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.
Canadian Ray Kasongo Hoping Move Will Help Visibility
By CHAZZ GRIFFITH
PIKEVILLE, KY. — Canadian talent Ray Kasongo is on the move and he hopes his game — and his recruiting profile — will benefit as a result.
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward plans to play the 2013-2014 high school basketball season at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, WI.
Kasongo — part of a new wave of Canadian talent playing South of the border — has played the past two seasons in the Appalachians of Eastern Kentucky. In 2011-2012, he played at East Ridge High School (Lick Creek, KY), and this past year, he was just 30 miles down the road at district rival Pikeville (KY) High School.
Kasongo has already drawn interest from UCLA, Kentucky, Arizona, USC, N.C. State, California, Stanford,DePaul, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Wright State.
Even with the current offers he holds, the big man admits he still has plenty of work to do.
“I definitely need to work on my endurance and my motor,” he told SNY.tv. “I want to get to the point to where my presence can’t be ignored because that will only open up my teammates.”
That sentiment was echoed by Kasongo’s current coach at Pikeville High School, coach Bart Williams.
“Ray just needs to buckle down, he’s now realizing that he can’t just rely on his freakish athleticism and big body to get to the level he wants to get to,” Williams said. “He’s realizing the work that people who are at his talent level put in to reach their dreams of playing D-1 basketball, but athletically, the sky is the limit for this kid.”
He added: “Ray runs the floor extremely well for a kid his size, good rebounder and so strong…he would be very hard to handle at the small forward or power forward, but I do think he does have some work to put in to become a good 3 or 4 at the next level”.
St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy assistant coach Bryan Clayton would like to see similar improvement.
“Wow,” he said in reference to Kasongo’s enormous upside and natural athleticism. “Honestly, Ray Kasongo is just a physical specimen,” Clayton said, adding “we expect him to continue to have that athletic edge over guys. Our goal is to prepare him the best we can, we have a spot for him definitely”.
Kasongo admits that the pressure of delivering every night and the new environment affected him when he got to Eastern Kentucky, just over two years ago.
“The fans and student sections would chant ‘U-S-A’ at me and things like that; it bothered me at first,” he said. “But now I’m fine with it, all it does it motivate me to play harder” he said.
“One thing that affected me that I didn’t expect was the fans’ pure love and passion toward even high school basketball in Kentucky and the United States in general. I didn’t see that coming”.
But Kasongo did improve this past season, averaging a double-double with Pikeville of 16 points and just over 10 rebounds per game, along with 5.5 blocks.
“Another addition to my game would be my quick-jump ability,” he said. “We have put time into our weight-training trying to address that, and I think people could really tell this past season in my shot-blocking improvement. Before, I would tend to just use my size, but now I’m going after shots, looking to change every single shot even close to the paint”.
Kasongo says he tries to model his game after a mix of Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron James.
“To be honest, I try not to compare myself to anybody else, I’m trying to be my own player, have my own game,” he said.
“But I do try to model my game around a mix of Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron.”
He says he’s working on his versatility at the moment, especially with Grassroots Canada AAU, coached by Ro Russell.
“I’m working to be more of a versatile defender, to not only be able to defend guys bigger than myself, but defend smaller guys, too”, he said.
What comes next for Ray Kasongo? We’ll have to wait on that. But Kasongo has been visualizing this part of his life for some time now.
“I have the plan in my head,” he said. “Now it’s just time to execute.”
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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.