Monday, May 29, 2017

Uno en Uno With: Avery LaBarbera, Canisius Commit

ZS: You chose Canisius over a number of programs throughout the MAAC and really throughout the eastern seabord. What were the crucial factors, Avery, which helped you at arrive at this monumental decision?

AL: The coaching staff at Canisius is really what stuck out the most to me, especially in comparison to any other school which recruited me. People like Coach Terry Zeh, and Coach Megan Shoniker and the rest of their staff are very hard to find. In this “recruiting world”, it was not exactly easy to find coaches who care about you as a person first and foremost.

They showed they cared about me off the court as much as they did on the court. The staff at Canisius really exemplified that for me. I talk to Coach Shoniker every day. Our relationship is the strongest out of any other coaches.

I feel as if I can trust her with my life. In addition to the coaching staff, the MAAC conference really stuck out to me during this process. There is the opportunity to play close to home. There’s the level of competition, one which is comfortable to me. My comfort level at Canisius is great when you take into account their style of play and the freedom the players have on the court.

 ZS:   Shoniker authored a memorable career as a high-scoring guard in her heyday (2,216 career points at Greece Arcadia). The true, devout high school hoops junkies out there should recall Shoniker ascending New York State’s scoring mountaintops and etching a lasting legacy.

Similar to yourself, Shoniker was a point guard who could operate offense and also take scoring matters into her own hands. How much did it help having a coach who thrived at both the high school and collegiate level (Rhode Island) and additionally played professionally, in active pursuit of you throughout the recruitment process? How would you describe the relationship?

 AL:  I can’t say enough about my relationship with Coach Shoniker. We have a bond that is truly unbreakable. She is my go-to for everything - basketball or non-basketball related. From the first time we spoke on the phone two years ago, I knew our friendship was going to be something special and sustainable through time.

It was extremely important to have Shoniker by my side throughout this recruiting process, especially considering she went through it herself. We have so many things in common (off the court and on the court) that it was easy for her to relate to me and help me through it. Having someone like Shoniker guide you through the process and then eventually become your future coach is truly indescribable.

She has been a winner since her high school years and that is something we both want to achieve at Canisius. I found a coach who has the same goals as me and the same determination to win at any given time. Words can’t even describe how thankful I am for her and how excited I am to play for her. With Coach Shoniker, it's a real relationship that will stand the test of time. We are so tight it's not even funny. She has my best interest in heart and she makes it so easy to want to play for her and want to give it my all for her. You just don't see people as genuine, caring, and compassionate as her. She's the real thing and she really made this decision and process easier for me and I love her for that.

 ZS:  What made not only this hoops program, but the academic component and the campus life and location the right destination for you? How do you see yourself growing and evolving at Canisius?

AB: The academic component at the next level is an aspect extremely important to me. Fortunately for me, Canisius has a strong Sports Administration program that I would love to be involved in. The way I envision things, it is right up my alley. Considering Buffalo is a populated city filled with sports teams and fans, I envision myself interning with one of the sports teams in Buffalo.

In terms of the location, it is a little further than I wanted. My relationship with the coaching staff, however, helped me envision myself being extremely comfortable with being far away from home. It may be a little difficult for me at first because I am used to such a great support system from my family, but I strongly believe that my support system at Canisius will be almost equally as strong. A positive aspect about the MAAC is that they’re a conference that plays very close to my house. My family will be able to see all of my away games—Iona, Marist, Fairfield, Manhattan and so on.

ZS:  Which aspects of Canisius' basketball program run parallel to your style of play? Which role do you envision for yourself, given the style of basketball that is employed there and the niche they have for guards?

 AL: Canisius plays a style that fits me perfectly. They run a motion, similar to the Golden State Warriors. After studying their motion and relating it to GSW, their style really intrigued me. It enables me to play freely, shoot the three and go off continuous ball screens.

For me personally, that entails whatever the coaches need me to do. I believe I will be an impact player for the Griffs and lead them to a winning season and a championship. I will come to Canisius as a hard-working leader who comes to compete day in and day out.

 ZS: Describe your campus visit. What stood out? What really clicked with you? Which aspects did you consider, leading you to the realization that this was the best possible future route for you?

 AL: I went on my official visit last weekend with my Mom and I truly had the best weekend of my life. Something that really stood out was how the coaches will truly treat me once I get to Canisius. It made me feel so safe and comfortable with my future coaches. As I stepped into the Koessler Athletic Center (KAC), I got a an indescribable as I was picturing myself battling on that court with my future teammates.

