A sniper holds his breath, aims through his scope, and locks into his target. NBA three-point marksmen require a similar level of precision; his teammates entrust him with the license to kill from long-range. Little room for error exists when his speciality is to put a nine-inch diameter ball through a hoop running 18 inches across.

Shoot. Swish. Shoot. Swish.

It’s the sound familiar to every shooter in an empty gym. He finds serenity in the echoes of the bouncing ball and hearing the net splash as the ball rips through the mesh.

While the Toronto Raptors continue to disarm the ‘Splash Brothers’ in the NBA Finals, there is a 17 year old up North, here in Oakville, Ontario, with the NBA in his scope. His name is Okay Djamgouz, a 6’5’’, 170-pound three-point sniper who is packing his bags for his freshman Division I college season at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

He was recently selected to the Signature All-Canadian Showcase as an add-on and made a national statement, hitting four-for-six from three-point territory, finishing with 14 points in the Showcase.

“I got added on (this) game, I felt like I got snubbed at first from BioSteel and this game initially,” he said.

“Pretty much my whole life I’ve had to defy the odds and prove a lot of people wrong. Every time I get in the gym, I think about proving everybody wrong. Every time I step on the court, I go at peoples’ heads.”

But it is his relentless passion, not vanity to prove others wrong, that drives him. The self-proclaimed underdog was 9th in scoring (18.8 points) in the 2018-19 National Preparatory Association (NPA). As a Drake Bulldog, he will compete in the Missouri Valley Conference, where NBA three-point specialists like Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott played. Toronto Raptors’ very own Fred VanVleet also came out of this conference, undrafted out of Wichita State.

Djamgouz has always bet on himself. “My ultimate goal is being in the NBA, it’s always been the NBA,” he asserted. With an aspiration to play at the highest level, however, the same criticism and doubts from high school will resurface, yet again.

Djamgouz is not a high flyer, does not possess an NBA body, nor does his athleticism immediately jump out at you. But even as a December kid — who initially belonged to and ranked fifth in the Class of 2020 — he reclassified to the 2019 Class, where he ranked 15th as per North Pole Hoops. Critics still think he’s overrated.  

For Djamgouz, being younger and having some athletic limitations is precisely what greases his relentless internal motor — it is, quite possibly, his greatest asset. It drives him to be better, though he’s not as open as Chef Curry when sharing his recipe for shooting success.

“I don’t want to give away too many of my secrets,” says a guarded Djamgouz. “But I count only makes and swishes.”

At only 17 years old but turning 18 in December, he already has a pro’s approach to the game. Though temptations lurk everywhere for teenagers, he uncompromisingly ensures his body maintains a competitive edge — he wants to be as prepared as possible when he arrives in Des Moines.

Djamgouz doesn’t even snack casually. “I haven’t had chips or candy since Grade 8 or Grade 9,” he said about his Spartan diet. Since his last London Academy Basketball game in March, “I’ve been watching what I eat, what I drink…I try to cut out as much sugar as possible from what I eat,” he said.

He spent the last two years of high school playing for Coach Angelo Provenzano at London Basketball Academy. Even on family vacations, Djamgouz likes to workout early in the mornings and after a chance encounter with Provenzano in Florida, the latter joined him for his workouts, which influenced Djamgouz to transfer to London.

But some critics still believe Okay isn’t driven from within.  

In many of Djamgouz’s highlight tapes, his father Tevfik Djamgouz’ loud cheers are heard in the background. He is, undoubtedly, Okay’s greatest supporter and promoter. When Djamgouz was three and a half years old, Tevfik reached out to the Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) to help hone his son’s hoop skills. Some eyeballs may roll and others may take this the wrong way.

Djamgouz’s motor doesn’t run because his father forcefully presses the gas. His motivation doesn’t stem from the hovering presence of a Lavar Ball-esque patriarch.

“I’ve never forced Okay to get up and work. I’ve never once said that to him,” admits Tevfik. “It all comes from him and that’s what makes him successful. And I as a parent, if I can provide for him or any of my other kids when they ask me to, I gotta do what I can. As long as I’m healthy, as long as I’m around, I got to do that. That’s been my principle.”

Djamgouz’s love for training — maintaining a proper diet as well as working out when he doesn’t have to — will help in thrive in the NCAA.

“I feel so comfortable with Okay going because his drive comes from within,” said Tevfik as his eldest son leaves the nest once again. “He pushes himself. He’s the one complaining, ‘Dad, you’re tired. What you mean, you said you were tired yesterday. No, you’re gonna take me.’ He’s the one pushing me to take him to the gym…to get up at five in the morning.”

Djamgouz is only getting started. He has been putting on muscle and working on his explosiveness to prepare for Drake University. As his success continues to grow, the criticism will amplify, but he has grown accustomed to it. He is and has always been an underdog, who is dogmatically committed to earning his own success.

He is laser focused on proving himself as a Canadian sniper with a legitimate shot at the NBA.

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Photo by Fazlur Malik (Fazvisions)

Teru Ikeda

Teru Ikeda

Teru Ikeda is a Japanese-Canadian hoops writer, covering all things ball: high school, college, university, pro, and life beyond the hardwood. He is polishing his writing skills till it pays the bills.

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