St. John’s Basketball signs 7-foot-1 Mohamed Keita

The St. John’s men’s basketball program announced the signing of incoming freshman Mohamed Keita, a 7-foot-1 center out of NBA Academy Africa and The Winchendon School.

“Mohamed is an elite defensive prospect with great size and versatility,” said Head Coach Mike Anderson. “He’s also a very coachable young man who also has a tremendous offensive upside and an unrelenting motor. We think he’ll fit in nicely with the rest of our team and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the St. John’s Basketball family.”

Keita saw an uptick in his recruitment following a dominant defensive performance during the April live period with the New York Jayhawks, a local AAU program that produced both Rafael Pinzon and Andre Curbelo.

Prior to his noteworthy series of showings in the states, Keita also impressed at the NBA’s Basketball Africa League this spring. NBA Academy is a year-round elite basketball development program that provides top high school-age athletes from outside the United States with a holistic approach to player development and a predictable pathway to maximize potential. Playing with S.L.A.C. (Guinea), he averaged 5.0 points on 71.4 percent shooting to go along with 4.3 rebounds per contest. In his final appearance against AS Sale (Morocco) on March 14, Keita posted a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double in just 19 minutes of action.

Keita also has experience playing internationally with Guinea, averaging 5.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in five games at the 2020 FIBA U18 African Championship.

Keita spent the past season at The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass., averaging 6.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game in the AA Division of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC).

Striving for success on the court and in the classroom

Martin Luther School Senior reaches 1,000 points, reflects on success during his 5-years as a student-athlete

Adam Kirouani, a senior from Astoria, Queens, netted his 1,000th point this season. As captain of the Martin Luther Varsity Basketball team, the 5’7 point guard led the Cougars to a successful season; finishing above .500 and making their 7th playoff appearance in a row. The team eventually fell to western rivals, Avenues, but not before Kirouani reached the 1,000 point mark in his high-school career.

“Honored and grateful,” were two words Kirouani used to describe what reaching the milestone means to him. “To know that my hard work is recognized amongst other high-achieving student-athletes that graduated from Martin Luther is an honor, and I am grateful for the opportunity that the Boys and Girls Club gave me to attend this school that I love,” Kirouani said.

Kirouani is referring to the Student-Athlete Sponsorship that the Variety Boys and Girls Club granted him in 2016. The sponsorship fund, established by Peter Vallone Sr. decades ago, was meant to help high potential Variety Boys & Girls Club Members (Club Kids) who were under-performing at their current school, find a school where they would excel academically and athletically. Between 2016 and 2022, 15 Club Kids have been sponsored to attend Martin Luther School.

Kirouani was one of the 15 selected by former Head Varsity Basketball Coach, John Sanchez, together with Variety Boys & Girls Club Athletic Director and CM3 AAU Basketball Organizer, Charles Melone.

“Although he was always the smallest player on the court, his voice was always the loudest,” John Sanchez said. “His confidence, grit, and strong voice indicated that he would be a good leader and a team player,” Sanchez added.

“Besides his skill on the court, his positive attitude and strong work ethic have always been contagious to those around him,” Charles Melone, a mentor and coach of Kirouani’s for the last several years, said.

Kirouani was the only eighth-grader selected, and in his first year at Martin Luther, stepped into a big role on the JV team, led by Coach Jon Kablack.

Kablack was assistant coach for one year in 2016 before becoming JV coach in 2017. He coached Kirouani throughout his entire five-year high school basketball career.

“He’s a special kid,” Coach Kablack said when asked to describe Kirouani on and off the court. “He deploys kind candor when communicating, leading to feelings of respect and admiration from his teammates,” Kablack added.

To his teachers, Kirouani was a bright light around school; always smiling and engaging with others. Through his hard work and commitment to seeking extra help with subjects he struggled with, Kirouani was able to maintain a 3.0 average during his time at Martin Luther.

“It’s been a true pleasure watching him mature from middle school to high school,” said Assistant Principal, Ann Boyle. “The growth he was able to demonstrate, both in the classroom and on the court, has been impressive,” Boyle added.