 High School, AAU and college teammates are those you will never forget so finding the right ones is extremely important. On my visit, I spent about an hour with the girls in the locker room. I felt like I already knew them for two  years. It just clicked. They welcomed me with open-arms, seemed extremely interested in getting to know me and they made me feel important, as if I was a piece they were missing.

Leaving my official visit at Canisius, I 100% knew that it was the place for me.

 ZS: It was almost four years ago now, but your AAU coach Nick Volchok said you could one day be making this decision. You hadn't played a single varsity game yet at the time. It was the summer heading into your freshman year at Harrison and Coach Volchok saw this potential in you.

He said you had the skill-set and gifts to eventually become a Division-I player and go to college for free. What has been key to making basketball a lifestyle and fitness a livelihood to get to this point in your life? Who do you owe a bit of this success to?

 AL: I can’t say enough about Coach Nick. This man has taught me so many things in life and has been there by my side through the whole recruiting process. Coach was someone who never doubted me, had the most confidence in me and always pushed me to be my greatest.

I will never forget all the extra workouts we shared and all the pep-talks because those are the little things that have put me in the position I am in today. He’s like family to me and I will never forget about the memories we’ve shared together. I’m so thankful for him and I can’t thank him enough.

ZS: Now realizing your potential as a heavily recruited Division-I athlete en route to the next chapter of your career, who do you owe a bit of this success to?

 AL:  Someone who played a pivotal role in this journey is my high school coach, Louis Kail. Although Kail is my basketball coach, he played a different role than most high school coaches. He was more of a life-coach to me and someone I could go to for anything. He is one of the main reasons why I work so hard because he doesn’t cut me any slack and makes practice hell for me so he could prepare me for college.
I owe a bit of this success to my family, 100%. I have a support system from my family members that is extremely rare and I am so fortunate to have it.

Even though I’m going to 6.5 hours away from home, I am almost certain that my family members will make the trip up to support me. The bond will still be tight. I don't think it mattered how far I would go, it's a great support system and it will not diminished. It's a blessing to have them in my corner.

My mom, who is also my best friend, has been by my side supporting me since the CYO games. She never lost faith in me and let me pursue the game that I love. She is my rock, and she is the reason why I work so hard and why I am so successful. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for my family.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

TCA Yearbook Page 2 -Milan Stakic

It seemed very much like yesterday. That’s the caliber of uproarious, hyped up response Milan Stakic’s massive two-handed dunk triggered during a home loss against ISA-Naples.

The Big European, up until this point, had grown more and more proficient in the post while applying and refining back-to-the bucket moves.

Once rough around the edges, a thick dose of confidence and swagger now hovered over the 7-foot-1 Bosnian’s game. Since the beginning, he had worked to shed the tag of soft and out of shape.

 It took a long way to fend off this negative assessment of his game. Stakic simultaneously eliminated any risks capable of hampering his Division-I market.

And so Stakic sustained his hunger, eliminated the risks and finely tuned his body before rectifying a notable skill-set.
There was maniacal triple sessions in the weight room. Devoted to workaday cardio regimen with considerably more mileage and sprint work than anyone else in Conrad Academy, Stakic ran himself into the ground to get lighter on his feet.

There were individual workouts with Brad Traina, who ran him through a number of catch-and-stick drills molded a tactical rebounder within him. The big Bosnian developed a mental moxie and sneaky killer instinct, eager to unveil an emphatic double-fisted sledgehammer on any defender standing between him and the basket. Simply put, he caught a body at the opportune time. There was more to come.

And then... it happened.
Stakic’s monumental dunk not only left few fans seated in Conrad’s gym. It was the defining moment that altered his grit as an interior scorer. From that point on, Stakic rode the momentum wave of that one dunk.

At age 17, Stakic played in the prestigious Canaries Basketball Academy. He learned Spanish, assimilated to a new culture, and provided a significant post presence for a team containing seven players exceeding the height of 6-foot-6.

"He has had an early start on the traveling and city-to-city journey ride of a basketball career," said Nikola Cicic, who has played an integral role in pushing the development of Stakic.

"Most kids his age don't have the maturity he has or the sense of awareness you get from being on your own. Milan has had to be very self-reliant and responsible for himself, more so than a lot of other kids in his age group."

