By Dave Brousseau
COCONUT CREEK – St. Andrew’s senior center Yussif Basa-ama will enter his second season of varsity high school basketball with untapped potential.
At 6-foot-9, the Ghana native has only four years of experience on the hard court. His development, despite just learning the game as an eighth grader, has progressed Basa-ama to a Division I prospect.
“His IQ is high,” said St. Andrew’s coach John O’Connell. “There are things he does extremely well. He runs well and is athletic. He’s a great a passer and has a good post game. He also looks to make that right position.”
Still there can be more to extract from the Scots big man. Basa-ama has been working to fine-tune his skill set in summer leagues and most recently at the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches camp at North Broward Prep..
O’Connell added that Basa-ama shoots the ball well off the catch but needs to improve his shot off the dribble. There’s also the need to work where he is uncomfortable. That, O’Connell said will help him reach his potential.
One season as part of the Scots varsity program, Basa-ama showcased he has the skill set to be something special. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game to help lead his team to a 25-5 record and a Class 5A regional final appearance.
And that was only an introduction.
Basa-ama, who turned 17-years old on Tuesday, made his long journey to the United States on his first ride jet flight as part of student exchange program
Back home his athletic ability was focused around soccer, but once state side his height was an invitation to play basketball.
He admittedly said getting to know the game was clumsy in learning the rules of game.
Basa-ama was in the process of adjusting to a new culture and a sport that were both unfamiliar.
“Because I was here with friends from Ghana it wasn’t that difficult to adjust,” said Basa-ama. As for basketball the game came naturally and after a couple of months it wasn’t that hard, but not easy either.”
Athleticism has become Basa-ama’s his biggest attribute as a basketball player, which he said come from playing soccer.
“When I first came here my coaches trained as a guard despite the height,” he sais. “I worked on my dribble and shots.
Now I look to be a leader. I’m expected to step up this year as a senior. That will be key for our success.”
Entering his fifth year in this country, Basa-ama has been separated from his family, which he says has been difficult.
“I still wake up to be in that comfortable place every morning,” said Basa-ama, who was raised on a farm back home in Ghana. “I feel like I have a second home here with the family I live with.”
O’Connell said his center has received numerous college offers, including many from Ivy League schools. He already has one official visit to Princeton and another visit scheduled for West Virginia. Most of the schools in Florida have offered too.
Said O’Connell, “He has his options when you play high end basketball.
He’s among the top players to have come through St. Andrew’s. I think he can lead us to a championship. He allows us to be in that picture.”
Basa-ama remains humble despite his short tenure and stunning rise with the game of basketball.
“It’s very important to make it to the next level,” said Basa-ama. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”