An intimidating force in the paint during his high school hoops career, Jon Steele (in white) takes his game to Thompson Rivers University this fall while Gabe Mannes heads to Briercrest College.

GW Graham basketball grads taking different college paths

While Jon Steele jumps directly to the U-Sports ranks Gabe Mannes will apprentice at a lower level.

Two graduating GW Graham basketball stars are making the jump to college basketball this fall.

Gabe Mannes has committed to Briercrest College in Caronport, SK. while Jon Steele will move to Kamloops to join the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack.

Mannes, one of the most electric high school guards in the province, follows in the footsteps of his older brother. Lucas Mannes graduated from GWG in 2012 and spent one-and-a-half seasons with the Clippers before moving up to the CIS (now U-Sports) level with Trinity Western U and now the U of Calgary.

“They’re a good program and they usually finish near the top of the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference),” Gabe said. “They made it to nationals a few years ago when my brother was there and the guy who is the head coach now (Gradyn Childerhose) was a teammate of Lucas’s and a really good player for them.

Caronport can be found about 21 clicks west of Moose Jaw on the Trans-Canada highway. With a population of 919 in the 2006 census, it qualifies as a ‘village.’

“I’m looking at is an opportunity to focus on basketball and studies and not have any of the other distractions,” Gabe said. “One thing I learned from Lucas and the path that he took is that you never know what’s going to happen, so make the most of each opportunity you have.

“He played very well at Briercrest and eventually got the chance to play CIS, which not very many people get to do, and I’m hoping to do the same thing.”

After an outstanding high school career that saw him lead his Grizzlies to back-to-back provincial semi-final appearances, Gabe had nibbles from U-Sports programs, including an offer to join Lucas in Calgary.

“I thought it would be better going to a place where I can play and contribute rather than red-shirting somewhere,” he said. “Lucas and I have wanted to play together and that would have been an opportunity, but I wouldn’t have actually been playing much.

“It was probably 60-40 in the end and I’m happy with what I picked.”

Compared to Caronport, Kamloops is a massive metropolis, and Steele becomes the first Grizzly male hoops grad to make the direct jump from high school to the Canada West conference. He was sold on the WolfPack after TRU head coach Scott Clark showed him around the campus.

“He took me on a tour and talked to me for about five hours about how hard the team works, not just at basketball but academically as well, and I really liked what I saw and heard,” Steele said. “I really want to get better at basketball and I thought TRU was my best option to grow as a player.”

Standing six-foot-eight, Steele was on the radar of a few college programs, including the University of the Fraser Valley. Thompson Rivers was a late entry, contacting the teenager for the first time following provincials in March.

“He (Steele) is quite a mobile kid, good frame on him with good skills and play with his back to the basket,” Clark said in a press release. “He has good athleticism, frame and skills. All of those things need to be refined but he has the potential of being a good player.

“He understands what is required to be good and he wants that. He is a high achiever academically as well. Those types of guys want to achieve whether it be on the court or the weight room. Success follows those guys.”

Towering over many opponents at the high school level, Steele’s physical advantages will be diminished against U-Sports foes.

“Scott told me it’s not going to be easy,” Steele said. “I’m going to need to put in three or fours every day just for basketball. I know I’m not as strong as the guys I’ll be facing now, and I know I’m not as skilled as them either.

“But he said there’s going to be a spot on the team for me if I’m willing to work, and I am.”

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