Around these parts, we (as many other have) looked for signs that Kassoum Yakwe was regaining the freshman form he had, back when he was on a team with less impactful guards.
On this team - with dynamic scorers - the numbers have not been there for Yakwe in terms of blocks and rebounds, but Yakwe has had some strong moments in the early season, since he has been willing to fill both a defensive role and a “whatever is needed” role.
Yakwe has been a dependable frontcourt option off the bench for Chris Mullin through the Advocare games. His one-handed slam dunk in Thursday’s win over Oregon State was the turning point of the game, giving St. John’s their first lead of the second half, shifting the momentum to the Red Storm.
Kassoum’s maximum effort on the both sides of the ball in the UCF game was a reason the Johnnies were able to finish the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando in third place. He seems to be a player whose confidence increased in each game he's played so far this season. Against UCF he grabbed six offensive rebounds but was also a difference-maker on defense.
By the numbers
Best game: vs. Oregon State, 8 points (1/1 shooting), 5 rebounds, 1 block, 4 fouls, 15 minutes played
Kassoum Yakwe is averaging a bit under three points, three rebounds, one block in 14 minutes per game, shooting 44% from the field, all inside the arc.
The personal stats don’t show his effect on the defense (or the number of charges he has drawn - three? Four?), but for those who believe in on/ off court ratios and defensive rating, a nugget: the Red Storm are scoring 108 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and holding opponents to 88 points/ 100 possessions.
St. John’s wants to be in the mix for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and Kassoum Yakwe needs to play with the same level of confidence throughout the 2017-18 season.
Yakwe was named to the all-league rookie team as a freshman two years ago. With more comfort in his current role (defensive stopper in the Shane Battier no-stats-all-star mold?), he can be the athletic defensive catalyst off the bench that St. John's desperately needs.