Bigger Than Ball Vol. 4: Souleymane Koureissi

Known as the mecca of basketball, New York City is home to a large percentage of the world’s top youth basketball talent.  In a one block radius in Harlem you’ll find one future NBA lottery pick in Mohammed Bamba, and at least two other high level Division I prospects (Jalen Carey & Anthony Nelson).  6’9” wing Souleymane Koureissi grew up in these same houses, but took a much different road to success than that of his peers.  

Souleymane, or Sal as his friends call him, was the definition of a late bloomer.  Two years ago Koureissi was three inches shorter, less skilled, and playing the Center position for his High School-Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY.  Sal was forced to watch his friends be courted by college coaches and spoiled by shoe companies, while he struggled to make a name for himself in the basketball world.  His AAU team, Castle Athletics, was not a shoe sponsored team at the time, and he was playing in a limited role for his high school.  Koureissi had no scholarship offers.  

Both of Sal’s parents immigrated to United States from the African country of Mali in search of a better life for their children and Sal seems to have adopted the same attitude of personal advancement as his parents  He was very vocal about witnessing the success of others and aspiring to have a better life than he’s had.  Growing up and seeing his peers achievements inspired Koureissi to be better–to want more.  Sal had an impressive summer on the Adidas Circuit in 2017, proving his name belongs on the short list of elite basketball players.  He now holds more than a dozen scholarship offers, including one from St. Louis University.  He is an example to younger basketball players around NYC who have yet to receive their break, that hard work makes anything achievable.  We sat down for a brief Q & A with Souleymane Koureissi, the Most Outstanding Prospect of Hoop Group Elite Camp.

 

 

We saw you play a few years ago at the gotham league when you were relatively unknown.  You’re obviously a completely different player now..so what’s the motivating factor behind you wanting to take your game to the next level?  

 

Wanting to change my family’s lives and going to school for free…hopefully making the pros some day. I want my family to have a different lifestyle.  But, honestly it’s just fun for me.  I love to play so…

 

Over the last couple of years, your mindset on the court has grown to be more determined. What drives you? Why do you play?

 

I don’t have really have a set thing to think about — but I would say I play because my older brother played it before me – he was good and he always used to beat me.  So I was just always determined to beat him.  So, I play it because I’m determined to be better than him.  

 

What made you choose to go to Iona Prep to play high school basketball?

 

Honestly? I didn’t really have a lot of options at the time.  I was going to go to a school in Washington Heights – a public school called WHEELS, and then last minute I played for an AAU team – Castle Athletics, and my coach helped me get in there.

 

How has it been for you playing there?

 

They actually recently just got a new coach, he coached the JV originally.  He’s tough, he’s gonna make us run a lot, but it will be good.  

 

Do you have any teammates who are going through the same recruiting process as you?

 

Yeah its funny, me and my teammate Josh were both unknown – now we have a competition to see who can pick up the most offers.  I think I’m up two or three right now.  

 

Who’s the best player you’ve played against at hoop group camp so far?

 

Probably Adrian Nelson.  I didn’t know who he was at first – he was strong and athletic, and it was an early morning game so it was tough.

 

Your sophomore year of high school, you had no college scholarship offers.  How has your opinion of recruiting and selecting a school changed from then to now?

 

Then I just wanted to get an offer bad.  I was seeing everyone else getting offered and I just wanted one bad.  I needed one.  But, now that I have plenty, I’m looking at the schools actually, and looking into the academic and athletic aspect and where I can fit in.  So there’s a lot more thinking that goes into it.  

 

What are you looking for in recruiting? What do you expect out of the coaches and university?

 

Definitely a good academic school first – because basketball always stops and I want to be able to get a job after college.  After that, I want to go to a school where I can play and where I’m comfortable with the coaches and basketball side of it – just a good fit.  

 

How do your parents feel about you getting scholarship offers?

 

Honestly, they’re just excited that they don’t have to pay.  I was probably going to college regardless..they’re actually proud of my grades.  This year I ended up with an 86 average. I put in a lot more work in the classroom this year.  When I try hard, usually I get good grades so-   

 

What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?

 

When I’m not playing I’m usually just hanging out with my girlfriend – chillin with my brothers, my friends – a lot of stuff.  I play a lot of 2k…I’m the best in my house though.  I’m a Cavs fan but I usually play with Toronto, but as long as I know who the player is I get buckets.  Like the Nets..they’re from brooklyn and I can’t name half the players on their roster.  

 

Do you have any siblings or family that lives with you?

So there are five people in my house other than me and my parents.  There are two sets of twins – my brother and sister are older than me, they’re twins.  Then there’s my younger brother – he’s 16.  Then there are twins under him, and they’re 9.

 

Where is your family from?