Big, soft hands and a skill-set that's rare for guys his size renders Stakic appealing at the next level. Yet it is an increase in speed and vertical ability that continues to ready him for the next level. Working diligently under Brad Traina, the former UCF sharpshooter (he is seventh all time with 156 career 3-pointers) and 12-year professional over the waters, a steady evolution remains.

 "Areas in which Milan continues to improve are his shooting ability with both hands and his feel around the basket," said Traina , who has been instrumental in both funneling talent to TCA and cultivating a skill-set in a guard-heavy lineup.

 "He's a good decision maker and a force around the basket to finish offensively. He's become both more adept and more aggressive rebounding the ball and protecting the rim. He will continue to improve his vertical leap by at least four inches before leaving our program. We envision him evolving as a threat on both sides of the ball. All of this will mold him into a huge pick up for any Division-I program, including many high-major programs."

Stakic also has a fight on his hands in practice.

Everyday, he must go against Austin Wiley, a 6-foot-10 Auburn commit and Spain Park (AL) transfer. He also has to ply his trade against a blossoming 7-footer in Ari Boya, a sophomore shot-blocking presence via Cameroon, Africa.

Tapping into the international market has helped build a roster with nine foreign players, including Florida and Louisville target Luguentz Dort (Canada), a 6-foot-3 guard. Also on the roster is Mel Esso, a 6-foot-7 wing out of France.

Stakic said he is still looking to cut weight. Understanding the breakneck speed of the SIAA has given him a better feel of what his role needs to be.

TCA Yearbook Page 1 --Austin Wiley Class of '16

When Austin Wiley arrived at the doorstep in late August, it’s fair to say the high expectations, hype, and hearsay followed.
 At just 17 years old—and maturity beyond his years as many would soon notice—Wiley was fresh off an MVP performance during the prestigious Elite 24 game.

Wiley turned in an efficient account of himself, scoring 22 points and pulling down 12 boards with the game’s lone double-double.

Laced with the silent killer instincts few are capable of, the towering and skilled Wiley soon inherited some ownership of this first-year program.

That’s how head coach Shaun Wiseman wanted it to be. That’s how his teammates, who fed off his monstrous presence, anticipated it.
 Of course, developing a rapport with heady point guard David Sloan and bullish, bounce-heavy combo guard LuGuentz Dort helped the team established a much-needed identity and inside-outside game.

Oddly enough, Wiley was a minimal factor in the prep team's first-ever and SIAA-opening 70-62 win over eventual SIAA champion Oldsmar Christian.

Rather than feeding the post, TCA was buoyed by consistent scoring from Dort (who, at the time, held offers from Florida, Louisville, Missouri, Oklahoma, and a variety of other programs) and pivotal shots from David Sloan during the second half.

The hot hand of lesser-known, unheralded 3-point sniper Malcolm Farrington proved to be the difference maker. TCA nearly buckled and crumbled over a pulsating Oldsmar run, one which saw Conrad whittle a 16-point lead down to seven. With the pressure ratcheted up a few notches, a rattled Wiseman called for timeout.

The ensuing play unfolded as Farrington emerged from the corner, came off a screen and fired in a contested 3-pointer. The shot wasn’t a stake through Oldsmar’s heart, though it sure was necessary.

"Coach always instills confidence in me and always tells me to be ready at all times so it just sticks in my head," said Farrington, who shot a game-best 5-of-7 from downtown.

"An open shot is a good shot for any shooter. I was feeling it so I had no hesitation at all. As soon as the ball touched my hands I just looked at the rim. I had enough space so I just pulled it."

Wiley soon found his niche as a massive, rim-protecting big was a steady supply of post moves. Following a 27-point performance during a loss to Deandre Ayton and Hillcrest Prep in the Bahamas, Wiley stamped his imprint during a wild two games at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge.
 The athletic 6-foot-10 C, who thrives in the rim-to-rim game, scored 42 points and tore down 25 rebounds in back to back wins over Independence (NC) and Bishop Sullivan (Va.).

While Luguentz Dort (23 points) turned in several extravagant dunks tailor cut for the poster, Wiley was equally as perilous in the up-tempo, above-the-rim assault.

Wiley’s deft interior moves and ability to finish with contact while effortlessly blocking shots rendered him a beast-amongst-boys.

Fame and Fanfare found Wiley quick.
The Alabama-bred big was often asked to take photos considerably smaller fans


ZS: How was your trip to Auburn and which aspects of the school had the most appeal to you?

