Making a name for himself

Austin guard Ajuda Nywesh is seeing his first significant varsity action this season, and he’s stepping up strong as the sixth man for the Packers.

Nywesh’s play is turning heads

The Packers’ sixth man is no longer in anyone’s shadow.

Before he moved into Austin’s boys basketball team’s regular varsity rotation this season, Ajuda Nywesh, a junior, always had someone to look up to.

When he played at Ellis Middle School, it was his classmates Zach Wessels, who was moved to varsity as a freshman, and Bret Lukes, who was moved to varsity as a sophomore. When he was home, it was his older sister Babaye Oja, who starred for the Packer girls basketball team and now plays on an athletic scholarship for Iowa Central Community College, a Division II NJCAA school.

Nywesh grew up playing a lot of pick up ball with Lukes and Wessels and couldn’t be happier to fill in as the spark plug off the bench for the Packers, who are ranked No. 2 in the state, this season.

Last year Nywesh watched the team advance to the state tournament, and he’d love to get his own chance to play at Williams Arena.

“(Bret, Zach and I) are playing together this year, and it’s fun,” Nywesh said. “I wish I could’ve played last year, and I want to get to state really bad this year.”

Wessels recalled Nywesh as a less-assertive player in his younger days. He said that Nywesh has worked hard over the years, and he’s given Austin a much needed boost at the guard position this season.

“He didn’t play back then like he does now,” Wessels said. “He’s become a really good player, and that’s good for us. He’s (at our level). This summer he showed us he can play and he’s getting better every day. He’ll be better next week.”

Austin head coach Kris Fadness first heard of Nywesh when he was at Ellis Middle School. He knew Nywesh had talent, but wasn’t sure if the undersized guard would grow into a player who could compete at the varsity level.

“Back then he was just a little peanut. You could see he had good, natural skills but he was just so small, and we didn’t know if he’d progress and develop,” Fadness said.

Nywesh played point guard on the JV team last year and did a solid job of running the offense. This season, he’s learning how to play off the ball as a shooting guard, and his jump shot is starting to improve.

“He lives in the gym,” Fadness said. “He’s at every open gym, and he’s gone to all of the camps. He’s turned himself into a nice player.”

While Nywesh, who is averaging 7.3 points per game for Austin (6-0 overall), is making big strides of his own, he’s still not sure he can catch his sister. Oja has started all 12 games at Iowa Central (9-3 overall) and she’s averaging 7.8 points, 4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

Nywesh said he’s been talking to Oja three or four times per week as they track each other’s play.

“She’s like a second mother pretty much,” he said. “She tells me to get it done, and she motivates me. I wouldn’t say it’s like the Reggie Miller and his sister thing so much; but she’ll always see if I can top her, and she gets me most of the time.”

If Nywesh keeps progressing at the rate he has been improving, his big sister may be trying to catch him.

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