Georgetown Recruiting, Oregon State, Pittsburgh Recruiting, Providence Recruiting, Rice Recruiting, Rutgers Recruiting, Seton Hall Recruiting, Syracuse Recruiting, Villanova Recruiting, West Virginia Recruiting
FUTURE BIG EAST PLAYERS PARTICIPATE IN 2011 CAPITAL CLASSIC
By Ron Bailey
Last weekend’s Capital Classic was the 38th time that event has been held, making it one of the oldest and most revered high school senior all star games in the land. An incredible player list has taken part, including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and a host of other future (at the time) stars. There are sure to be some standouts in this year’s class as well.
Of course the BIG EAST is represented by Capital Classic players with the following players participating this time around: Trevor Cooney (Syracuse), Myles Mack (Rutgers), Jabarie Hinds (West Virginia), Greg Whittington (Georgetown), Achraf Yacoubou (Villanova), Tyrone Johnson (Villanova), Malcolm Gilbert (Pittsburgh) and a guy that could very well end up in the league, Kelvin Amayo. They are discussed below.
First off, the Villanova pair played well, as Johnson dropped 17 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Yacoubou, called ‘Ashe’ by teammates and friends contributed 10 points and nine rebounds. Jay Wright’s program has stressed backcourt players, and seems well situated with these two, both of whom can score, rebound and defend, doing so with stature – Johnson is 6’3” and Ashe stands 6’5”.
“We’re big. And for us to be big is a better advantage for us- to be bigger and stronger” plainly stated Johnson when asked about this comparative advantage the duo holds. “Playing in the BIG EAST is all about being physical, tough and strong, so I think we fit the BIG EAST style of play and Villanova.”
Johnson is a point guard, while Yacoubou is more of a shooting guard, one that has a bruising playing style. He sees himself as “a good (ball) handler”, but nevertheless needs “to work on that even more, to be more of a point guard.”
Did former ‘Nova point guard and fellow Bronx, NY native Corey Fisher help get Ashe to Villanova? “A little bit” conceded the student athlete that enjoys math and may consider majoring in marketing. Yacoubou went on to indicate Fisher is considered a great player in the Bronx, but “Kemba (Walker, former UCONN standout) is the man”.
One future Syracuse player, Trevor Cooney, was instrumental in recruiting, before he even enrolled on campus, helping lure classmate Rakeem Christmas to Jim Boeheim’s program. A mix of their personal relationship and Christmas believing he could develop at the school informed Rakeem’s choice.
In Cap Classic action, Cooney, who stands around 6’3”, put in 12 points and six rebounds, while generally attacking from the wing. At Syracuse he plans on playing “two guard” but hopes “to develop my skills and become more of a combo guard at Syracuse”. (see link HERE for interview, where he expounds on the Christmas relationship and Rakeem’s development).
One guy that has already made great strides in playing his collegiate position is future Rutgers point guard, Myles Mack. A diminutive 5’9”, Mack was once a two guard, but over the last two years has embraced the lead guard position, finding teammates while still being able to score. His Cap Classic statline was 16 points, two rebounds and three assists, numbers generated by attacking the tin in both half and full court situations.
“Yes I’m totally a point guard at this point” is how he acknowledged his migration. Mack’s smaller size doesn’t daunt him, answering whether playing bigger players was daunting “I’m not really intimidated. Just play my game, get bigger and take it from there”. (Access the link HERE, where Mack discusses basketball in Paterson, NJ and the state, pressure playing for Rutgers and at that school’s RAC).
Jabarie Hinds is not as far along in his movement from shooting guard to point guard as Mack is, but may be more ready to impact the league immediately; the 6’1” player dropped 19 points, five rebounds and two assists in Cap Classic play, showing a nice handle and shooting ability, along with physical prowess to challenge bigger players at the cup, all of which helped him win MVP. Going forward, driving to pass may open up his game.
Hinds on his skill set: “I think I’m a good defender. I play hard. I get my teammates involved on the offensive end and sometimes I can score. I think I’m an overall good player”.
He’s another in a long line of players from Mt. Vernon, NY to hit the national scene, a fact Hinds embraces. “First off Mt. Vernon basketball, a whole bunch of great players come out of there; the McCray brothers, I can go on” offered Hinds. “You know we got some people now playing like Mike Colburn and Jonathan Mitchell, about to graduate Rutgers. You’ve got Kevin Jones down at West Virginia (who has since declared for the NBA draft). We’ve got a whole bunch of ballers out there.”
Pitt pickup Malcolm Gilbert may not hail from Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon, as he’s a Philly area guy, but he still brings much to the table: Standing 6’11” and pretty strong, Gilbert combines that size with quickness and good feet. Ten points and eight rebounds were tallied by him.
Going forward, the thoughtful Gilbert understands he must continue getting stronger, for which he’s “in a weightlifting program right now” and will report to Pittsburgh in early summer. He also indicated “I have to get my drop step better. Just (make) quick decisive moves”, as well as work on going over his right shoulder for jump hooks.
Though the future BIG EAST players in this year’s Cap Classic showed skills, none are under the impression that the league will be a piece of cake.
“I’m just going to keep on working hard, working on everything” said Georgetown signee Greg Whittington (six points, one rebound), a player that at 6’9” has deep range, can pass and pat, but must get stronger. “The BIG EAST is no joke”.
His sentiments were echoed by his Hoya classmate and fellow forward, Mikael Hopkins (six points, three rebounds), who noted “I have a lot to work on, and I’m not going to stop doing so. The competition is only going to get better.” Hopkins, at 6’8”, must continue working on putting the ball on the deck, while also extending his shooting range and like Hopkins, hitting the weights.
“The BIG EAST is a real good conference. A lot of people come from there and go to the NBA, or overseas or get their degrees” shared Kelvin Amayo, an unsigned, rough and tumble guard from Newark, NJ, likely headed the league, as he said “It’ll be good to play in the BIG EAST”. Amayo, who claimed offers from “Rutgers, Seton Hall, Providence and Oregon State”, indicated he’s fully qualified and will soon decided his school. He visited Rice just before the Easter holiday as well.
“It’s going to be a real tough battle. Everybody is good and plays hard” opined Hinds on what to expect in the B-EAST. “It’s the best conference in the country.”
Cooney might have said it best, summing: “I think it’s the best conference in all of college basketball. And every night is going to be tough; there are so many tough teams and coaches and good players that every night is going to be a challenge, and a new test really.”