Anytime a 7-foot-1, 245-pound center lands at a high school program, hyper-lofty expectations tend to spread around campus quick.
As quick as word of a sparkling homecoming jungle juice pool party featuring an emcee and a DJ booth and an even a Rolling Rock keg or two.
Thus, it’s fair to say Boya’s arrival opened some eyes and helped establish a spanking new program looking to solidify the front court with necessary height and adequate rim protection.
When Aristide “Ari” Boya arrived at The Conrad Academy (FL) with a surprising feel for the game and a fleet of foot that’s rare for anyone over 240 pounds, the heightened buzz was generated.
Boya effortlessly crushed home violent, emphatic dunks with both hands. In adapting to the go-go, souped-up attack that the guard-laden SIAA conference is known to employ, Boya could go end-to-end and finish wish ease. By the end of the season, he was dang near putting his head on the rim in routine, monstrous finishes.
Still, there were visible holes in his game. In shedding the clichéd tag of “work in progress,” the stoic big needed a tweaking in several compartments of his still-evolving game.
Hand-and-eye coordination and a back to the basket game were the key areas requiring a tune-up.
“He’s gotten better at keeping up with the pace of the game,” explained Conrad assistant Johann Mpondo, the former bruising 6-foot-8 forward at Wright State who has cultivated an interior presence in Boya.
“Catching and finishing are additional areas of improvement. He needs to be relentless on the glass and at the same time control the paint with shot blocking. I think in order for him to that high-major level of player, he needs to be a physical defensive monster.”
The monster reared its head during a thorough 100-29 pummeling of Agape Christian (FL), a game in which Boya started as Austin Wiley (now at Auburn) rested.
Boya put his full capabilities on display in this less than memorable thrashing, attacking the rim and finishing amid hard contact and tearing into the frontcourt with nary a trace of hesitance. Boya banged six dunks in the first half alone, en route to an astonishing 25-point, 17-board effort.
Boya again showed flashes during a double-digit win over plenty-tough Potter’s House on Feb. 7.
Taking advantage of a thinner frontline, Boya finished with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He was on constant aerial watch, flushing home hotly-pursued guard Luguentz Dort’s lobs.
This performance was a true harbinger of what could eventually become of Boya. Remember, he has two more years to progress and to continue altering, manipulating, and changing shots of considerably smaller players.
There are two seasons for him to add on to his pack of post moves and punctuate spurts with explosive, above-the-rim finishes. He’s just getting his feet wet in the rich waters of American Prep basketball.
“He knows what’s expected of him,” Mpondo said of his beyond-his-years prospect.
“Offensively, because of his athleticism and because of the style of play that’s enforced at his level, he will need to run the floor 100 percent of the time. He’ll need to try to get rim run finishes or establish an early post up before the defense gets set.”
Boya left Cameroon for the purpose of finding a more meaningful role and better opportunities for his basketball career. Coming to sun-baked Central Florida and experiencing one of the country’s most brutal and unforgiving conferences was a step in the right direction.
The SIAA is a national conference, featuring surplus of guards and 6-foot-11 and 7-footers on nearly every team’s frontcourt.
Boya’s desire to learn the American game was witnessed from the time he stepped foot in Orlando. He began watching film of Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’ Neal, the emblem of NBA Hall of Fame centers. He also studied film on Anthony Davis, learning how to incorporate new big man moves in his growing bag of tricks.
Now at Calusa Prep in Miami, Boya has worked more on putting the ball on the deck and becoming a one-dribble, attack the rim threat. In high school, big men tend to develop later than most in becoming scoring threats.
Brad Traina, instrumental in helping Boya gain the strength, speed, and agility components necessary for the SIAA, envisions a sea of potential in the class of 2019 recruit.
“There are high-major programs out there that would take him tomorrow,” said Traina, who propelled Boya’s development by enabling him to incorporate a shallow water jumper into his arsenal.
Still, Boya has a ways to go.
He must develop more of an adeptness at blocking shots and more of an innate killer instinct to live up to the likes of DeAndre Ayton, Charles Bassey, and other highly-regarded and multi-faceted bigs.
A thorough, steadfast devotion to his footwork and getting his reaction speed up to the pace of the American game were essential ingredients in getting Boya turnt up (to borrow a phrase from the players’ current day vernacular).
The workload and blink-quick adjustment was vital, especially in preparation for a national schedule featuring top dogs such as The Rock Academy (FL), Prolific Prep (CA), 2017 Florida state champions Oldsmar Christian, 22 Feet Academy (S.C.), Potter’s House (FL), and the aforementioned Ayton’s Hillcrest (Az.) team.
“With Ari, you have an elite rim protector with a tremendous ability to run the floor,” Traina said. “He possesses explosive vertical leaping ability. He needs to continue to work on his hands and his footwork. He’s progressed a long way in the last six months. Down the road, he could potentially be a top-50 or even a Top-30 junior in the country.”