clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Player in review: Kassoum Yakwe

A look at the athletic talent of Kassoum Yakwe, his late-season tail-off, and the potential bursting out of the Big East all-Rookie team member.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

In the St. John's player feature about Kassoum Yakwe, Greg St. Jean spoke about how high the ceiling is for Kassoum Yakwe, the 6'7" forward who chose the Red Storm as an early-graduating senior from Our Savior New American High School.

He's still 18 years old until October. What he showed in his first year at St. John's has to leave fans excited, especially since there is much room for growth. Especially if he's not playing most of his minutes as an undersized center.

Kassoum Yakwe selected stats, 2015-16 season [mp = "minutes played"]

Player
g
mp
2p%
ft%
trb
blk
pts
Kassoum Yakwe
26
23.4
0.455
0.520
5.3
2.4
7.1
Yakwe's Team Rnk
6
5
5
9
2
1
9

Kassoum Yakwe selected stats, all games, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
efg%
ftr
orb%
drb%
blk%
tov%
usg%
Kassoum Yakwe
0.455
0.703
9.5
14.8
10.9
17.1
18.2
Yakwe's Team Rnk
5
2
2
3
1
3
7

Kassoum Yakwe selected conference stats, 2015-16 season

Player
g
mp
2p%
ft%
trb
blk
pts
Kassoum Yakwe
18
25.3
0.455
0.507
6.4
2.8
7.5
Yakwe Rnk
1
3
5
8
1
1
5

Kassoum Yakwe selected conference stats, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
efg%
ftr
orb%
drb%
blk%
tov%
usg%
Kassoum Yakwe
0.455
0.627
10.0
17.5
11.7
18.3
17.8
Yakwe's Team Rnk
5
2
1
2
1
5
7

Season-high, points: 16, vs Seton Hall 2/21

Season-high, rebounds: 15, vs Seton Hall 2/21 || defensive rebounds: 8, vs DePaul 2/17

Season-high, blocks: 7, vs Marquette, 1/24

Season-high, turnovers: 4, vs Butler 2/6

Three things about Kassoum Yakwe

Elite quickness for a forward. Yakwe has speed. He can run fluidly up and down the court. He has hops and uses them to finish. His shot blocking was incredible, especially given his size; and his rebounding effort in some games was inspiring to behold. And he's not just a run/ jump athlete, though that skill provides excitement.

Kassoum Yakwe dunk Rumble in the garden
Yakwe dunks vs DePaul
Wendell Cruz

Though raw, Yakwe showed some moves in the high post - especially in the Syracuse game but those skills seemed to develop game by game. Yakwe showed the ability to square up to score using a dribble. A willing jump shot. A shot-fake then drive move. Some post moves.

The results have been solid, with a 46% shooting percentage (all inside the arc) and a free throw rate of 70%, Yakwe is making opponents defend him, making a difference on the court for a St. John's team in need of reliable scoring.

Skills... in progress. Now, of course, there were good days - going 7/12 against Xavier on the road, 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks against Seton Hall.

And then there were bad days - three points and three rebounds against South Carolina, two points, one rebound against St. Francis, no points and two rebounds against Creighton late in the season in a listless blowout. Some games, Yakwe was able to get some shots off, and others, he was quiet on offense.

And then, there was the free throw shooting. Of the regulars, Yakwe was the second-worst free throw shooter on the team (thanks, Yankuba Sima!), and actually got worse in Big East play, shooting 51% from the line.

For Yakwe, this is a big deal, leaving two points per game at the line. But fear not. Much of that is driven by a 1/7 night at Butler early in the league season. He had a 7/8 outing at the line against Butler on February 6th, and a pair of 4/6 games. So maybe he just needs more reps, more consistency.

Because that's two points a game - for a player who only played half of his team's minutes. That's a lot to give up (think of it as four points/ game per 40 minutes).

And Yakwe didn't pass often; he had ten assists on the season, and an assist rate under 4% of his teammates' shots. The next lowest assist rate was Amar Alibegovic; remember, the team's whole style seems to be predicated on ball movement and sharing with the next man.

What can we tell from a late-season thudding tail-off? Seton Hall was great for Yakwe - 25 rebounds over two games, 12 of those offensive, eight blocks, 24 points.

But after the second Seton Hall game?

Yakwe averaged five points and three rebounds per game in 20 minutes of action over his last four games, along with an average of 3.5 fouls. The second Creighton game saw Yakwe tally one field goal attempt, two total rebounds, four fouls, three turnovers in 18 minutes, looking a bit out of sync the whole game.

The end of a long season on a losing team sometimes has games like that... but for a player who made the Big East rookie team, that's not a great advertisement for his motor on the court.

Again, in many games, Yakwe had enough energy and motor for two players, so we won't tar him with a "low motor" label. And to his credit, Yakwe was playing many minutes as the "center" for St. John's, defending the opponents' biggest player; that's not a position his size is made for at this point.

Looking forward

An offseason for Yakwe is a chance for a player who just reeks of "sophomore leap" to make a big jump next year. But will he be limited by his physical size at all? At 6'7", desire can help a player be a power forward. But the game of a player whose rebounding needs to become more consistent, and one who blocks bunches of shots needs to be reconciled with being 6'7". Sometimes, blocking a shot isn't as important as controlling space for a rebound or keeping a forward from good position on the block.

St. John's is a squad that wants to run, and that plays to Kassoum Yakwe's many strengths. And he will likely get better at rebounding, far better at figuring out, intuitively, how to score. And hopefully he'll improve at shooting free throws.

Imagine if he can raise his shooting percentage into the 55% range, hit 60-65% of his frequent free throws, lower his turnover percentage a touch. That's sophomore leap material, especially if added to increased confidence and increased usage rate that should make him a low-double figure scorer and a threat on a more balanced team.

All of which is to say that HOW Kassoum Yakwe leverages his game as a slightly undersized big man bears watching.