Felix Balamou has received few minutes throughout his time at St. John's but now in his senior campaign, the 6'4" guard has the opportunity to cash in on the chance that lies in front of him thanks to a very inexperienced backcourt.
After competing against D'Angelo Harrison, Sir'Domenic Pointer, Jamal Branch and Phil Greene IV in daily practices and playing in the Big East the last three seasons, Balamou is set to use his exposure to provide more production game-in and game-out.
How He Got Here
Balamou, who was originally born in Guinea, Africa, arrived in the United States in 2010 and immediately began his basketball career at Our Savior New American in Centereach, Long Island. The guard made an quick impact, but played at his highest level during his senior season as he was second in scoring on a team that featured eight NCAA Division I products.
His time at Our Savior New American didn't just include basketball. Balamou was also a standout on the soccer pitch, scoring 31 goals and tallying 13 assists for the Pioneers as a senior.
With St. John's interested in his services and the school located in nearby Queens, the bouncy prospect committed in March of 2013.
Balamou played in 28 games (five starts) in his freshman season but only averaged two points and 9.1 minutes of action per outing. In a win over Florida Gulf Coast, Balamou scored a career high eight points to go with three rebounds and two assists in what was his best game of the 2012-13 season.
His time on the court didn't increase in year two, in fact it only got worse with Harrison and company starting to take over the program. Balamou's scoring (1.1 points) and rebounding (0.8 boards) numbers decreased while he only saw action in four games (two starts).
Last season, Balamou was a member of the NCAA Tournament team but once again didn't play a prominent role and only contributed heavily when Rysheed Jordan was suspended or dealt with off-the-court issues.
What He Brings To The Table
The senior guard remains a work in progress on the offensive side of the ball due to his weak jump shot, ineffective left hand and inability to create separation, but he does pose a threat defensively and on the glass.
Balamou has potential as an on-ball defender, who has good foot speed and experience. With the ability to jump out of the gym, Balamou will give the Johnnies an extra rebounder on both ends of the floor.
It will be very interesting to see how Balamou develops as a leader as the season moves forward. Right now, it seems like Durand Johnson, Christian Jones and Ron Mvouika own that title early in the year.
Where He Fits In
Standing at 6'4", Balamou is clearly a player that should play either combo guard or wing but Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported that Chris Mullin will use the senior as a very undersized power forward.
Even though Balamou is an above average defender and has good rebounding skills that tactic may not work with his lack of strength compared to other power forwards throughout the country. The good news is the native of Guinea (as of a couple weeks ago) wasn't informed by the coaches about that type of role during the 2015-16 season.
"I heard about it," Balamou said about the report at Big East Media at Madison Square Garden. "I don't know who came up with that but I'm not worried about it. I'm worried about the team right now."
Federico Mussini will be the starter in the back court to open the season with Durand Johnson and Malik Ellison so Balamou may be settling for spot minutes (once again) off the bench. Or, maybe he will put his athleticism to deadly use and force his way into the lineup.