Saturday, May 20, 2017

Evolved NC Prospect Tyson Has Plenty Options

The past year, Hunter Tyson has shed the tag of one-dimensional and evolved into an all-around scoring threat. Now at 6-foot-8, he’s developed a knack for posting up smaller defenders and capitalizing on mismatches.

Adding bulk onto a once-spindly frame while simultaneously showing strides in finishing and aggressively dunking in traffic has provided necessary balance.  

Given the consistency of his scoring and his penchant for getting hot in a hurry, you now have one of North Carolina’s top-10 prospects in the Class of 2018.

“I’ve been working a lot at getting quicker, getting quicker with my handle and also getting stronger,” said Tyson, of Piedmont (Monroe, N.C.).

“I’m still trying to get stronger and get to the rim quicker, getting the right elevation and getting higher off the floor to get the rebound. Playing for Team CP3, the key is finding other ways to get my hands on the ball. Everyone can create their own shot and everyone can score the ball. If I want more touches, I have to find other ways to score the ball. That means rebounding, getting steals and finishes, pushing the break.”

Heading into his senior season, Tyson’s blend of skill-set and academics (4.6 GPA) has turned offers from East Carolina and Elon and Appalachian State to offers from Michigan, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Davidson, and Clemson.

His father, former Union County star Jonathon Tyson, continues to hold him to a high standard off the court and on it.

“I hope he continues to develop as a person and developing leadership qualities is very important to both him and the team,” Jonathon Tyson said.
“He’s not one of the younger guys any more so he’s going to have to embrace a leadership role and work in guiding the younger guys through. He’s a really good student and I think that helps with being a leader in school and as a whole.”

While he is wide open right now, Tyson appears to be favoring Michigan and Tennessee.

“I would say I am talking to Michigan the most currently,” Tyson explained. “Coach (John) Beilein and I have a very good relationship. I will be visiting Ann Arbor next on June 30th. Clemson, Tennessee, and Wake Forest have been consistent as well. With Tennessee, I’ve been mainly talking with coach (Desmond) Oliver.”

Tyson has already visited Tennessee, taking in the Vols 59-54 win over Alabama on senior night. The Vols came roaring back from a 16-point deficit in that one, closing out the game on a wild 11-1 spurt in the final 4:30.

Possessing NBA-caliber 3-point range, Tyson’s work ethic and shooting stroke was never open to any scrutiny. It was his overall scoring acumen and utilizing his height to his advantage as a go-to option once open to question. Tyson heard his fair share of “soft shooter” taunts from the crowd.

 He’s steadily silenced his detractors by becoming more adept around the rim and developing a feel for the above the rim game.

Adjusting to a greater speed and the physical demands of being a multi-faceted big has paid dividends for Tyson.

“Getting stronger has been a great help,” he said.
“When I get in the lane I feel I can finish easier now and finish through contact.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

Project No More, Boya Earning His Niche

Since he first arrived to the United States from Cameroon, Africa, talk of Ari Boya emerging into a high-major recruit out of the Class of 2019 circulated rapidly.

Possessing the rare foot speed, agility, athleticism, and vertical explosiveness at 7-foot-1, 245 pounds, the words have suddenly proven prophetic. In a short period of time, Boya has evolved as a menacing shot-blocker with a knack for above the rim finishes, stickbacks, and sheer hustle points.

Boya entered the 2016-17 SIAA campaign as a raw project oozing of high-major upside.

In steadily improving his hands, developing a nose for the rim, and putting together a promising 25-point, 17-board effort during a wire-to-wire 100-29 pummeling of Agape Christian (FL), Boya developed the confidence and feel for the game.

Developing a post presence and providing adequate rim protection, Boya adapted to the rim-to-rim game. This was while entertaining a national schedule (which included the likes of national powers such as Prolific Prep, 2017 state champion Oldsmar Christian, Hillcrest Prep, and Wesleyan Christian) Conrad Academy in Orlando.


“I had to adjust my level of my play because in the game in the United States is fast and really good,” said Boya, who currently attends Calusa Prep in Miami.


“I wanted to be able to play here and get better competition. In Cameroon, I played in my freshman year of high school. I was always the tallest player on the floor. The basketball community is not big out there. It’s so-so. It is not like here. I watched NBA players on video, guys like Tristan Thompson and Lebron James and Anthony Davis. They showed me what the American game is all about and how much heart is in it. I also watched Youtube videos and Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon and that influenced me to come here.”


University of Central Florida, five minutes up the road from where Boya first played prep basketball, has expressed steady interest. UCF, of course, features the nation's premiere big in 7-foot-6 behemoth Tacko Fall. The tallest player in college basketball and one of the tallest people on the planet, Fall averaged 10.9 points and 9.5 boards with a robust 71 percent field goal percentage for the Knights this past season.