AW: My trip was great. I had fun. The coaching staff helped me make my decision. I am cool with all of them, especially coach (Bruce) Pearl and coach (Chuck) Person. Coach Person is my cousin and I've known him my whole life.

My family ties, the tradition, and the opportunity to get the basketball program where it needs to be at helped me choose Auburn. I want to start a new legacy. They were recruiting me since I was in ninth grade, when BP got hired.

If it wasn't about basketball, I would still go to Auburn. I just love the campus and love the people.

ZS: How do you describe the recruiting class of 2017 at Auburn?

AW: We are a solid class. We all bring different aspects with our games. I feel like we should be special.

Davion Mitchell and Chuma, I got to hang out with them this weekend. Davion's got quickness and ability in the pick and roll and just his ball handling is crazy. His bounce is impressive. I can't wait to get started with him.

Chuma, he brings toughness and attacking. He's going to have a lot of mismatches at the 3 and the 4 position and he's going to help me a lot.

 He's going to help by stretching the floor and helping me rebound the ball.

ZS: What do you hope to accomplish this year at The Conrad Academy (FL)?

AW: I want to get better in the court and in the classroom, work on my body, get in top-shelf shape, and just mature as a human being. 

What I like about Coach Wiseman's system is he likes to speed it up and I like to play at a fast pace. So I just think that will help me evolve my game.

I like the fact that I'm going to be playing against top-level competition. From what I've heard, the SIAA is serious and I'll be challenged every night. Also getting my body right and working with my man coach Brad (Traina) has helped. Coach Brad is an absolute machine in there. He's played the game at the professional level and he's still in the right shape and can give us the right ingredients on how to be successful working on our game or any little thing that will push us to be better the next day.

It was real tough to say goodbye to Spain Park HS (AL) because I grew up in the Birmingham area and I was born and raised there. So, it was hard to say goodbye to everyone. Everyone was supportive of my decision, they wished me nothing but the best.

ZS: Who has been the most influential figure in your development as a player and your career?

AW: Both my parents. Aubrey Wiley and Vickie Orr Wiley. They've always pushed me to be the best student and the best athlete and they've given me life lessons that will help me in the long run. They've always told me to stay humble, to not judge people and to keep family first.

ZS: Any pressure, knowing your mom's legacy at Auburn and your father's career as a forward and professional overseas?

AW: No. None at all. They've done a good job of taking it off. I think I've created my own image and being my own person, staying true to myself and not trying to emulate others. I've always tried to stay on my own path.

ZS: What was your top-8 and what choices allowed you to ultimately choose Auburn over the others?

AW: Auburn, Alabama, Duke, LSU, Mississippi State, Florida, UAB, and Kansas were my top-8. I just wanted to see a program that's not where it's supposed to be ultimately get to where they want to be. I love the idea of being an underdog and surprising people.

ZS: What aspects of your game are you looking to refine and enhance during this season?

AW: My face-up game, shooting, and just getting more post moves into my arsenal. I'm going to add to what I'm already capable of.

Coach Brad Traina, he's been great with preparing me and getting my face-up game polished. 

He's helping me improve my footwork, conditioning, and helping me add new facets to my arsenal of moves and finishing ability and really working at assessing my game and making it better. 

It's great because we have another 7-footer in Aristide (Boya) who has coach Johann (Mpondo) showing him the ropes of the big man game and really helping him evolve. So I think we're going to be ready with our frontcourt this season.

ZS: What do you hope to accomplish this season, as the final chapter of your high school career?

AW: First and foremost to win a championship. That would put the cherry on top. I also want to win the league and help the program grow in here in Orlando. It's only a year, but I'd like to make the most of my time and opportunity here.


                                                            November 9, 2016


For the past several months, Austin Wiley has spent considerable time on the road. The commitment to excellence takes maturity and sacrifice.

 A hyper-competitive basketball schedule has allowed him to visit Spain, New York City, and most recently Florida.

Last month, he spent time in Colorado training with the USA basketball team.

The suddenly well-traveled Center is cognizant that he won't always have his tight-knit, Birmingham-bred family around him.

And so on Wiley's signing day today in Orlando, he spent five minutes FaceTime chatting with his mother, Vickie Orr Wiley.

It was an event Orr Wiley,  back home in Birmingham, Ala., simply did not want to miss.

Sporting a perma-smile and a blue and gray hoodie with AUBURN emblazoned on the front, Wiley inked his LOI and made it official.

"It's a blessing, I'm just glad to get it over with," said Wiley, who chose Auburn over Duke, Kansas, LSU, UAB, and a barrage of other top-shelf high-major programs.

