A few months ago, St. John's men basketball signed 7 foot center Phil Wait, who was playing for a basketball academy in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
Just as basketball was taking shape as part of his future at the age of 17, the man who acted as his support died: his father.
After he graduated, his coach with the club team the Manchester Magic, Joe Forber, got him in touch with coaches at Proctor Academy, in Andover, N.H. It was certainly a transition — and not just because Wait was going from England to New England. His love for basketball was waning and his weight was ballooning. Yet, coaches from the prep school heard all they needed to.
Things didn’t change a whole lot at Proctor. Wait’s weight increased and he wasn’t playing a whole lot of basketball. He was beginning to think he didn’t even want the sport to be a part of his future. But because he was 7-feet tall, college coaches — including assistant Glenn Braica of St. John’s — took interest in him.
Wait got hooked up with the basketball academy in the Canary Islands, aptly named the Canary Basketball Academy, lost some weight, got into shape. And he had loyalty to St. John's for keeping track of him when he wasn't at his best... so he chose the Red Storm.
He gets along with Dele Coker and his other teammates and the strength coach wants to get his weight up from 245 to 265.
As for his skills:
Wait does have talent, though. He has a smooth jump hook and a strong mid-range jumper. Like most European big men, his offensive game is fairly refined, but his back-to-the-basket ability sets him apart, Red Storm coach Norm Roberts said.
And he's working out twice a day, along with basketball activities with his teammates.
- I hope he's not working out like Anthony Mason Jr. did last year, when recurring ankle injuries robbed him of much of his season and his explosiveness. Trying to put on too much weight has waylaid many ambitious careers; weight isn't always key. Strength enough to hold position and the quickness to get to positions are key for a center. I also hope Wait is working out with Coker and Evans; Coker, at least, needs to chisel that frame.
- The skill set sounds nice, especially if he can keep the ball high and if he can catch the ball well.
- Kudos for Glenn Braica for keeping track of the kid. He's often credited with the woeful offense, but bringing in some talent certainly improves his ledger. It's all about relationships in college ball, as always.