Sunday, July 23, 2017

Iona Prep's Kouressi Growing In Size, Playmaking Ability

Length, versatility, gifted finishing ability and a propensity for weaving through defenders and getting to the rim.
These pivotal elements have levitated 6-foot-9 off guard Sal Koureissi to New York’s upper percentile of unsigned recruits this summer.

The Iona Prep senior has the dependable jumper, pull-up game, post-up tools and mindful on-court awareness to play all five positions on the court.

Gaels first-year head coach Steve Alvarado will accentuate and capitalize on these traits in Koureissi, a steadily growing prospect with 15 Division-I offers currently on the table.

Koureissi still has his work cut out for himself physically. Developing the muscle necessary to fend off ramped up interior defense is the primary challenge. 

 Sustaining this strength will be instrumental in adjusting to the Division-I level, where 7-footers are bound to be waiting for his surges to the rim.

Koureissi’s handle, game management acumen, electrifying finishes, and ability to read the defense and find seams was evident during Saturday’s Hoop Group Jam Fest at Spooky Nook (PA).

Playing alongside former Kennedy Catholic star Malachi De Sousa on Castle Athletics’ AAU team, Koureissi was the featured piece.

Blowing by defenders and finding his way to the rim, Koureissi was by far the best player on the court Saturday. Countless college coaches were meandering throughout the Nook’s sprawling 600,000 square foot complex all morning and afternoon.

“The biggest aspect in his development has been his transition to becoming a more effective perimeter player,” said Iona Prep head coach Steve Alvarado of Koureissi, who has grown dramatically from strictly a post player (with zero offers as a sophomore) to a multi-dimensional piece loaded with upside.

“It started with Sal becoming a reliable source to consistently make jump shots. He’s been able to add to his skill-set by putting the ball on the floor effectively and becoming a legitimate playmaker. We’ve been able to put him in situations off ball screens, where he’s been able to make decisions off of that. He’s shown an ability to hit guys with pocket passes, beat guys off the dribble, and once he gets stronger and more explosive he’s really going to get more out of his game at another level of success.”

Minnesota, Michigan, and Rhode Island have been vying for Koureissi’s services with the most consistency. Alvarado pinpointed those three as the notable leaders in Koureissi’s recruitment.

“In my mind, in terms of their interest, Minnesota seems to be at the forefront,” said Alvarado, citing assistant coach and longtime New York City presence Kimani Young's involvement.

“Coach (Richard) Pitino offered Sal right there on the spot. Kimani is a big believer in Sal and his abilities, what he thinks he can become and the level they can ultimately get him to. Coach (John) Beilein has seen him play this summer and he loves Sal. Rhode Island had him visit up there, and you have some of the Ivy League schools in there as well. Temple likes him a lot as well and has been impressed with his dramatically improved playmaking ability. He’s going to have some good options.”

In catering to the team’s identity, Alvarado will utilize a hastened attack.

 The speedball concept makes the most sense, especially with the ramped up development of Kouressi. The program could be adding new pieces which also mirror the quick-paced style with length and quickness.

 Playing the game at quicker pace, Alvarado said, will fully empower the team's length, size, versatility, and interchangeability.

“The one transition is we’re going to playing much more of a fast-paced game this year,” explained Kouriessi, who developed a feel for the game while playing in the same Harlem neighborhood as Texas-bound 6-foot-11 big Mo Bamba and crafty left-handed guard Anthony Nelson, among others.

“That style fits what we have with quickness and versatility. We’ve been able to adjust to that and really speed the ball up the floor and make plays quickly with that kind of approach.”

Alvarado added that this new approach pays dividends, with their style of play predicated on consistently picking at the weaknesses of opponents.
Controlling the defensive boards, out-letting the ball and employing the track meet mentality creates more open shots and enables guys to get into the  right spots, harvesting higher-scoring results.

One player who will adjust to honing his scoring aptitude more than ever is Valhalla native Bryce Wills.

The 6-foot-5 guard, who picked up an offer from Cal last month, has been working at a furious pace to open up an evolving jumper and rapidly improved beyond-the-arc game.

The lack of a consistent shot was the one critical knock on Wills' game last year. While sequestered in the gym all summer, Wills has worked maniacally at shoring up this hole.

Putting in maximized concentration on a weakness can eventually turn it into a strength, which is how Alvarado describes Wills' unexpected offensive transformation.

“What you’re going to notice in Bryce is a renewed confidence in his offensive game,” said Alvarado of Wills, who put together a 23-point first half in Iona Prep’s opening game of the Jimmy Salmons tournament.

“We’ve seen the results of that work in his game and in his mental confidence. He’s shooting at a high level from 3-point territory, he’s shooting off the dribble, he's stronger physically. I think this year he’s going to be much more aggressive in his approach to scoring and impacting the game offensively. A lot of people haven’t seen what he’s showing right now.”

In Saturday’s performance, Wills shouldered a bulk of the scoring weight. He hit multiple 3-pointers and put together multiple traditional 3-point plays.

 He also seized the quarterback reins, creating in the half-court set and engineering the fast break game. He was able to manufacture points in a hurry.

“He’s going to be very difficult to contain in exactly what it is we’re promoting—speed, length, size,” Alvarado said.

“The key is maintaining it. I think he’s primed for a very big year.”