 

My family is from Mali in West Africa.  We all speak mandingo.  I always get jokes…you know the movie, I never watched it – it was some movie where the guy is like “I’m the captain now”.  [laughing] I hate that.  

 

New York City is known for its basketball talent.  How does the talent level in your area compare to others? Do the better players ever play together?

 

We have the most talented basketball block in the country.  Jalen Carey actually lives there, Mohammed Bamba lives across the street, Anthony Nelson’s also from that block – so there’s a lot of talent.  We do something called midnight madness every once in awhile.  At like 12 o’clock at night everybody just comes out to the court and plays basketball.  It’s cool.  

 

What do you think the difference is between you and somebody who is ranked in the top 50?

 

Honestly I think it’s athleticism.  I think if I was able to take my strength and athleticism to the next level I would be right there.  I think skill wise I’m there already.  

 

Favorite Rapper?

 

Right now? It’s Jay kritch.  Listen to him.  He’s from my area.  He’s gonna blow up, remember the name.  

 

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

 

Probably my dad.  He’s a hard working guy – seeing him wake up every morning and go to work.  He drives a truck – so he wakes up at 4 am everyday and comes in at like 6 – he’s a hard working guy – seeing him go to work everyday motivates me.  

 

How was it playing on the Adidas circuit?

 

We didn’t play on it last year, so this was our team’s first year – just the amount of coaches that we’re there – the competition level was great all around.  It really helped me explode with my recruiting – I played great so that helped…I remember we had a game versus Exum Elite.  They had Emmanuel Akot I think his name was, who’s committed to Arizona and some 7’2” kid. They had a good team.  We ended up losing, but it was a good game for me.  

 

You grew up in an area in Harlem, the Foster Buildings, that had so much basketball talent. Growing up with these guys, seeing them grow and seeing yourself grow, what sets you apart from everyone else who’s not in your position?

 

I think I was kind of a late bloomer.  As far as them, they’ve always been pretty good, but for me I just started getting offers so yeah – but it’s been really competitive.

 

What advice would you give to someone else who’s also a late bloomer and is in the same position you were in a couple years ago; undiscovered, with no college offers?

 

Just to keep working.  You can’t hide talent – so if you keep working and keep putting in work day in and day out you’re bound to get seen.  Trust the process.  

 

You have had a huge jump in your game over the last couple years and have had to work extremely hard to take your game to the next level.   How do you plan on taking your game up a notch again when you reach college, playing against better competition?

 

I’m going to do the same thing that got me here. Keep working.   Getting in the gym as much as I can, putting up shots as much as I can, and hopefully I can continue to improve.  

 

-Thomas Hayden

Undiscovered Vol. 3: Elite Session 1

The 2017 Hoop Group Elite camps are shaping up to have some of the most talented crops of
players we’ve seen in recent years. Kids are coming into camp with legit interest from high/mid
major Division One programs and are bound to upgrade that interest into tangible scholarship
offers.
Some guys are different though. Some guys have been patiently waiting. With not as much
college interest as deserved, they have been preparing for the moment when they get a chance
to perform in front of the coaches that need to see them. These players will wait no longer. In
the shadows until now, these Undiscovered players will impress when they get a chance to
perform in front of the coaches that need to see them.
Elite Session 1 will feature many, here is a glimpse at just a few as they move from
undiscovered to on your radar.

John Kelly – Fairfield Prep (CT)

John Kelly is a player all coaches are looking for. A lanky 6’7 that can score on all three levels
 and can guard multiple positions on the defensive end with his length and lateral
movement. It’s rare to see John making poor decisions with the ball in his hands as his
basketball IQ is extremely high. Look for John to really show out at camp this week

Luke Hicks – Cushing Academy (MA)

Luke Hicks is a well-built, 6’5 swingman that can light it up from anywhere on the floor. As lethal
as they come when shooting the ball, you can not leave him open on the perimeter. Going to do
a prep year at Cushing Academy in the winter, Hicks is a name that coaches will gladly put on
their list.

Emmanuel Umoffia – Score Academy (FL)

A legit 7’2, Emmanuel Umoffia is a force down low. Protecting the rim at a high level with a
developing post game on the offensive end, high major schools are starting to take notice. After
a dominating spring performance, he has the chance to carry over that momentum into a HUGE
summer.

Maurice Commander – Curie Metro (IL)

Maurice Commander’s last name isn’t a coincidence. When he is on the floor, he commands the
flow of the offense and ultimately the flow of the game. A true point guard with an extremely
smooth lefty stroke can make shots at a high rate off the catch and off the dribble. Not only can
he put the ball in the hoop, but he does a great job getting his teammates involved. With only a
couple of Division One offers on the table right now, Maurice is a player every high academic
program needs to take a look at.

