NCB On The Trail: Abdul-Malik Abu

Members of the Class of 2014 have (mostly) made their decisions. Which incoming freshmen should you get to know? Here is a look at the best rebounders -- and one name to know in 2015:

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Okafor is as wide as a door and next to impossible to keep from a rebound that comes off the glass within reach of his suction-cup hands. Okafor is strong and physical and in the best shape I have seen him, and his motor is hitting on all cylinders.

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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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As the NCAA tournament moves on to the Sweet 16, here's a look back at five former ESPN 100 players who helped their teams advance -- and five members of the 2014 ESPN 100 who could play a similar role next season:

[+] EnlargePatric Young
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesPatric Young and the Gators cruised by Pitt and Albany.

1. Patric Young, Florida

ESPN 100 rank: No. 13 in 2010
Young was the most physical player on the floor for Florida in its wins against Albany and Pittsburgh. Young knows he can dominate the game in the paint and on the glass. He is the type of player who produces double-doubles regularly. He's relentless on the glass, is a terrific position defender and is a shot-blocker.
The next Patric Young: No. 3 Cliff Alexander, Kansas. The most physically imposing player in the high school game, Alexander will be a difference-maker in the paint. Both Alexander and Young make their presence in the paint felt by being more powerful and explosive than their opponents. Alexander will give the Jayhawks an anchor in the middle.



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Recruit and return: NC State 

March, 20, 2014
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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at NC State and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Anthony Barber
G: Ralston Turner
G: Trevor Lacey
F: Abdul-Malik Abu
F: Kyle Washington


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#AskCoachB: Is NC State on the rise?

November, 19, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



Mark Gottfried certainly has brought a new level of excitement to Raleigh. The recruiting efforts by the Wolfpack have been strong since Gottfried took over at State as they have had nationally ranked classes.

With only one senior on the roster in 7-foot-1 center Jordan Vandenberg and another impressive class coming in next year, it could get real exciting, especially if super-scoring sophomore forward T.J. Warren stays. Don't forget -- Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey is sitting out and will be eligible next year, and the staff is high on him.

More help is on the way with a highly rated group coming in. NC State's 2014 class stands at No. 21 in our class rankings. The player I look for to be a big part of next year's success is power forward Abdul-Malik Abu. He will come in and make a difference in the paint because of his live body, skill and mature approach to the game.

This is a growing year for the Pack. Yes, I do believe next year could be a special year in Raleigh.

#AskCoachB: College-ready prospects

September, 27, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



When you ask "college ready," I am going to combine that into hysical readiness, skills and an understanding of the game. Also, let's look outside the top 25 to gain a broader perspective.

Here are five who come to mind:

Abdul-Malik Abu (NC State) and Angel Delgado (Seton Hall) are physically ready as they own bodies that can withstand the contact of the game, especially in the painted area. Two outstanding rebounders, and that is a skill that translates well as a player moves up in levels. They keep their bodies in great shape, so the speed of the game shouldn't affect them while being battle-tested on a national level in the paint.

Utah commit Brekkott Chapman is a highly skilled small forward who combines his triple-threat game with an understanding of floor balance and spacing. He competes with poise and displays a savvy for functioning with teammates, which is vital for team chemistry.

Tyler Ulis, the future Kentucky point guard, might be small in size but he is large with toughness and skill. Ulis has a great understanding of his position and the skills to thrive right away.

Keep an eye on Leron Black, who is going to Illinois. He understands the meaning of hard work and will be ready when he steps on campus. He hardly ever disappears as he uses his grown man's body, a solid skill set and great hands to be creative and contribute right away in the painted area.

Starting 5: Official visit season 

September, 10, 2013
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Each week, Starting 5 takes you on a tour of the recruiting landscape. It delves into topics, recruiting trends and stories. This edition focuses on the art of the official visit, new Louisville recruit Jaylen Johnson, an important recruit for NC State and more.

1. The art of the official visit

By now you might be aware that America's best recruits are making their rounds, hitting up campuses for their official visits. For months, staffs have been debating internally when to bring a player to campus. It's actually a pretty dicey dilemma.

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ESPN 100 shooting guard Jared Terrell (Weymouth, Mass./Brewster Academy) made a verbal commitment to Oklahoma State on Saturday. Terrell and longtime travel teammate, Abdul-Malik Abu (Marblehead, Mass./Kimball Union), announced their decisions side by side at a Saturday afternoon news conference. Abu picked North Carolina State.


