A t times last season he was overlooked. But with the departure of Tobias Harris from Long Island Lutheran last April, Achraf Yacoubou's name is one you'll be hearing often this season.
When Harris transferred back to Half Hollow Hills West, the role of No. 1 option at Long Island Lutheran fell into the capable hands of Yacoubou, or "Ash," as his teammates call him.
The Crusaders' celebration of their state Federation Class A championship had barely subsided when they learned that Harris would be leaving. Losing the best player on Long Island usually would figure to be a crushing blow to a program, but that pain is eased when the guy who many believe is the second-best player wants to prove he is capable of filling the void.
"I feel like I've got to lead the team now," Yacoubou said. "I need to show my teammates how hard I play so they will follow me and play hard, too."
Born and raised in the Bronx, Yacoubou moved to Philadelphia to attend American Christian, where, as a freshman, he played alongside NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings. When the school closed for financial reasons, Yacoubou transferred to Long Island Lutheran as a sophomore and teamed with Harris to win a Federation title.
Despite his prominent role, Yacoubou's name often was misspelled.
"For his entire first year on the team, his name was spelled like four different ways on rosters at the tournaments we went to," coach John Buck said. "Now that he's proven himself on the big stage, people finally know how to pronounce it and how it's spelled."
The 6-5, 205-pound shooting guard committed to Villanova during the fall before playing a minute of his junior season. He can shoot from the outside and dominate in the open court, as evidenced by his 21.6 points per game last season, but is among a rare breed of star players who emphasize winning over individual stats.
He gets more satisfaction from being a leader and making those around him better, aspects he has incorporated into his game and his new role this season.
"ESPN has Ash ranked like 70th in the nation," Buck said. "But if you can find me 70 kids in the country better than him, I'll give you a special prize because he is really good."
Yacoubou is averaging 20.7 points and his Crusaders are off to a 6-0 start, winning by an average margin of 26 points. It's a trade-off he will gladly accept.
Harris may have grabbed the spotlight and the publicity last season, but now that Lutheran is Yacoubou's team, his name will be the one making headlines.
And this time, it might even be spelled correctly.