"Not just basketball-wise, it is a great place for me overall. I really enjoyed the school. Even if I didn't play basketball, I would go there as a regular student. That's how much I think of it. I love the family environment."

Auburn represents family both figuratively and literally for Wiley.

The aforementioned Orr Wiley was a legendary basketball player at Auburn, piloting the team to numerous national title game berths. She collected two medals during her career with the United States national women's basketball team.

His father, Aubrey Wiley, played forward at Auburn. He was known as a tactical big man who embraced the physicality of the interior. This was during an era rife with bruisers, when a rougher style was green-lighted.

Wiley's cousin, Auburn alum and former NBA forward Chuck Person, is currently an assistant coach under Bruce Pearl. His other cousin, former NBA guard Wesley Person, played alongside his father during their Auburn heyday.

 Wiley was quick to note his close relationship with Bruce Pearl eventually facilitated a decision of this magnitude.

"Our recruiting class is a group of guys who have the chance to make an immediate impact," Wiley said.

"We all work hard and we all have kind of an edge to us, to where we don't take losing as an option. We're all going to bring everyone together, we should be able to make history at Auburn."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Playing For That Scholarship--Join Us

Like any first-year prep program, things unfolded here at Conrad rather rapidly. A barrage of student-athletes from all over the world arrived in Central Florida looking to expand their games, refine elements of their overall basketball package, and propel themselves through a daunting/demanding schedule that would enable them to focus on academics and basketball in a full throttle fashion. With a group from Australia and a group from France, along with a veritable “who’s who” of heavily recruited players on our national team, the gelling process steadily took place.
 Beyond all the arduous and endless weight room work under beast masquerading as a man coach Brad Traina and beyond speed and agility classes up the road from our TCA headquarters, we noticed our student-athletes were beginning to buy in.
 From open gyms, the first of which saw Louisville boss Rick Pitino and Florida assistant Dusty May in attendance, to tournaments in Panama City and Clearwater Beach, a brotherhood was born.
Conrad Academy soon had the feel of a legitimate program and considerable contender for the ever-competitive SIAA in 2017.
Boasting three 7-footers and wealth of talented, multi-layered guards, we soon developed a feel for the team concept. Tight bonds were formed. 6AM practices became a necessity. Road trips and pick-up games at nearby University of Central Florida’s outdoor facility became weekly activities for a devoted group, which seemed hell-bent on winning and prolonging their progress at the collegiate level.

There are countless memories which emanate from the 2016-17 campaign. There is Austin Wiley (who later signed with Auburn) scoring 25 points, tearing down 15 rebounds, and blocking five shots during our tournament in Charlotte.

There is Luguentz Dort, one of the nation’s most under-rated and beastly prospects in the Class of 2017, flushing an extravagant one-handed dunk during that same tournament in Charlotte. There is Dort’s 36-point performance against reputable 22 Feet Academy (S.C.) during an event in Kentucky, one which catapulted his recruiting stock to the mountaintops of the world’s unsigned recruits. There is Malcolm Farrington’s deep corner 3-pointers which fended off a tough (eventual SIAA state champion) Oldsmar team during the season-opening tournament. There is Aristide Boya dunking everything he sees, scoring 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting during a league win over Potter’s House.
Post-graduate has more than its fair share of memories. There is the Niko Oliver’s wild 28-point performance at the prestigious Montverde tournament, with the Oak Ridge product seizing the hot hand and refusing to relinquish it.
There is Thomas Fortier’s 26-point performance against Faith Baptist, when he displayed a knack for scoring the rock from all three levels—at the rim, 18-feet, and beyond the arc. Other memories that emerge is the quiet grit of 5-foot-10 guard Adam Starks, a scoring cyborg and veritable game-changer under coach Nik Cicic’s team.
Starks was a veritable one-man machine during a win against Game on the Rise, decimating the defense with deep left-handed treys and constant forays to the rim. For coach Ryan Rodriguez’ team, the idea of being the unwanted underdog has special resonance. Everyone envisioned this team would take a back seat to the elite prep team and others.
That’s not how Karn Goraya saw it.

