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January 17, 2013

Bossi's Mailbag: Where does Abu fit?


Fresh off a busy weekend of tournaments, Rivals.com basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi handles readers' questions.

Where's he fit?

What is your take on 2014 Abdul-Malik Abu? Is he a small forward or a power forward-hybrid? Who do you think is on the top of his list?
-- Dr. 01 (via message board)

Given that we have him ranked No. 54 in the 2014 Rivals150, I think it is easy to tell that we like Abu. He's a rugged 6-foot-7, 235-pound four man who plays with physicality, has good athleticism and doesn't give up on plays.

At this time, I do think he's more of a traditional power forward and I don't yet see him as a small or hybrid forward. He's got great length, super instincts and has proven that he can go toe-to-toe with bigger guys without giving up much.

I checked in with Tyron Boswell, who coaches Abu in the summer with New England-based Xpressions Elite, and he made it clear that Abu is currently wide open.

Maryland made an early impression on Abu when he took a visit there but he's also been to many other places, including Connecticut as well as dropping by Boston College to watch a game against Providence. Others such as Kansas, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Michigan State, Temple, Seton Hall, Rutgers and many more have either offered or expressed interest and he'll have to cut things down before he can focus in on favorites.

Young guns

Have you gotten a chance to see the young trio at Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior?
-- Wayne, the Bronx (via email)

I'm guessing that you are referring to 6-foot-7 junior Michael Nzei, 6-foot-9 sophomore Cheick Diallo and 6-foot-7 freshman Kassoum Yakwe. If that's the case, then yes I have seen them and I've been very impressed with them.

So let's take a deeper look at them from oldest to youngest.

Currently rated as a three-star prospect, Nzei is a long-limbed and athletic combo forward. He's a good transition finisher, has a nose for the ball and plays extremely hard on both ends. He's a high-level effort guy who is starting to get quality mid-major offers from Iona and Old Dominion while high majors sniff around.

Diallo is already one of a select few four-star prospects in the class of 2015 and is a monster on the glass and as shot-blocker. He's not quite the shot-blocker that current St. John's freshman and former Our Savior star Chris Obekpa is, but he's more advanced offensively at the same stage and he's already getting plenty of high major offers from places such as Arizona, Iowa State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's and Washington, with several others looking.

Yakwe is the baby of the group but he's got a grown-up game. Depending on how he grows and develops his skills, he could end up either a scoring four man or a big wing who can slash. The bottom line is that he's already pretty skilled, a high-level athlete and plays with some competitive spirit. Look for him to be a high-major target.

Pack mentality

I'm a N.C. State fan and we keep hearing about Sidy Djitte as a possibility. What can you tell us about his game and recruitment?
-- Jordan, Raleigh (via email)

As schools across the country scour the country for available big men in the class of 2013, the 6-foot-9 Djitte has seen his stock go way up. He made an appearance at last summer's NBPA Top 100 camp before being sidelined by injury, but he's been putting up big numbers of late for Fayetteville (N.C.) Northwood Temple Academy.

In addition to N.C. State recruiting him, Djitte has been on campus in Raleigh and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him go back. Many feel that the Pack could be the behind-the-scenes leader for him but they've yet to push hard for a commitment.

From a game standpoint, he's a relatively strong 6-foot-9 kid who isn't a great athlete. He plays with some physicality, does a good job of crashing the glass and while he's raw he's developing a bit of a jump hook and is improving his touch on 6-12-foot jumpers.

A three-star prospect, Djitte has also been to Coastal Carolina for an unofficial visit and will visit Old Dominion and Clemson unofficially over the next two weekends. Other programs showing interest of late include Ohio State, Houston, Wake Forest, which have all watched him play within the past week.

Big gap?

How close is the talent level between Andrew Wiggins and Noah Vonleh?
-- @hoosierbeezo (via Twitter)

It isn't as easy as saying that Wiggins is a 10 while Vonleh is an eight, or something like that. They play different positions, so it's even tougher to compare.

What we do know is that the 6-foot-7 Wiggins is a small forward who checks in at No. 1 in the class of 2013 while Vonleh is a 6-foot-8, maybe pushing 6-foot-9, four man with some face-up ability who currently ranks No. 7 in 2013. For fun, though, let's compare and contrast them.

Wiggins is the better athlete of the two, the better defender and the better finisher. Vonleh is probably a little more versatile in terms of his offensive attack and plays with a bit more strength. Both are high volume rebounders with great length who score exceptionally well around the rim.

At the end of the day, Wiggins grades out better but it really shouldn't matter to Indiana fans because Vonleh is a very good player, in a pretty good class and he's the guy going to Bloomington. Both kids are studs.

Moving Matt?

Do you see Matt Thomas moving up the rankings when you next update them?
-- @AlexBerngard (via Twitter)

I've been getting asked a lot about the Iowa State signee from Onalaska (Wisc.) lately and I suspect a lot of it has to do with him scoring 50 points in less than three quarters over the weekend.

The answer is that I don't yet know what will happen with the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter in the rankings. A 50-point game is impressive, but we see a lot of scoring outbursts from highly ranked players, and generally when somebody goes off for that many points that quick it can be fairly assumed that the competition was awful.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking anything away from him. Thomas is as good a jump-shooter as there is in the class of 2013 and he went from complete unknown to No. 58 nationally with his performance. Could he go up? Sure. But that's something that we'll take a look at once we have a chance to review film from him and others. I would say this, he certainly seems to be backing up what he accomplished over the summer as a senior.

Springing for a trip

Are you going to be in Springfield this weekend?
-- @AStaggs59 (via Twitter)

Yes, I'll be making my way to Springfield, Mo., and Springfield, Mass., over the next few days. Springfield, Mo., is home to perhaps the most heartily supported event in high school basketball, while the Springfield in New England will play host to what could be the most loaded event in high school basketball, the Hoop Hall Classic.

Played on the campus of Missouri State, the Bass Pro gets anywhere from 7,000-10,000 fans a night over the three days of the event and this year's field should bring out more crowds with the likes of Bobby Portis, Kasey Hill, Dakari Johnson, D'Angelo Russell, Derek Willis, Isaac Hamilton, Daniel Hamilton, Tyler Dorsey, Marcus Derrickson, Franklin Howard and others in attendance.

After spending Thursday at the Bass Pro, it will be on to the Hoop Hall for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The event includes seven of the nation's top 13 players in the class of 2013 -- including No. 1 Andrew Wiggins and No. 3 Jabari Parker -- and a total of 40 players ranked in either the 2013 or 2014 Rivals150 to go along with several potential four- and five-star freshmen and sophomores.



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