Texas Tech, which recently signed SIAA forward Daniel Mading, has also kept routine tabs on Boya and is showing interest. Acclimatizing to the language and the academic component was a whirlwind process for Boya, who also speaks French fluently.

He went from strictly a role player and supplementary scorer to a routine finisher of 6-foot-4 guard Luguentz Dort's alley oop passes.

 Boya's length and athleticism stood out, as he's already putting his head on the rim and dunking with force and authority. He scored 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting during a win over Potter's House (Jacksonville, FL) on Feb.7, a sign of his growing efficiency as a scoring option.

Boya said getting into the weight room and training religiously with Brad Traina helped him adjust to the rigors of national caliber competition and quick-paced game on the fly.

Traina, the former UCF sharpshooter, also nurtured Boya's development instilling a ball handling ability in the big man and cultivating a scoring skill-set within him. 

 Johann Mpondo, a bulldozing forward in his heyday at Wright State, was instrumental in helping Boya utilize a pack of post moves and protect the paint.

Boya said his ensuing focus is adding a steadily applying a 18-20 footer to his arsenal and finding innovative ways to score in traffic. He showed strides this spring, flashing a nifty reverse dunk.

Now propelling Boya's day-to-day development is Derrick De La Grana, the former bullish 5-foot-8 Florida Christianpoint guard and Miami player development pioneer.

 A molder of young talent on the court, De La Grana (son of Miami Heat assistant coach Octavio De La Grana) has been instrumental in planting the hoops seed in football-crazed Miami.

 With coaches constantly assessing his game and giving him a steady wave of work to do, Boya knows what aspects of his game to refine this summer.

When he leaves Miami, Boya said he will again play for the Indiana Elite throughout the summer. Last season, Boya’s team was paced by versatile 6-foot-6 forward Micheal Moreno.

 While Boya will be utilized primarily as a rim protector and presence on the glass, his quick development has rendered him a high-percentage option and a lob target.

 "Right now I'm just working every day and expanding my game with post moves, ball handling, driving the ball to the rim, rebounding, and being able to block shots," said Boya.

"This summer, I'll be playing for Indiana Elite with Mark Adams. We've got a lot of expectations and have a national reputation so it's going to be a great test and experience, for sure."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Scott Chooses Texas State

After a long and arduous recruiting process, Quentin Scott chose Texas State over a handful of Division-I suitors.
Scott, out of Louisiana, recently wrapped up a post-graduate season at The Conrad Academy (FL).  The 6-foot-6 guard/forward established himself as a go-to source known for a prodigious vertical and electric finishing ability.

Hailing from a basketball family, Scott averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks as a senior at Ellender High (La.). With budding interest yet not enough offers, Scott elected to go the prep route to maximize his potential.

Playing under his father, 2016 Courier All-Region Coach of the Year Cornell Scott, Scott helped guide the team to a 26-8 record and a berth in the Class 4A quarterfinal. In his post graduate year, Scott increased his strength and developed guard instincts, adjusting to the position he’ll play at the ensuing level.

 Scott’s vaunted above-the-rim game, along with his steadily improved shooting from beyond the arc, attracted programs such as Nicholls State, South Florida, Stephen F. Austin, and a barrage of others as a late-blooming recruit.

Scott transferred to Conrad mid-way through the year from TAAG Academy in Tampa. Playing everything from the three to point forward, Scott kick-started his memorable stay at Conrad with a 37-poiint outburst, en route to a thorough slaying of Three Kings Academy in the Montverde Academy tournament.

Scott authored a 31-point game during a knot-tight 68-62 win over Game on The Rise Academy in February, enforcing a diversified scoring acumen throughout.

 After playing out of position and being utilized more as a 3-4, Scott instantly acclimatized to a guard-geared role at Conrad. His arrival time could not have been more opportune, as TCA had just lost two top scorers. Head coach Brad Traina said the shift allowed Scott to rapidly evolve as the team’s focal point, a multi-faceted piece with a knack for attacking.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Kasper Christiansen, Florida International Commit

ZS: Which aspects sold you on the program at Florida International and which factors made the school an appealing choice?

KC: First off, I really like the team. Their style definitely fits me well. They are a five-out kind of team, but they also have some inside forces. I believe I can come in and play plenty of minutes right away. I absolutely love their gym and coach (Mike) Gillian really sold the whole school well. Other than basketball, the fact that it is in Miami is great. The year round summer and the campus is beautiful. The food is incredible and that’s one of the most important aspects for me.

ZS: How has your game grown since adapting to the American style of play and what adjustments have you made over the past year playing for coach (Chad) Meyers at Massanutten Military Academy (Va.)?

