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The Rookie: Johnny Berhanemeskel

Thursday February 17, 2011

At only 18 years old, uOttawa Gee-Gees men’s basketball first-year guard Johnny Berhanemeskel of Ottawa, Ont., is quietly having the best season then any other rookie who has ever suited up for the garnet and grey.

With one regular season game still remaining, Johnny has already smashed two Gee-Gees records including most points by a rookie and most three-pointers in a season. In 21 games so far this season, Johnny has amassed a total of 336 points, whereas the previous record for most points in a season by a rookie was 215 points set by current Gee-Gees scoring leader Warren Ward, London, Ont. From the three-point line, Johnny has been lights out with a total of 64; that is twenty more than Marko Jovic’s 44 set back in 2002.

Needless to say that Johnny is also on pace to becoming the all-time rookie leader in highest scoring average by a rookie, highest free-throw percentage by a rookie, and obviously most three-pointers by a rookie.

Admittedly, it would have been difficult to foreshadow this kind of success for a rookie. Even head coach James Derouin had his doubts, but he credits Johnny’s hard work and determination to have proven all those wrong.

Derouin explains that Johnny nearly slipped through the cracks in the recruiting process, but after watching him put up 16 points in their first exhibition match against the NCAA Division 1 Cincinnati Bearcats back in September, he knew he had something special.

“I think he made his first five or six shots in a row including four threes. He made his first four shots in the second quarter. And I think right then the coaching staff, players and the fans, and everyone sort of looked at each other in saying ‘is this kid lighting up a Division 1 school right now?’ I think he had twelve or fourteen in the quarter,” laughed Derouin.

“But most rookies will have difficulty sustaining top performances as the season goes on, and will most often encounter a difficult stretch or two,” explained Derouin. Fortunately for Johnny and the Gee-Gees, he continues to defy the skeptics with a consistent season wherein he just keeps improving with every game.

“People continued to underestimate him and it just seemed to fuel him even more. He just continues to have an amazing first season. And he’s a great kid, he works hard, he’s always on time for practice, and he’s in early doing extra shooting all the time. He does what he’s told; he listens. He’s been great for us,” added Derouin.

Regardless of whether or not Johnny’s numbers will garner him the nod for OUA Rookie of the Year and potentially CIS Rookie of the Year, Derouin remains focused on Johnny’s future with the team: “In terms of the program moving forward, we have our two guards. He’s breaking records, and he’s still learning how to play; it’s amazing. And so it’s very exciting for me to know that we still have him for four more years,” said Derouin.

Catch Johnny and the Gee-Gees in their last regular season game this Friday, February 18 at 8 p.m., as they exact revenge on rivals Carleton Ravens in a rematch of the Capital Hoops Classic at Montpetit Hall.