Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
Throughout the summertime, companies like BallisLife, Overtime and SLAM will showcase and highlight plenty of players with athletic ability on the mixtapes. Most of the time, you will see guards that will throw down a variety of dunks, which in turn will bring plenty of views.
Jimma Gatwech held his own this summer with his athletic ability, as his dunks were the stuff of legend. The 6-foot-4 guard is a true athlete with plenty of explosion and brings crowds to oohs and ahhs every time he steps on the floor.
When asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of basketball, he replied, “Just doing this for my family, and like, always pushing myself to get better, being better than everybody.”
Gatwech hails from Omaha, Nebraska, but his parents are from the Sudan, which is also the home country of the late Manute Bol, and also current NBA players Wenyen Gabriel, Thon Maker and Bol Bol.
On the basketball talent in Nebraska, he replied, “There’s a lot of talent over there, I feel like people sleep [on the talent over there], I feel like there’s people like me, that’s trying to get better and stuff. There’s a couple of people like my little brother, he’s up next, I’m going to put him on when I’m done with all this high school stuff.”
When asked what makes him such an exciting player on the court, he replied, “Everyone likes the way I talk, the dunks that I do, and I just like putting on a show when I step on the court.”
Over a year ago, while at Huntington Prep, a basketball powerhouse in Huntington, West Virginia, he gained plenty of notoriety, due to his athletic ability on the court, and started earning college offers from many of the tip teams in the country.
This summer, he was selected to participate in the SLAM Summer Classic and put on a show at the Monsignor Kett Playground, in front of a crowd of about 2,000 spectators on a hot Sunday afternoon in the Inwood section of Manhattan in mid-August. At the end of the game, a crowd formed around him and he did a windmill dunk to close out the festivities.
When asked about playing in New York City, he replied, “It was a crazy experience, it was my first experience playing in front of a crowd like that. It was like, fun, I like playing in New York and I’m looking forward to playing here again.”
Back in October, Gatwech also participated in a slam-dunk contest sponsored by Puma, in which the winner was to get $25,000. Although he did not win, Gatwech wowed the crowd in Brooklyn Bridge Park on a windy Saturday afternoon.
This past fall, Gatwech joined Core 4 Academy, a school based in Atlanta, Georgia, that specializes in basketball and training and is in collaboration with the National University High School Program, which allows students to do the necessary coursework required to receive their high school diploma, which he will earn this spring.
On December 14th, Gatwech made one final appearance in New York City as an amateur, this time at the Barclays Center for the Battle in the Apple Classic, in which he had an excellent performance with 21 points in a win over powerhouse program, Putnam Science Academy.
When asked about performing in an NBA arena, he replied, “It was another great experience, I got to play on an NBA court. To play on an NBA court, made me want to get in the League someday and experience that again someday.”
On his strengths & weaknesses, he replied, “I’ve gotta have a more consistent shot and [be] a better finisher, and keep my handle tight.”
It’s no secret that he is now an early entrant into the 2020 NBA Draft. After his high school season with Core 4 is over, he will have to start working out for NBA teams and go to pre-draft camps. Chances are if all goes well, his name could be called on June 25th, at ironically, the Barclays Center. If not, he could sign as a free agent and receive a two-way deal, which would allow him to play half the season in the NBA and the other half in the G-League.
On what will make him more attractive to NBA scouts and teams, he replied, “I just gotta focus on my body, and just play defense, play hard every game.”
In an era in which many players are trying to go pro as early as they can, even if it means going overseas for a year or playing their freshman season in college and then leave for the riches of the League, it is a classic reoccurring theme where there is many triumphs and heartbreaks.
When asked what he would say to many youths around the country trying to follow in his footsteps for bypassing college and going straight to the NBA, Gatwech replied, “Always stay in the gym, it’s not always hard work, it’s smart work and also using your head, [knowing] what to do in the gym, just make sure you put in that work every day and just keep grinding.”
Four months from now, Jimma Gatwech will be on a different path. At the present time, he’s playing on a prep school squad that travels all around the country. Next year around this time, he’ll be a pro. His story isn’t done yet, it’s still being written.