Nassir Little’s electrifying finishing ability, status as a 60-percent field goal shooter, versatility, and 7-foot-2 wingspan has rendered the Orlando Christian Prep forward a hotly-pursued recruit.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Class of 2018 forward has fielded offers from Florida (an hour from his home), Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech, and a bevy of others. South Carolina, while smack in the midst of the pressure cooker and fame tour that is the Final Four, inquired about Little that very weekend.
So why, all of a sudden, is this rapidly-rising recruit headed to St. John’s for his next visit?
“I think what has really caught Nas’ eye with St. John’s is the direct involvement with Chris,” said Brad Augustine, program director of Little’s 1Family Hoops AAU program.
“The fact that Coach Mullin has been the primary person recruiting Nas has definitely intrigued him. We’re talking about a former top-50 NBA player, a legendary New York guy, treating him like his first high level recruit. Mully’s been talking with his parents. He’s been involved as much as he can. We love that coach Mullin is different. He’s not a fluff type of coach. He will tell Nas where he sees him currently, where he needs him to be, and what his expectations are. He doesn't fake it."
Expectations are suddenly soaring in the basketball capital of the world.
For a long time now, SJU has been angling to return to the realm of basketball relevance.
With a passionate fan base and alumni group that has lived through prosperity and the dark times, several signs point to the Garden rocking once again. And we’re not talking about the dysfunctional, lackluster New York Knicks, the team constantly overwhelmed by tabloid-fueling, in-house drama (yawn).
“First and foremost, it’s Madison Square Garden we’re talking about,” Augustine said.
“It’s the mecca of basketball. It’s the famed Big East. There’s the prospect of making an immediate impact at the highest level and with the pressure heightening at any moment. Hey, that challenge might not be for everyone. But it very well may be a challenge for Nassir.”
Previously unsung and a flying (both figuratively and literally) under the radar, Little burst onto the scene following a nine-dunk performance at the Hoop Exchange fall festival. Little’s hang time, explosive finishes, feathery touch, ability to hit from downtown, and freakish finishes in the fast break game were all on full display.
A straight A student who invested more and more focus into the game, Little worked diligently with player development ace Darryl Hardin of 1Family. Hardin, who is Little’s 17U coach, nurtured Little’s development by allowing him to gain strength and explosion.
“We see coach Hardin as one of the best grassroots coaches in the country period,’ Augustine explained.
“His development with Nassir in the last few years alone is indicative of this. He’s been pushed and he’s improved immensely and his game is still growing.”
Little’s summer will include stops in Treviso, Italy. There he will compete in the prestigious Adidas Eurocamp. Little will also compete in the NBA Top 100 camp in Virginia. After that, Little will take one more unofficial.
SJU’s recent signing of prized recruit Sid Wilson was a pivotal factor in keeping Little’s interest with St. John’s.
“That was another piece to all of this, because while Sid committing to SJU was a big deal, those guys can be on the floor together at the same time without competing against one another for minutes,” Augustine explained. “They would co-exist and feed off each other, which would work. Shamorie Ponds is Shamorie Ponds. So, that’s just a no-brainer right there.”
Augustine wouldn’t divulge that SJU is a favorite or a front runner in Little’s constantly blowing up recruitment. He did, however, take note of the opportunity to play at the world’s finest arena.
“You can’t deny the stage,” he said.
Right now, Little is focused on getting to another stage. He will return to OCP as the focal point and one of the state’s richest recruits. OCP is stacking its schedule and the goal is to eventually qualify for the Dick’s Sporting Goods tournament.
“When it’s all said and done, we would hope to see Nas get nominated for that big burger game (Mcdonald’s All American),” Augustine explained.
Mullin, who has been in close contact with both of Little’s parents, has said multiple times he will be watching Little and keeping close tabs on him.