Jaguar pivots from star captain and student to team mentor in three seasons
Jason Appiah-Ampofo is a real mensch.
That’s the term coach Beth Spigelman used to describe the standout student and captain of A.Y. Jackson’s senior boys basketball team.
“To me that just sums up Jason,” she said. “He’s a really good person — concerned about people. Somebody you can count on.”
Apparently, Spigelman isn’t the only one who thinks so.
With the role of captain taken to heart, the point guard has taken the next step and mentored his young teammates this season.
“They’ve seen how I’ve managed to keep myself away from anything that was negative and put it into my schooling,” he said. “I tell them, ‘If you need help come to me.’
“They have to take it one year at a time and they can go places, too.”
But there was some concern over whether there was to be any Jaguars for the 2010 A.Y. Jackson athlete of the year to mentor at all.
“When (former coach Noam Sargon) left, I wasn’t quite sure I would be coming back to a school without a basketball team,” Appiah-Ampofo said.
In an effort to ensure Jags cagers would take the court, he spoke with teacher Spigelman, and community coach Terence Phillips became the head coach.
The community is what nurtured Appiah-Ampofo into the leader he is today. And he’s candid as to why basketball has played such an important role while growing up in the Leslie and Finch area.
“It’s a way to keep me away from stuff that I shouldn’t be exposed to at a young age,” he said. “We spent most of our days on the court just playing and staying away from trouble.”
It’s proof positive that community programs like the ones in Appiah-Ampofo’s North York neighbourhood lead to better things.
In high school, his athleticism only blossomed.
His former coach Noam Sargon had enough confidence to make him Jaguar team captain. That vote of confidence changed everything.
“Basically when a coach makes you the captain in grade 11 it forces you to take on leadership roles and it forces you to take on a bigger role in-game as well,” Appiah-Ampofo said. “So on the court I’m more of a floor general.
“I’m not always the one who might score the most.”
Now he’s looking to the next stage: university. Business management programs are top of mind, and playing basketball is dependent on what school he attends.
“Really if the coach shows interest, I’ll go to Guelph,” he said. “For being a Ryerson Ram, that’s more of me trying out for the team, which is obviously harder.”
As for his love of playing the game, his philosophy is about leading by example and bringing the team together.
“I like having the game in my hands, but being able to pass the ball to other people and put them into positions where they can score,” he said. “I guess the game is in all of our hands then.”