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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. 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!

Junior Future All-American Day 2 Standouts

It’s been quite the eventful day at Future All-American camp! Several players showed off their skills at Albright College Monday, and here are some who stood out during their action on the courts throughout campus:

Cole Mitchell | 2021 PF | New Market, MD

Mitchell displayed his versatility during day two both inside and out. The stretch power forward can both score in the low post and step out to knock down jump shots. Mitchell is a strong, physical presence on the inside, and made it difficult for the opposition to move him. Mitchell is one to watch for the future as he continues to get stronger and develop his post game. Already at 6’2”, he has the tools and size required to be a wing or stretch forward

Favorite Player: Kobe Bryant

Shane Dezonie | 2021 SG | Bryn Mawr, PA

Dezonie is one of the camp’s top athletes, and he showed why on day two. Getting to every loose ball, using his long frame to force turnovers, altering shots, and finishing in the crowded paint. Dezonie offers a lot for his team, including an always hustling mentality and offensive rebounding ability.

Favorite Player: Kyrie Irving

Desean Lecque | 2021 G | Teaneck, NJ

Lecque showed off some prime athleticism and impressive offensive abilities in his games Monday, knocking down a slew of jumpers from all over the court. The rising 8th grader has a high upside and has the kind of versatility that gives defenses fits.

Favorite Player: LeBron James

Issac Gonzalez | 2021 SG | Bronx, NY

This rising 8th grader proved himself to be one of the best pure scorers in the camp on day two. Whether he’s shooting from beyond the arc, the mid-range, or the paint, Gonzalez was effective at putting the ball in the basket. To go along with his scoring abilities, the 5’10” shooting guard is very selective with his shooting and was able to find open teammates on the break when defenders keyed in on him.

Favorite Player: Kyrie Irving

Denver Aglin | 2021 PG | Mt. Hebron, NJ

Aglin showed some impressive toughness, particularly during his night game, driving through physical contact and making his presence felt on both ends. At 5’10” as a rising 8th grader, he certain plays the position of an athletic big very well, expressing agility and strength on both ends of the floor.

Favorite Player: Russell Westbrook

Shane Boyarsky | 2021 SF | Northern Highlands, NJ

Boyarsky, a strong and lanky rising 8th grader, showed off a variety of skills Monday, including a tough low post presence and capable ball handling abilities. He executed the pick and roll very well on multiple plays, showing off just of many examples of his unselfish nature.

Favorite Player: Damian Lillard

(Contributors: Jeff Griffith and Anthony Dabbundo)