Goraya, a bullish and well-built 6-foot-3 guard, broke open several games with deadeye shooting and timely trifectas. The Nevada native played with a chip on his shoulder, refusing to whittle under higher-ranked opponents and foes with lofty expectations and all Division-1 lineups. Goraya’s flair for the dramatic was notable against Champions Academy of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

After heating up with a pair of corner treys, Conrad came roaring back from a 19-point deficit to knot it all up. Goraya drilled the tie-breaking 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. In the extra session, the guard play of TJ Giddens and surprise, surprise—Goraya helped TCA preserve the victory. Giddens and Goraya bagged a corner and straightaway 3-pointer, respectively, to solidify a dramatic come from behind victory.
With all of these memories still fresh, we would like to maximize our coverage of the season by providing a “yearbook.” In this TCA ‘yearbook,’ we will profile each player and analyze their statistics, strengths, and future NCAA destinations. This will not only enable them to have a database in our system, it will help those unsigned recruits garner exposure and earn scholarships at the Division-1 level and beyond.

 We are going to be instrumental in helping them find the right college fit and take several of our remaining recruits into showcase games  Since this work requires a great deal of time and focus and resources such as recorders, on-the-road travel, and tournament tees, we are seeking donations of any size. Please send a donation via paypal (, Walmart to Walmart, Western Union, Google Wallet and any other source which works best for you.

Joel Ntambwe Wide Open, To Decide In December

The past weeks have been eventful for Joel Ntambwe, a versatile and unheralded 6-foot-8 guard/forward who has been on Providence’s radar from the very beginning. Ntambwe has witnessed his mid-major stock suddenly catapult to the high-major market.
 Programs such as Florida State and Tennessee and Cal have suddenly been in aggressive pursuit of the ultra-athletic and heady Ntambwe. The Class of 2018 recruit has steadily increased his overall scoring aptitude while plying his trade at the point forward position and tightening up his handle.
“I think I will know which school I’m going to and decide by the end of December (of 2017),” said Ntambwe, who is currently playing AAU with Team Loaded in North Carolina.
“The school which shows me the most interest and the school which I’m most comfortable with is going to be the one I choose. I still have a lot of the same teams recruiting me. I am waiting until after July and the live period to cut down my list. I’m wide open right now and not turning anyone away. I don’t have any visits on the schedule I’m just playing basketball.”
Ntambwe’s ability to adapt to multiple positions and guard multiple positions has rendered him an enticing threat at the next level.
“I’m going to play the three for team Loaded but they are going to have me all over the court pretty much,” Ntambwe said. I can play from the two to the four. Sometimes they will have me at the two, sometimes the three. They are just going to give me the freedom to play how I know how to play.”
Partly at his relationship with Ed Cooley and partly at Providence’s consistency in his recruitment, Ntambwe the Friars appear to be a front-runner in his recruitment. Though Ntambwe skipped out on an official visit, the Friars appear to be a serious potential suitor for the still-developing guard/forward.
 On June 3rd Ntambwe will take the SAT and look to earn eligibility as a Class of 2018 recruit.
There was originally talk of Ntambwe—who played a post-graduate schedule this year at Forrest Trail Academy in North Carolina—classifying as a 2017 recruit and making a decision as soon as he gains eligibility. His guardian, Dave Caputo, debunked that hearsay on Thursday.
“He’s going to be in the Class of 2018,” said Caputo, who rattled off Providence, Florida State, Arkansas, Tennessee, Wake Forest as programs who have been in active pursuit.
“He’s going to play another year of high school, which should help him continue to generate exposure and also keep him relevant on the high-major market. He’s got all the tools to be successful and also be a steal just because he doesn’t have the same high-ranking and publicity as guys that he’s just as skilled as or in some cases better.”
Ntambwe, who said he likely will not be returning to Forrest Trail (N.C.), has lauded Cooley in the past.

Florida State has jumped into the scene lately, trying to woo one of the nation’s most underrated young prospects as a Class of 2018 recruit. Ntambwe said Tulsa has also been a recent presence in his recruitment.
Just three years ago, Ntambwe was in Africa taping his workouts on Youtube and trying to get the maximized opportunity that comes with playing in the United States. Because he doesn’t attend a brand name school and have the same heavy exposure and fanfare as more notable highly-touted recruits, Ntambwe could be regarded as a sleeper. Through his play on the live period, he will look to change that.
“Right now I’m just in the gym close to three times a day working,” said Ntambwe. “I start at 9 a.m. with lifting. I have a trainer who pushes me through all of that. After that training, we have a shoot around drill that I’m always doing. Around 3 p.m., I go back in just to work on basic stuff and get my game better. I’m just working out on my three-point shooting and trying to get more consistent.”

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."