Kassoum Yakwe, who will leave after classes this summer as a graduate transfer, will play his final year of eligibility at the University of Connecticut, working to recapture his on-court form in the American Athletic Conference.
Yakwe, 6’7” and around 210 pounds, was a late summer recruit for Chris Mullin, graduating a year early to come and develop with the Johnnies out of Our Savior New American High School on Long Island.
Freshman year for the Mali native was a bouncy, shot-blocking, potential-filled year. But his second year saw him struggle to play a different role, with fewer plays called for him and a struggle to catch and gather the ball in traffic.
Last season, despite a depleted St. John’s roster that was down to eight players, he saw a total of 13 minutes after a double-overtime loss to Georgetown (the game in which he made the mistake of fouling three-point shooter in the final half-minute of play, with the Red Storm up four in the first overtime.
Yakwe’s minutes had been haphazard through Big East play, and the percentage of the team’s shots he took while on the floor had diminished each season.
Kassoum Yakwe remains a strong athlete with a burgeoning jump shot from the stand-still position, blocks shots, and has improved his free throw accuracy each season — he’s up to 71% in his junior year. His offensive rebounding has been solid in limited chances, and his athleticism could make him a factor rebounding his own team’s misses.
But improvements need to be made for success at UConn, He can improve his ability to catch in traffic. For an undersized forward, he will need to improve his rebounding — he grabbed 12% of available defensive rebounds while on the floor this season, a fairly poor number for an interior player.
He joins Sid Wilson, the St. John’s player who transferred to UConn at the end of last summer to play for former UConn coach Kevin Ollie.
The competition in Storrs should include rising sophomores Tyler Polley, Mamadou Diarra and Isaiah Whaley. Each is a slim, 6’8” forward who did not distinguish himself by rebounding on either end. Polley is more of a jump shooter, while the other two are interior players. The 6’10” rising sophomore Josh Carlton was a decent offensive rebounder, but also struggled on the defensive glass.
We wish Kassoum Yakwe luck and success under UConn’s new coach Dan Hurley.