Humilde was 41.9 per cent field-goal percentage, and a nearly-identical 41.4 per cent from three-point land, being behind only Benjamin Kamba as the best three-point shooter on the Ooks. Humlide also ended the season being fifth overall on the team in free-throw percentage, at 63.3 percent.
Ephraim’s contributions at the other end of the court were also significant, including 27 defensive rebounds and 17 steals in the 20 games played. In terms of steals per game, he ranked top five in that category.
Even though Humilde had a fantastic first year for the Ooks, he didn’t do it all alone. “I’m so incredibly thankful I was fortunate enough to join a team in which the culture is based on support and trust in each other. From day one, I felt welcomed by my brothers around me, and that helped me be willing to learn, and be pushed in practice every day in the season.”
For some, playing for a new team is difficult but Humilde found a way to settle in.
“It’s really easy to be engulfed in the pressure to perform and to excel,” he notes while describing how he focuses on appreciating the opportunity to be playing ACAC Basketball.
Part of being able to play sports at a high level has to do with mental preparation which, in the collegiate sports sphere, can be a challenge.
“Changing my heart posture from one of stress and pressure to one of gratitude gives me the freedom to play my heart out for both me and my teammates each time I step on the floor,” said Humilde.
Players can be skilled but have to be able to balance the stress of life at the same time. “Taking care of my body and my mental health are essential foundations that allow me to consistently push myself in practice,” explained Humilde.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, Humilde’s biggest focus is continued growth of his offensive game, and building on a fantastic first year.
“There’s, of course, always room to grow,” Humilde said. “To be truly one of the best in the league, I know I have to consistently get good shots up before, during, and after practice as much as possible.”
One thing that he’ll benefit from is minimal roster turnover. Fifth-year Guard Vishal Dhillon was the only graduating player on the Ooks men’s basketball roster this season; next year’s lineup could otherwise look exactly the same.
“Instead of starting from square one in September, the Ooks will have several key players who are already on the same page in terms of the system and style of play we want to run. Being able to have that knowledge is huge,” Humilde explained. “This also helps the new recruits coming in when experienced veterans can help guide them through all the new concepts, plays, and anything else.”