Beau Smith – Trinity Pawling (NY)

Beau Smith is a 6’6, athletic combo guard that can really guard on the perimeter and get up and
down the floor.A capable shot maker too, he is a threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
Schools will be all over Beau after getting a glimpse of what he can do on the court at Elite 1
this week.

Adrian Nelson –  Pickerington Central (OH)

Adrian Nelson is a dark horse of 2017’s Elite 1 session. With a few low major offers on the table,
Nelson will catch the eye of everyone in the gym this week with his high flying dunks in traffic.
Check back soon for the next edition of Undiscovered!

Undiscovered Vol. 2: Elite Session 1

The 2017 Hoop Group Elite camps are shaping up to have some of the most talented crops of
players we’ve seen in recent years. Kids are coming into camp with legit interest from high/mid
major Division One programs and are bound to upgrade that interest into tangible scholarship
offers.
Some guys are different though. Some guys have been patiently waiting. With not as much
college interest as deserved, they have been preparing for the moment when they get a chance
to perform in front of the coaches that need to see them. These players will wait no longer. In
the shadows until now, these Undiscovered players will impress when they get a chance to
perform in front of the coaches that need to see them.
Elite Session 1 will feature many, here is a glimpse at just a few as they move from
undiscovered to on your radar.

Nick Timberlake – Kimball Union (NH)

Nick Timberlake is a must see for Division One coaches at camp this summer. One of the more
athletic, bouncy combo guards the camp will have to offer, Nick can not only jump with the best
of them but also put the ball in the hoop. He’s a potential mismatch nightmare every time he
laces up his sneaks and has a chance to become a household name in the next few weeks.

Brandon McGlynn – Dallastown (PA)

Brandon McGlynn has been one of the more under recruited guards in the area. A quick first
step poses a threat on the perimeter and all he needs is an inch of space for a catch-and-shoot
three. His skill set translates to the next level and college coaches are going to find that out in
the next few weeks. Injured in the spring, Brandon could be a steal waiting to happen at Elite 1.

Ronnie Silva – Bradford Christian Academy (MA)

Though only standing at 5’9, time and time again Ronnie Silva has outplayed bigger opponents
in big games. He is quicker than quick and can sink shots as soon as he crosses half court,
making him a prospect that college coaches need to pay attention to. This past spring was just
the start for Ronnie and this summer he will be as good as they come at the point guard
position.

Jacob Iwowo – Brooks School (MA)

6’4” with long arms is something all college coaches love to hear. Jacob Iwowo is athletic, plays
insanely hard, and makes an impact every time he’s on the floor. He can play above the rim,
score and defend. College coaches looking for a slashing wing with a high motor will be excited
to see Iwowo play at camp. Offers will come, sooner rather than later.

Michael Koch – Bergen Catholic (NJ)

Michael Koch is a perfect mix of skill and athleticism wrapped up into strong tall frame. Along
with being able to score the ball at a high level, he has been working hard on his decision
making and facilitating abilities with hopes of becoming a pure point guard. After a very good
spring, he has heard from many Division Two schools and is just starting to catch the eye of
Division One coaches. Whatever team Koch lands on at game will be a must watch for
scholarship schools.

Ryan Moffat – Hempfield (PA)

Ryan Moffat is the poster boy for Hoop Group: Undiscovered. A legit 6’5 with long arms, Ryan is
a skilled athlete who can really shoot it. To go with his range, he can play above the rim and
has a tough pull-up game. Undiscovered right now, but those days will be over after Elite camps
in the coming weeks.
Check back soon for more Undiscovered Prospects coming to Elite Session 1!

Undiscovered Vol. 1: From Unknown to Recruited

With the game of basketball constantly evolving and progressing, we are starting to see the talent pool of high school basketball vastly deepen. Consistently playing above the rim, sinking NBA range threes, and no-look pocket passes are a few of the skill sets we are getting accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. So many players are good now a days. Some of them are really good. But skill level and potential don’t mean much unless you are seen.

A lot of college level players stay under the radar throughout their careers. It may be because of a certain location, not playing on one of the popular AAU circuits, or a delayed growth spurt; some players don’t end up getting the exposure they need to get to the next level.

Hoop Group Elite camps offer the chance for players to cancel out all of the factors above and get the opportunity to show what they can do in front of the people that need to see. Hoop Group has had many players come to camp with little or no interest and leave with college interest and scholarship offers. The following are a few that have come through in the past few years.

 

  • Gabe Stefanini

Gabe Stefanini came to all three elite sessions in the summer of 2016 holding only one offer as he started the live period. After his successful summer playing in camp, he had a long list of sixteen Division One offers! He eventually narrowed his choices to Santa Clara, Princeton, St. Bonaventure, and Columbia before committing to play at Columbia University in the fall.

