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Rice Memorial guard’s hard work has paid off after a long road

Rice Memorial guard’s hard work has paid off after a long road
Michel Ndayishimiye helped lead the Green Knights to a VPA Division 1 State Championship in the 2019-20 season. (Courtesy: Rice Memorial High School/Facebook)

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (BVM) — Michel Ndayishimiye’s success on the basketball court hasn’t always come easy. But the junior guard’s mindset to get better has helped him along the way.

“He just always wants to get better, he’s just one of those types of kids,” Rice Memorial head boys basketball coach Paul Pecor said. “[He] found the game at a young age and he’d be the first to tell you, I couldn’t walk and chew gum, I couldn’t figure this out. He was like the only one in his family to play basketball, so that drive just kind of kept going and he wanted to be the best he possibly could be.”

Ndayishimiye first started playing basketball in the fourth grade and it didn’t come naturally to him right away. He was born in Tanzania, but originates from Burundi, a country in East Africa. He came over to America when he was 6 years old, as his family looked to avoid wars that had broken out within the country.

Now, the 5-foot-10 guard is an elite scorer for Rice Memorial averaging 26.9 points, 4.9 assists, and 6.9 rebounds. Ndayishimiye has become a major piece in the success of the Green Knights, helping lead them to a 21-2 season this year. The hard work is starting to pay off for him, as Ndayishimiye’s time in the gym has been crucial down the stretch in games.

“He’s got that ability to find that extra gear,” Pecor said. “This kid finds another gear where he knows he’s got to take over the game, or a situation, and it could be late in the fourth quarter, and he finds it. His endurance is through the roof, it’s like he just doesn’t get tired. Everybody basically face-guards or they have a guy on him the entire time so you’re thinking, he’s going to wear down, he’s going to wear down and he just doesn’t.”

The Green Knights impressive 2019-20 season led them to a state championship game against St. Johnsbury. Ndayishimiye didn’t shy away from the moment as his baskets down the stretch aided a second half turn around. With his 20 points, Ndayishimiye helped Rice Memorial capture their first state championship since 2015, a 53-51 win against the Hilltoppers.

“Everybody in the gym knew the last four minutes, Michel was going to be taking our shots,” Pecor said. “Sometimes with Michel I have to really tell him to do that because he’s a team first kind of guy, he wants everybody involved. If I have another kid hit a three and it’s a big three, he’s the first guy going to that kid. He almost loves it more when another [teammate] hits a big shot. That’s the thing that makes him so great as well, his ability to have other guys step up.”

With a state title under his belt, Ndayishimiye’s high school accomplishments are beginning to rack up and his competitive nature will keep him striving for more in the future.

“He’s not arrogant and he’s not cocky, he’s not that kid,” Pecor said. “He’s the kid that steps on the floor, and [says] you gotta play with me, let’s go, I’m going to try and beat you and compete, all the time. He wants to beat every single player he plays against, it doesn’t matter if it’s one-on-one or fooling around in the locker playing a stupid game, he wants to always win, it’s literally what he does. It’s that mindset.”

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