SportsLife 2016, Issue 2 - Page 14

Wagner Uses Strive to Become Province’s Best By Scott Taylor and Andrea Katz, Photos courtesy of FIT Communications No one will argue with the numbers. No one will say that James Wagner isn’t the best CIS basketball prospect in Manitoba. After all, with 28 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game, John Taylor’s 6-foot-7, James Wagner was named the MVP of the AAAA Provincial High School Basketball Championships. Wagner’s Pipers won that championship game 84-63 over the Garden City Fightin’ Gophers and as his high school career came to a fitting, provincial championship close, Wagner had a new goal upon which to focus. This fall, he will become a member of Kirby Schepp’s University of Manitoba Bisons. “I was in Grade 3 when I started playing basketball at KirkfieldWestwood Community Centre,” said Wagner, who started the 2015-16 season as the top ranked player in the province. “I was always a little bit taller than most of my friends but my dad is 6-foot-6 and my mom is 5-foot-9, so I knew where I get it from.” Wagner’s dad, Ralph and mom Marlene, were always supportive of Wagner’s choice of sports and watched him grow up with his friends, playing basketball at Kirkfield-Westwood. Now, however, he’ll move on to a tougher challenge at the CIS level and he still has all the support he needs. Wagner is part of the STRIVE Basketball Academy at United Therapies STRIVE on Waverley in Winnipeg. There he is coached by former University of Winnipeg Wesmen star, James Horaska whose father Rick was also a terrific player at U of W. James Horaska, who is a 6-foot-5 guard from Oak Park, played at U of W from 2006-2012 and has a degree in Kinesiology. He knows first hand, the challenge that Wagner faces at the University of Manitoba. He also believes that Wagner is wellequipped to meet that challenge. 14 / sportslife “We started STRIVE Basketball Academy with 12 players last August,” said Horaska. “They were from all different schools and we wanted them to be in the best condition, mentally and physically, when we sent them into the 2015-16 seasons. I guess you could say it worked for James (Wagner). “This year, we’ll go into our second year of the Academy and we’d like to have, ideally, 36 players – three groups of 12. We’ll start in August and get these young players ready for the new season. “I first met James (Wagner) last summer, but I ‘d already heard that he had a bright future. What I found was a really, really nice kid who has a tremendous work ethic. He wants to be the best he can be and as a result, he’s now an example to the younger kids as to what you can accomplish with hard work and dedication to the program.” Wagner loved his time at STRIVE so much, he’s still there. In fact, we caught up to him at the gym the other day. “I played JV in Grade 9 and 10 because I wanted to stay with the nucleus of guys I’d grown up with at Kirkfield-Westwood,” Wagner explained. “We decided to stay in JV as a group and in 2013-14, we won the JV provincials. The