Kirouani is eyeing a few D2 and D3 basketball schools, but is undecided as to where he would most like to attend college. “Knowing that Martin Luther and The Variety Boys and Girls Club are in my corner means the world to me,” Kirouani said. “I couldn’t have dreamt of a better high school experience, and I am thankful to God, my family, friends, and of course MLS & The Club for making my high school career an unforgettable one,” Kirouani added.

New York, New York: A Final Four For The Ages

By: John Jastremski

So I’ve known for the better part of months that for Final Four Weekend, I was going to be in Las Vegas for a buddy’s bachelor party.

Unbelievable timing, unbelievable weather, but would it end up being a picturesque Final Four?

Aside from years where my alma mater Syracuse was a part of the festivities, I can’t think of a year where I’ve been more stoked for Final 4 Weekend.

The host city New Orleans will be treated to a weekend of powerhouses.

The fact that the undercard features Villanova and Kansas with two Hall Of Fame coaches patrolling the sidelines in Bill Self and Jay Wright is mind boggling.

The main event is the nightcap. For the first time ever, Duke and North Carolina will face off in the NCAA Tournament.

That first win or go home just happens to be in the National Semi Final.

The best rivalry in College Basketball combined with the magnitude of the Final Four sets the scene for an incredible environment.

However, there’s another extra wrinkle in play.

The Coach K Farewell Tour

About a month ago, Coach K’s final home game was spoiled by North Carolina in a game that really changed the entire landscape of the Tar Heels season.

Duke and Coach K had to deal with the embarrassment of losing the Cameron Indoor Finale and was the butt of all jokes throughout social media.

Make no mistake, come Saturday. All of the pressure in the world is on Duke.

UNC has had a fantastic season. They were an 8 seed, they played their way into the Tournament and parlayed that into a Final 4.

They spoiled Coach K’s final home game, could you imagine if the Tar Heels sent him into retirement with a loss in the Final 4?

After Duke’s semi-final win in the ACC Tournament, freshman phenom Paolo Banchero was asked if he had a preference for his next opponent in the ACC Tournament Championship.

Banchero was defiant and said North Carolina without hesitation.

Well, Paolo is getting his wish except he’s getting his wish in a Final Four game.

The young Dukies have been the most impressive team in this tournament.

They have come of age and have executed brilliantly down the stretch in both the Round of 32 against Michigan State and in the Sweet 16 against Texas Tech.

It’s time for redemption or Retirement for Coach K.

That storyline alone doesn’t get any sweeter.

Is it Saturday night yet???

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday & Thursday plus my picks on The Ringer Gambling Show every Tuesday & Friday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also see me weeknights at 11 PM on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Terriers still looking for first win

The St. Francis men’s basketball team can’t catch a break.
The Terriers blew nine-point lead with ten minutes to go against St. John’s in Queens, eventually falling 76-70 to the Johnnies.
“They came in like it was a neighborhood game, and you saw what happens when teams come in and play like they have nothing to lose,” said St. John’s coach Mike Anderson following the upset scare. “I always say never look at the name on the jerseys, because each game has its own characteristics.”
On Saturday, St. Francis wrapped up its participation in the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday, falling in their final game of the mid-season tournament, 73-67, to North Carolina A&T to go to 0-6 on the season.
The Terriers were down by as many as 15 in the second half but powered back with a late 10-2 run to cut the A&T lead to just two possessions. They would ultimately be handed their second loss of the weekend.
NC A&T looked to be in the driver’s seat for the majority of the second half, but St. Francis had a different perspective. Down 58-43 late, the Terriers would tack on ten straight points on a 16-5 run. A basket by Michael Cubbage with 5:33 to go would cut the Aggie lead to 69-65.
A&T’s Marcus Watson would answer with a quick three-point basket and effectively put the game out of contention for the Terriers.
The transfer duo of Patrick Emilien (14 points) and Michael Cubbage (11 points) led St. Francis in scoring again on Saturday. Tedrick Wilcox Jr. turned in his third consecutive double-digit performance, scoring 10 points, adding six rebounds and an assist.
Brooklyn native, and freshman guard, Nick Folk made his collegiate debut on Saturday. Folk was perfect at the free-throw line for four points, adding an assist, a block, and a steal in 16 minutes off the bench.
The Terriers were scheduled to make a trip to the Bronx to face Fordham, looking for their first win of the young season. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on SNY.