KC: The Americanbasketball style is a lot faster, so my game has gotten faster of course. While playing for MMA, I had to go inside more since we didn’t really have another big. I’ve developed a much better inside game in the past year. At the same time, I’ve worked at improving my shot from behind the arc.

ZS: What would you say are the best attributes of your game and how do you expect that to translate to the Conference USA level?

KC: Definitely, the fact that I can shoot it well for a 6-foot-11 guy. I really enjoy the pick-and-pop game, so that will definitely convert over to the college game.

ZS: What was key to packing on muscle and going from 190 pounds to 210 in the past season?

KC: Diet. Eating a lot and eating good the entire time. And of course, putting plenty of consistent work into the weight room. I still need to gain weight this off-season and be ready for my freshman year which I’m looking forward to.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gators, Butler In Heavy Pursuit Of Oldsmar's Weaver

Oldsmar Christian’s Elijah Weaver had an eventful junior campaign. It started with Jay Wright and Kevin Ollie stopping by the SIAA school to see the bullish 6-foot-5 lefty. During the year, Weaver shot a scalding 52 percent from the floor and averaged 18 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.5 boards.

A 37-point game during a dramatic win over the Cannon School (N.C.) put him under a national microscope. The season culminated with Weaver helping a forgotten about Oldsmar team out of obscurity and into an upset victory over The Rock (Gainesville, FL) in the state championship.

Now, Weaver is being aggressively courted by Florida, Butler, Oklahoma State, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, USC, Georgia Tech and several others. Coaches have been lining up at Oldsmar to get an accurate read on Weaver, with UCLA and USC having criss-crossed the country to meet with the five-star prospect and Oldsmar's coaching staff.

“I would say the program doing a really good job right now is Florida,” said Oldsmar Christian head coach John Bianchi.

“ I mean they are doing an excellent job staying in contact with Elijah, staying in contact with his Mom, his Dad, with everyone involved in the whole process. Butler is doing an outstanding job as well. Oklahoma State, Villanova, Illinois, they are starting to really jump in. I would say Georgia Tech is doing their thing, getting involved. The other programs on his list are working, but the ones I’ve listed—those are the ones which stand out to me.”

Weaver said there is no timetable on his decision.

"I'm wide open right now, I'll probably decide at some point next year as senior," said Weaver, who will play with Team Breakdown this spring.

"Right now, it's a lot of the same schools I speak with consistently. Florida, Georgia Tech, Butler, Villanova, USC, Illinois. Right now I'm just focused on being consistent, being a better point guard, getting my handle tighter."

Despite possessing a 6-foot-10 wingspan, displaying a variety of scoring tools, and showcasing innate ability to score off the bounce and kick in timely passes, Weaver has still been under the radar to a degree. Currently, few regard Weaver as the top point guard in the Class of 2018.

“I just think the leadership skills he has off and on the court is what separates him,” Bianchi said of Weaver. “I don’t know the point guards ranked above him personally, but I can almost guarantee Elijah works just as hard as them if not harder. You just see how he leads everyone around him. On the court the leadership is in Elijah's decision making, his knowing of when he has to score and knowing when he has to get his teammates involved and what he needs to do in order for us to be successful."

Success followed Oldsmar during the stretch run of the 2016-17 campaign, as they reeled off 12 of their last 13. A turning point, according to Bianchi, was re-evaluating the lineup and beefing up the frontcourt. This helped atone for the loss of the injured D.J. Mitchell, a high-scoring 6-foot-5 combination guard.

“When D.J. got hurt and was out for all those games, we had to switch things up,” Bianchi explained. “D.J. was our second leading scorer and a real good rebounder. We decided to try a 2-3 zone with three kids who are 6-foot-8 and above. I think at that point in the season, we all came together.”

The switch would ultimately benefit Weaver, taking some of the scoring weight off his shoulders. He was able to create more and not dominate the ball as much.

“There were some games in the beginning of the year where (Weaver) had to score 30-plus points,” Bianchi said. “The final 13 games, he didn’t always have to be our leading scorer. He’s the type of kid who can go for 14 points, eight assists, and five boards. We were balanced and it took pressure off of him.”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ntambwe To Narrow Down List

Several key changes have enabled Forest Trail Academy (N.C). guard/forward Joel Ntambwe to surge from unheralded recruit to a major priority for Providence, Wichita State, Florida State, and a handful of others.

For one, Ntambwe packed significant muscle onto a once twig-thin frame. Playing with much-needed manpower has allowed the 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward to take smaller defenders right to the post and attack the rim consistently.

Adapting to the point forward position, employing a jack of all trades mentality on the court and displaying rarified pinpoint passing ability has been equally critical in Ntambwe's development.

"The thing that helped me the most was confronting the fact that I wasn't very strong at first," said Ntambwe, who is now scoring at all three levels and leading the break.

