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.
NEW YORK — While Villanova’s guards were subdued in Friday’s NIT Season Tip-Off championship loss to Tennessee, one bright spot for the Wildcats was the play of sophomore big man Mouphtaou Yarou.
After putting up 13 points and 16 rebounds in the semifinal victory over UCLA, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Yarou led all Villanova scorers with 15 points and five rebounds in the 78-68 loss to the Vols.
The native of Benin in West Africa is averaging 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for the season.
“Coach always says he want me to play hard,” Yarou said after the UCLA game.
Lacking a traditional big man in recent seasons, Villanova has become known as a guard-oriented school.
Senior point guard Corey Fisher is the undisputed leader of this team — even if he was held to just three points against Tennessee — and joins Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes to form a potent backcourt.
Yet Yarou has already proven he can alter and block shots on the defensive end.
If he can continue to develop the mid-range jumper he flashed in New York and get to the foul line (he was 7 of 9 against Tennessee), the Wildcats could potentially become a very dangerous team come March.
“He can be a force inside,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “We never have a big guy that when he gets four fouls, we’re trying to get him back in the game. We have a bunch of little guys, just keep rotating in. It’s nice to have a big guy, you want to get him back in there. He was a great presence in the paint.”
Wright couldn’t rely on Yarou during the early portion of last season. He missed seven weeks after being diagnosed with Hepatitis-B, but returned to average 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds.
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.