Kassoum Yakwe to St. John's, Will Enroll for 2015-16 (UPDATED) | Zagsblog
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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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Saturday / June 3.
  • Kassoum Yakwe to St. John’s, Will Enroll for 2015-16 (UPDATED)

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    Screen_Shot_2015-07-01_at_1.02.10_PMSt. John’s and head coach Chris Mullin scored a huge commitment on Sunday when Kassoum Yakwe signed with the Red Storm and will enroll for the fall semester, choosing them over Oregon.

    A source close to the situation says the school hopes the 6-foot-8 Yakwe out of Our Savior New American will enroll this week, but that his eligibility for the 2015-16 season is a “work in progress.”

    Because he has graduated from high school, it remains to be seen whether or not he becomes a partial qualifier, meaning he might not play until the 2016-17 season.

    The Bamako, Mali, native averaged 10 points and four rebounds per game last season playing high school ball at Our Savior New American.

    “We are excited to welcome Kassoum to St. John’s University and our basketball program. He possesses tremendous athleticism, has good instincts and will be a defensive presence,” head coach Chris Mullin said. “Kassoum is humble and has an endearing personality which are important characteristics for team building. I look forward to working closely with him as he continues his basketball development.”

    On the AAU circuit, Yakwe was named the 2015 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 3.1 blocks and 6.3 rebounds in 15 games for the PSA Cardinals and head coach Terrance Williams. Yawke collected All-Tournament Second Team honors at the prestigious EYBL Peach Jam in July. Over five games at the Peach Jam, Yakwe nearly averaged a double-double, finishing with 9.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He shot 67.9 percent from the field and recorded 5.0 blocks per contest.

    “Both schools [Oregon and St. John’s] did a great job, but the biggest thing is I felt like I was at home at St. John’s,” Yakwe told 247Sports.com, which first reported the story. “I wanted to stay close to home. New York is home right now.”

    SNY.tv reported this week that Yakwe was down to St. John’s and Oregon and his status for this season remained in limbo.

    Yakwe enhances St. John’s 2015 recruiting class which ranked 39th in the nation according to 247Sports.com prior to his signing with the Red Storm. The new-look St. John’s roster also includes incoming freshmen Malik Ellison (Voorhees, N.J.), Federico Mussini (Reggio, Emilia, Italy), Marcus LoVett, Jr. (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Yankuba Sima (Girona, Spain), junior college transfer Darien Williams (San Francisco, Calif.), and graduate transfers Durand Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) from Pittsburgh and Ron Mvouika (Paris, France) from Missouri State. Tariq Owens (Odenton, Md.) also transferred to St. John’s after one season at Tennessee, and per NCAA transfer regulations must complete one full academic year of residency before competing for the Red Storm.

    “Coach (Steve) Lav(in) did a great job of recruiting me for three years,” Yakwe told 247Sports. “He deserves credit for helping me to learn about the school. My friend and teammate Felix Balamou has been great about helping me know what it’s like at St. John’s. I built a really good relationship with the coaching staff since April. Matt (Abdelmissah) has been the lead recruiter and he’s been recruiting me since Iowa State. Now, when he came back to New York, Matt’s been recruiting me to St. John’s. He’s one of the main reasons why I chose St. John’s, but I also liked the facilities and I wanted to stay local. Those are the main reasons.”

    St. John’s hosted Yakwe two weeks ago, taking him to Madison Square Garden and campus. He was a priority recruit for Mullin in 2016, along with 2016 Brooklyn shooting guard Shamorie Ponds, who visits Aug. 28, and 2016  junior college wing Bashir Ahmed, who visits Sept. 26.

    “Kassoum’s getting better and better each day,” Williams said at the Peach Jam. “At times he’s been overshadowed because he’s been playing behind All-Americans last year, but when he’s on the floor he’s obviously one of the best defensive players in the country. His offense is coming along. He got a good 15-foot jumper, he’s obviously athletic, and he affects the game in multiple facets. You can move him around, he’s just an all-around great player.

    “Regardless of where he goes because of his effort and energy, he’s going to be a great basketball player.”

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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.