St. John’s improves to 3-1 on the year

St. John’s topped Fairleigh Dickinson, 87-74, on Saturday night inside Carnesecca Arena to improve to 3-1 on the season.
All five Red Storm starters recorded double figures, including team-high 17-point performances from both Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander. Champagnie also grabbed 10 boards for his first double-double this season and 12th of his career.
“There are things we can work on both defensively and offensively,” Champagnie said. “We did have some positives along with the negatives. We are going to come back as a group to work on what we need to work on.”
Stef Smith added 14 points and went 8-for-10 from the line, Montez Mathis chipped in 13 points going 6-for-10 from the field, and Joel Soriano finished with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting for the Red Storm.
The win marked the 13th straight non-conference victory at Carnesecca Arena for a St. John’s squad that was playing without injured freshman guard Rafael Pinzon and graduate student Tareq Coburn, who missed the contest with a non-COVID illness.
“We were missing two of our guys that were key from our bench,” said coach Mike Anderson. “I always think our strength is going to be our bench. We didn’t have those guys, and we didn’t have a great shooting night.
St. John’s led by as many as 22 points and kept a double-digit advantage for the majority of its wire-to-wire victory. The Johnnies outscored Fairleigh Dickinson (0-3), 46-24, in the paint and converted 22-of-29 attempts at the free-throw line.
Aaron Wheeler and Dylan Addae-Wusu gave the Red Storm a spark off the bench finishing with eight and six points, respectively. The duo combined to shoot 3-for-5 from distance while Addae-Wusu also handed out a game-high five assists.
St. John’s helped turn the Knights’ over 23 times in the contest and converted the miscues into 27 points. It marked the most turnovers by a Red Storm opponent since DePaul coughed up 24 on February 20 at Carnesecca Arena.
Still, Anderson said there was room for improvement on that side of the ball.
“I always think we can score,” he said. “To me, it was the defense [that was the problem]. Coming into this game, what were our defensive goals? One of them was to, hopefully, keep them in the 50s or 60s and we didn’t get that accomplished,
St. John’s was scheduled to return to action on Tuesday, playing host to St. Francis Brooklyn at 7 p.m.

St. Francis returns to home court

For the first time in 629 days, the St. Francis men’s basketball team got the opportunity to take the court in Daniel Lynch Gymnasium in front of fans on Saturday.
In the first home game for 12 of the 17 players on the roster, the Terriers fell to St. Thomas (MN), 91-73. The win was the first for St. Thomas since making the historic jump from NCAA Division III competition to Division I.
The Terriers worked from behind for the entirety of regulation, after St. Thomas opened the game on a 13-5 run and did not relinquish the lead. The Tommies first half lead climbed to as many as 12, but leading scorer Michael Cubbage and the Terriers pulled to within four and five points on two different occasions in the first half.
They faced at 45-37 deficit at halftime.
Despite being down, the Terriers returned to the court motivated in the second half, opening the frame on a 13-9 run and eventually cutting the Tommies lead to four with 16:15 to play.
Junior guard Rob Higgins scored 12 of his season-best 16 points in the second half. Higgins added a team-leading four assists, as well as two steals and two rebounds.
Higgins was only bested in the scoring column by Marist transfer Michael Cubbage, who recorded a career shooting day: 20 points (8-15 FG, 1-5 3PT), adding seven rebounds to lead the team, two steals and one assist.
Junior guard Trey Quartlebaum also posted a career-best shooting performance, dropping 14 points (5-9 FG, 3-7 3PT) and three rebounds.
Fellow junior guard Larry Moreno scored his first points of the season, contributing eight points, five rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
St. Francis opens play on the road in the Emerald Coast Classic against Penn State on Thursday. Tip-off is schedule for 7:00 p.m. and can be streamed on Big Ten Network.

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