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#AskCoachB: Malik-Abu or Bentil?

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



Great question, as both Abdul Malik-Abu and Ben Bentil are ESPN 100 recruits and terrific, prototypical power forwards who possess many similarities. First, they are both physically strong and powerful and play the game the same way -- with intensity and toughness. They understand who they are on the floor, which is so important to reaching one's potential. They are best in the paint and at the rim scoring with power, especially loud dunks, rebounding with two hands, defending and blocking shots.

Where the separation begins is that Malik-Abu has improved his skill level and can score now facing up to where he is a threat with a short jumper and even an occasional 3-pointer or drive from the high post.

Most coaches would love to be in the position to have either player. If I had to pick one for my team, it would be Malik-Abu because he is more productive due to his improved scoring skills.

Notes: Cartwright could be double value 

September, 6, 2013
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This time of the year, there's always something brewing. From campus visits to the value of Stanford's newest pledge, we've dumped out the notebook into a nice, tidy column to catch you up.

Cartwright's value could be two-fold


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The power forward position has traditionally been a player with a combination of size and strength who can score in the paint. Specifically, the “four man” plays in the high post facing the basket or in low post with his back to the basket scoring, passing and using his dribble.

Since the inception of the 3-point shot, some forwards have utilized the line by becoming “stretch forwards.” Some forwards handle the ball extremely well for their size and have even become point forwards.

In today’s game, it’s hard to box some players into a specific position because the game is being coached differently. Coaches from the NBA level down to the high school game are reconstructing the power forward position into a hybrid spot and taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. They can adapt by playing faster or more zone if the matchup is not in their favor from a defensive perspective.

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Jahlil Okafor, Tyus JonesESPN, Icon SMIJahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have discussed going to school together and the ESPN 100 prospects have scheduled several official visits as a tandem.
One of the lasting themes of the Class of 2014 has been the perpetual rumors of package deals, and yet as we get closer to and closer to November’s early signing period we’re still waiting for the first to come to fruition.

With that in mind, we examined the most rumored potential package deals in the country and set the odds in order to determine which have the best chance of actually happening.

First though, it’s necessary to define what a “package deal” is. In it’s purest form, it would be a situation where two or more prospects are recruited in unison and make one collaborative decision. But there really aren’t many situations currently like that in the 2014 class, with one notable exception.

Instead, most of the recent talk around “package deals” really reflects prospects that could potentially end up at the same school, even if they don’t go through the recruiting process together. As such, that is the definition which we’ll operate under for the purposes of this article and projecting the likelihood of such deals actually happening.


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Top 10 player accolades from July 

August, 21, 2013
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The worst time to write a column about what you saw in July is right after July. The month needs to marinate on your mind so one can process what we just lived. So, nearly three weeks out from the month that was, I sat down to recall a few of the top players of July.

In the spirit of Telep's top 10, we give 10 categories and a plethora of players of influence from the most important month on the circuit.

1. Best motor big/guard: We’ll entertain motions to rename this the inaugural “Reid Travis” award and therefore hand out the overall best motor title to ... forward Reid Travis. Pac-12 aficionados close your eyes and picture the second coming of Jon Brockman, because that’s whom Travis reminds me of most. On the guard side of the ledger for the best motor, Lourawls Nairn impressed me from start to finish. There was a noticeable chip on his shoulder and he went hard at LeBron and continued through Peach Jam. The guy has no off button.


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It was an incredibly busy weekend of action on the recruiting front, not just because of the series of high-major commitments, but also because of trimmed lists, scheduled visits, and scholarship offers, all of which have the potential to create multiple ripples on the pending domino effect.

Commitment Catch-Up

• ESPN 100 PF Craig Victor (New Orleans, La./Findlay Prep) commits to Arizona: The 31st-ranked prospect and 5th best PF in the country announced on Saturday he was heading to Arizona, giving coach Sean Miller his third high level combination forward in as many years.


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Notebook: Potential pair for Providence 

August, 9, 2013
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This week’s Friday recruiting notebook includes a look at a potential ESPN 100 package deal for Providence, handicapping the race for ESPN 100 point guard Kaleb Joseph, the final eight for No. 10 recruit Myles Turner, and plenty more recruiting news and notes.

Abdul Malik-Abu
Dave Telep/ESPNESPN 100 PF Abdul-Malik Abu is down to Providence, Florida, NC State and UConn.
Abu, Terrell and Providence?

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