Basketball has become a pretty big deal in Canada’s capital. Between the dominance of the Carleton Ravens, the birth of the NBL’s Skyhawks and a fresh crop of up and coming young players, there are plenty of bright spots in Ottawa’s basketball circles. Of all the upcoming talents, Marial Shayok, a product of St. Patrick’s High School is shining brighter than the rest.
Marial grew up in a family of athletes he acknowledges that his family’s pedigree plays a huge role in developing him into the player he is today. His father, Makur, played basketball for the Dayton Flyers from 1990 to 1992 and Marial credits him with putting “the ball in his hands ever since [he] was a young kid”, and for developing him into the player he is today. “Every day he’s teaching me the game. Whenever we watch (…), whenever we play, I have something to learn from him.” In addition to his father, Marial continues to draw motivation from his brother, Shayok, who accepted a scholarship to play D-1 ball at Bradley and recently transferred to play at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Growing up together in the Walkley-Russell neighborhood in Ottawa, the two brothers both attended St. Patrick’s and still continue to push each other today. When asked point-blank about the influence his family has played in his development, Marial didn’t mince words, “they made my game.”
In 2012, his last season at St. Patrick’s, Marial averaged 23.8 points per game and it did not take long for Head Coach Matt Koeslag to realize that there was not much more that he could teach his budding star. Koeslag picked up the phone and called Head Coach Joe Mantegna at Blair Academy in New Jersey. In what can only be described as an act of “selfless coaching,” Koeslag asked Mantegna to take the best player St. Patrick’s had seen in the past decade. Definitely not something most coaches, at least those in the business of winning high-school championships, do.
Blair is located in Blairstown, Jersey – a six hour drive from Ottawa down the I-81. While the opportunity to stay close to home was definitely a draw, the Capital native also saw the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Blair alumni in the NBA, players like Royal Ivey, Charlie Villanueva and Luol Deng who, like Shayok, is of Sudanese descent. Transferring to Blair was an adjustment, both in terms of the increased responsibility on and off the court and the adjustment to the quicker, more physical style of play in the United States. Despite the adjustment, in his first season, Marial averaged a respectable 13.5 points per game.
Coach Mantegna knows the type of player that is in Shayok. Talented and hardworking, the guard’s speed in getting to his spots off the dribble, and his ability to create open looks for his teammates has changed the dynamics of what his team can do. But it’s his versatility, according to Mantegna, that really gives him the chance to be a special player, “he’s a super-versatile player. He’s a guy who can probably play four positions at the college level…He’s a wing who…can probably play a fourth guard (…) because he’s long enough or tough enough to guard bigger guys if a team decided to go small.”
Both player and coach acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. The two spent much of last year and the offseason emphasizing more on consistent shooting (tossing up at least 1000 shots a week) and trying to incorporate a 3-point shot into his already potent offensive game, a weapon which Mantegna claims is the “key” to Marial’s NBA aspirations.
The future is definitely bright for Ottawa’s Marial Shayok. Already on the national radar following an outstanding performance for Team Canada at the 2012 World Championship in Lithuania (12ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.4apg, 1.3spg) Marial hopes to continue to don the Red and White in the future. He has also already committed to Buzz Williams and Marquette for the fall of 2014, following in the footsteps of Jahenns Manigat (Creighton), ACC Rookie of the Year, Olivier Hanlan (Boston College) and his own brother Shayok Shayok. “Super Marial” is poised for big things in his future, but as he enters his senior year at Blair, the 6’6 star only has one thing on his mind: “Win State. Our goal is to win state.”
Editor’s Note: Marial Shayok left Marquette and has committed to the Virginia Cavaliers.