  • Keve Aluma

Keve Aluma came in a relative unknown in the summer of 2016. After playing in Elite 1, he made an impression on over ten Division One schools. One of those ten, Wofford College was the school that Keve ended up committing to. He will be playing in the black and gold this season and hopes to continue on Wofford’s success in the Southern Conference.

  • Josip Vrankic

Coming from Canada, Josip didn’t have much interest from schools in the US before coming to the Elite 1 session. After the week, it was an entirely different story. Josip blew up at camp and drew offers from over ten Division One programs. He decided to take his talents west as he will enroll at Santa Clara University of the WCC.

  • Sandro Mamukelashvili

Sandro Mamukelashvili first game in the United States as at Hoop Group Elite Session 1. At the beginning of that session, he held zero D1 offers.  After the week, he was offered scholarships from five high major schools and will be suiting up for Seton Hall University next season.

  • Devin Jensen

Devin Jensen brought his sharp shooting abilities to Elite Session 1 and Team Camp in the summer of 2016. There he was seen by Coach Joey Gallo of Merrimack College. Over the five days Coach Gallo began recruiting Devin who he ended up committing to the Warriors on a full scholarship. Jensen will be a name to watch in the NE-10 these next four years.

  • Matt Faw

Matt Faw held just one Division 1 offer coming into the Academic 2 session at the end of July. After the week, he not only led his team to the league’s championship game, but also picked up offers from five Ivy/Patriot League schools. Matt eventually committed to play for the Crusaders of Holy Cross and will be playing for them this upcoming winter.

  • Michael Myers

Michael Myers injury last March caused him to miss the entire spring season. With the chance of a derailed recruitment, Michael decided to come to Elite camp; he had zero interest at the time from schools at the next level. Through his time at camp, he had the chance to catch the eye of every high academic school on the east coast. Michael eventually found a home at Williams College in of the NESCAC and will be an integral piece of the Ephs as they look to build upon an already historic tradition.

 

College Coaches: Stay tuned to the Hoop Group Undiscovered series as we try to predict who this year’s hidden gems are!

A Trip Out East Pays Dividends for the All For Sports Program

Kevin Samuels
The road to the 2016 NCAA Final Four ended in Houston this season, so it was fitting that one of the early teams drawing attention at the Hoop Group Spring JamFest in Manheim, PA was a team from the Space City, the 17U All 4 Sports Dream Team.

“I have known about (Hoop Group) elite camps and tournaments and I know what a great product Hoop Group puts on,” said All 4 Sports head coach and director Orin Bailey. “Based on that reputation, coming here was a no-brainer.”

One of two All 4 Sports players who is already benefitting from Bailey’s decision to come east to start of the 2016 AAU season is 2017 Kevin Samuels (pictured above).

Samuels emerged on the scene in July of 2015 at the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas and Bailey confirmed at that time that he had received scholarship offers from Kansas State and Houston. Since then the list of schools expressing interest has grown to include Baylor, Nebraska, Texas A&M and UCLA to name a few. After the opening night of the Spring JamFest you can now add Arkansas, Connecticut and Washington to that list.

Samuels showcased the ability to play strong defense and at times play bigger, if that is possible, than you would think his 6-foot-10 body could, and a propensity for playing well coming off screens.

“That’s another thing that I really have liked so far from this tournament, the direct feedback from coaches,” Bailey said. “April is when colleges find guys and when staffs begin to prioritize who they want. Coming to this event helps to give our kids the maximum exposure that comes from not only playing tournaments in the west or Texas but now on the east coast.”

Of course while having a tremendous upside because of his size and ability to alter a game in the paint, Samuels, is still progressing and he hopes to use this AAU season to fine tune his game. “I need to develop a more consistent jumper and I plan on doing that throughout the season and by going to camps over the summer.”

Jock HughesWhile Samuels represents the present success of All 4 Sports, a program which has produced  20-plus Division I basketball players during its 10 years, the future may very well depend on the continued growth of Jock Hughes III (pictured left), who will turn 16 on April 17.

The 6-foot-3 guard, has been playing well in Texas, having already garnered attention from Houston and Texas, but has now put himself on the radar of other Division I schools thanks to his ability to shoot from all areas of the floor and his play with the basketball.

“He (Hughes) has done a lot of nice things with the ball from what I have seen,” said a top Division I assistant.

But upon hearing that the sophomore from Yates (Houston, TX) High School displayed a poise off the court that shows he realizes there is still a lot of work to do.

“That’s nice but I know I still need to work on my ball-handling, especially if I am going to play point guard. I still have a long way to go,” said Hughes, who said this is really his first experience travelling outside of Texas to play, “I just want to enjoy this experience, have fun with my teammates and I know the attention from schools will come.”