First-year St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin landed an important recruit Sunday afternoon, as NBCSports.com confirmed that four-star power forward Kassoum Yakwe picked the Big East program over Oregon. News of Yakwe’s commitment was first reported by Andrew Slater of 247Sports.com.
Yakwe, like four-star shooting guard Shamorie Ponds, was viewed as an important prospect for St. John’s for a variety of reasons. One, there’s the 6-foot-8 forward’s ability as a defender and rebounder that can give the Red Storm a much-needed boost in the post. Secondly, the Mali native played his high school basketball locally (Our Savior New American) and keeping local players home was an issue for the prior regime.
It should be noted, however, that Yakwe credited former St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin for getting the ball rolling on his recruitment three years ago.
“Coach (Steve) Lav(in) did a great job of recruiting me for three years. 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 (Abdelmassih) 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,” added Kassoum Yakwe.
Yakwe, who was a member of the Class of 2016, will reclassify into 2015 and if cleared (Kansas’ Cheick Diallo, who also attended OSNA, has yet to be cleared himself) will be a key player for St. John’s this season. St. John’s lone returnees in the front court, Christian Jones and Amar Alibegovic, both averaged fewer than ten minutes per game last season. They’ll be joined by newcomers Yakwe, Darien Williams and Yankuba Sima (Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens will have to sit out the 2015-16 campaign).
Provided he’s cleared to play there’s room for Yakwe to make an impact defensively as a freshman for the Red Storm, and they’ll need him to do so if they’re to be formidable in Mullin’s first season at the helm. Now with Yakwe on board, the staff can continue its work to keep Ponds (who attends Jefferson HS in Brooklyn) in the city as well.