This weekend's piece by Zach Braziller highlights Bashir Ahmed as both a game-changer and as a person - Ahmed’s interest in chess, a big family who will be his cheering section at games and his devout Muslim faith (he will do the daytime fast during Ramadan like NC State's Abdul Malik-Abu does). Take a minute and read it - we’ll be here waiting...
Ahmed sounds impressive in the profile both on and off the court. For St. John's fans hungry for a better on-floor result, an anonymous local coach thinks he could be an NBA Draft pick.
That's definitely some hype at the heels of Ahmed, who comes with some serious-looking muscle and a desire to be on the team that needed him most in his recruiting. Watching last year's team, the wing players were nice pieces - the diverse skill set of Ron M'Vouika, the athleticism of Felix Balamou - but neither wing was the complete package, neither provided much help on the glass, and neither was consistent getting to the basket to score.
Can that be Ahmed? Can he provide a slashing focus that defenses need to stop, opening up space for shooters and put back attempts?
Or is this too much hope being placed in one player/ basket? After all, most of the top JUCO players in recent years haven't become efficient scoring leaders; most of the JUCO players coming out will be forgotten (with apologies to Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, Oregon State's Gary Payton II, Oregon's Chris Boucher, Louisville's Chris Jones and scant few others). Teams are scouting better on the high school level, and there are 351 teams, so fewer players are falling through the cracks.
But Cincinnati and Louisville were hot on Ahmed's trail, and Ahmed looks to have an unselfishness and a skill set that will definitely help the team. He can't be a one-man savior; improvements from the returning plaayers and the immediate emergence from Marcus LoVett and/ or Shamorie Ponds will be necessary, along with a much-improved defense.