Long Island Lutheran junior guard Achraf Yacoubou committed to play college basketball at Villanova before this season began, so he was prepared for the added attention from opponents intent on limiting his scoring.
Unfortunately for those opponents, creating big scoring numbers is not the end all for Yacoubou. It's not really close. In fact, "If I lock someone up, that's like scoring points for me," he said, taking pride in his defense.
Yacoubou's versatility and selflessness are qualities that helped make him attractive to the country's top men's basketball programs before the start of the second half of his high school career. His athleticism and offensive ability did, too. Newsday's Nassau boys basketball player of the year averaged 19.5 points.
The 6-5 Yacoubou also averaged seven rebounds to lead Lutheran to a 20-8 record. The Crusaders played a strong schedule, including games against New Jersey power St. Anthony and state Federation Class AA finalist Boys & Girls from Brooklyn. Lutheran, a Class A independent school, lost in the state Federation semifinals in Glens Falls.
With his college plans finalized, Yacoubou worked this season on polishing his game. "I wanted to make my outside shot automatic," he said. "And I wanted to work on my point-guard skills - ballhandling and dribbling. I want to be a combo guard."
He'll have another season to improve.
- COREY McLAUGHLIN