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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / November 21.
  • Kassoum Yakwe Era Set to Begin as St. John’s Visits Fordham

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    The Kassoum Yakwe Era will officially begin for St. John’s on Wednesday night when the Red Storm visit New York City rival Fordham.

    The bouncy 6-foot-9 freshman forward was cleared by the NCAA last week and can debut against the Rams.

    “He’s relentless,” graduate student Ron Mvouika said Tuesday. “He never stops in practice and he crashes every single ball. He’s pretty much impossible to box out because he crashes every single play. It’s easy to play with a guy like that; who pushes and is aggressive on both offense and defense. He also plays above the rim and he’s very explosive.”

    The Johnnies (4-2) are still without dynamic freshman point guard Marcus LoVett, named a partial qualifier by the NCAA, but the fact that they are getting Yakwe back a month before the start of the Big East portion of the schedule begins is good news.

    Fordham (4-1) should be a good test for St. John’s considering they are coming off an 87-64 victory over Manhattan in which Mandell Thomas scored 26 points and Ryan Rhoomes added 20.

    St. John’s and Fordham were both picked to finish last in their respective leagues, the Big East and the Atlantic 10.

    A Fordham win would be huge for first-year coach Jeff Neubauer’s program, and would not be a good look for St. John’s first-year man Chris Mullin.

    “They’re going to be riled up and ready to play,” Mullin said. “[Fordham] plays a trap defense. They try and get you to speed up and make turnovers. It’s up to us to be strong with the ball, handle the defense they throw at us, get good shots up and play our game.”

    “I’m trying to get the younger guys ready because Fordham will be our first true road game and it’s so difficult to win on the road in college basketball,” Mvouika said. “It’s still New York though, it’s their gym, but we are at home. We need to go there and just take care of business like it’s any other team.”

    After losing to Vanderbilt by 37 and to Indiana by 10 in Maui, St. John’s rebounded with a nice 100-93 win over Chaminade there on Nov. 25.

    “I think Maui made us better each and every day,” Mvouika said. “Maui was a neutral site, even though they had a lot of fans. It’s different when you go into somebody’s gym. They shoot on those rims every day, they have the home court advantage, they may get a couple of home court calls. The environment is going to be hostile. That’s what the younger guys need to be prepared for. That’s why it’s so difficult to win on the road.”

    Now St. John’s will get back Yakwe, who was a force on the boards and in terms of blocking shots while playing with the PSA Cardinals on the Nike EYBL circuit.

    “I love it and we are excited about it,” freshman point guard Federico Mussini said. “He’s truly a good guy and we all love him, so we are really excited for him to play. He’s an amazing athlete. On defense he blocks a lot of shots. On offense he grabs a lot of rebounds and can throw down the occasional crazy dunk. He’s also really strong and he will help our team a lot.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.