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."