"My trainers and several other people just pushed me in the weight room non-stop. They helped me work on my upper body strength. I was able to increase my strength and footwork and continue to work away at ball-handling and my shot."

Ntambwe was quick to cite his mid-range game as a pivotal component of his development. Creating his own shot and gaining a dependable 3-point shot has rendered the versatile Class of 2018 Ntambwe a steady scoring threat.

Providence, active in his recruitment well earlier than most, appears to be the front runner for Ntambwe's multi-layered services.

Wichita State, Florida State, Wake Forest, Tennessee, and Arkansas have also been in consistent pursuit. Cal and Kansas have each jumped in the mix, as Ntambwe explained.

"In Joel, you have a kid who is really a Lamar Odom type in that he can put the ball on the floor and create," said Dave Caputo, Ntambwe's legal guardian.

"He's a special player because he can play multiple positions. I think what coach (Ed) Cooley and other coaches who are recruiting him hard are impressed with is the way he can pass the ball and create. He's a heady player between his ears and he's shown a real confident feel for the point forward position."

In Ntambwe, his guardian's words echoed completely.

"Right now to be honest, I don't classify myself as one position," Ntambwe said. "Especially because I feel I can play it all. I can play from the one through the four. At the next level, I'm probably going to be playing the two or the three. But hey, I am comfortable bringing the ball up and directing the game at the point."

Cooley appears to have a tight bond with the steadily-rising recruit.

"Ed Cooley is one of the best coaches around and he's one of the best coaches I know," Ntambwe said.

"Coach Cooley, he's one of the best personal motivators. He cares about me off the court as much as he does on it. He wants what is best for me as a person first and as a basketball player second."

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton, who inked a new contract extension through the 2019-2020 campaign, has been an aggressive presence in Ntambwe's recruitment as of late.

"Oh yeah, Coach Ham is great people," Ntambwe said.

"FSU has really been recruiting me hard and staying on me. Right now, I am taking everything one step at a time. I am still wide open. Soon, I'll look to shorten my list and go from there."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

High Majors In Strong Pursuit Of OCP's Little

Nassir Little is no longer one of Central Florida’s best kept secrets.

 Known for prodigious vertical leaping ability and an adeptness guarding a variety of positions, the 6-foot-6 210-pound wing has witnessed his high-major stock heighten this spring.

 Little, of Orlando Christian Prep, has emerged into one of the country’s most highly sought after recruits.

“UNC called and they seemed very intrigued about Nassir,” said Brad Augustine, program director of Little’s 1Family Hoops AAU program.

“Coach Williams will be back in July to see him. Coach Calipari got a chance to see him in Dallas. Coach (Steve) Robinson, an assistant at UNC, he watched him in Dallas and Atlanta. (Cincinnati Head Coach) Mick Cronin and (Associate Head Coach) Larry Davis have repeatedly been down to Florida over the past few months to see Nassir and his family. They see Nas as a legitimate wing scorer who can defend the 1-4, similar to Kawhi Leonard.”

 Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton and (assistant coach) Lamont Evans are in steady pursuit.

Oklahoma State has an offer on the table, impressed by the versatility and 3-point shooting ability of the hard-finishing Little. Both coaches have made the trek to Orlando on multiple occasions. They've been pretty adamant about Little being an instant impact guy, as Augustine explained.

Beyond his reputation as a high-motor guy who plays both sides of the court as effectively, Little is regarded as one of the most efficient threats in the country. With innate ability to score at all three levels and take big men away from the rim, Little hovered just under the 60 percent mark in field goal percentage as a junior. 

As a sophomore, Little shot 59 percent from the field and 51 percent from beyond the arc as a 17.5 points per game scorer. 

This season, becoming more active on the glass and showcasing the ability to employ lockdown defense on multiple positions, Little has garnered national attention.

St. John’s, consistently scouring the Orlando area for talent , have been a presence in Little’s recruitment.

“St. John’s has done a tremendous job in recruiting him, coach (Chris) Mullin has been extremely active with Nassir.”

Augustine said the opportunity to play in the world's ultimate proving ground that is Madison Square Garden and in the Big East are appealing factors.

 Of course, the program is coming off a disappointing 14-19 season. SJU is eager to restore the days of when Dwight Hardy was, well…..quite simply...The Baddest Man on the Planet. 

The Johnnies certainly have the pieces to upgrade the program with Shamorie Ponds.

A slick left-handed guard, Ponds averaged 17.4 points and 3.1 assists during a monstrous and memorable freshman campaign.

Augustine rattled off Shaka Smart, Frank Martin, and Greg Marshall as other coaches who appear sold on Little’s wealth of potential.

“It definitely helps that he is a 4.3 GPA student,” Augustine said.