GORCHES: Team first for Valpo freshman Jubril Adekoya
By STEVE T. GORCHES sgorches@post-trib. com Twitter: @SteveTGorches January 9, 2014 10:50PM
Valparaiso University's Jubril Adekoya looks to pass guarded by St. Louis' Dwayne Evans Saturday night, December 7, 2013 at Valparaiso. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Valpo (9-8, 1-1) vs. Wright St. (9-8, 1-1)
When: 8 p.m., Friday
Radio: 95.1-FM; 95.9-FM; 1230-AM
The skinny: It’s a rematch of last year’s Horizon League championship game in which the Crusaders won 62-54 to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament. Valparaiso won its first Horizon League game of the season last week over UIC, but lost on Saturday at Oakland despite have an 11-point lead with about eight minutes left. Valparaiso and Wright State have met 22 times with each winning 11. LaVonte Dority seems to be finding his groove this season as a senior leader. He’s leading the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game after another team-high 20-point effort at Oakland, as well as assists with nearly three per game.
Updated: February 11, 2014 6:32AM
College basketball recruiting has become more complicated in recent years.
It’s not just about going to a few high school games on a Friday or Saturday night and watching players, taking notes and talking to the player, his coach and/or parents.
In fact, high school games aren’t the main competition college coaches look at anymore.
It’s all about those Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams and their coaches that sometimes come across as slimy.
Nearly everybody playing in Division I was a star in high school. But when those players get on a really good AAU squad, not everybody can be a star. The rules don’t change and there’s still just one basketball to go around.
So college coaches looking for guys to fit into a system — not just trying to grab as many monster scorers as possible like guys named Calipari, Pitino, Williams or Self — need a keen eye for talent.
Take Valparaiso’s Jubril Adekoya as an example. I’m not saying Crusaders’ head coach Bryce Drew is smarter than the Caliparis or Pitinos or Selfs. It’s tough for any mid-major coach to attract the talent that ends up at Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina or Kansas for one year before heading to the NBA. But once in a while a coach like Drew can find a gem in the midst of all the 14-karat gold-plated stars.
That’s what Adekoya could become since he played on the Mean Streets AAU team with such high D-I recruits as Kendrick Nunn, Jalen Tate (both at the University of Illinois), Alvin Ellis (Michigan State), Alex Foster (Texas Tech) and Tyler Ulis, who will be playing at Kentucky next year.
What did Drew see in Adekoya, who went to Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Ill., was that he meant more to those standout teammates than they meant to him.
“He had several D-I teammates and he was the glue,” Drew said. “When he was in the game, those guys played better than when he wasn’t out there.”
So without Adekoya, those high-profile players stink, right?
Yes, that’s a slight exaggeration, but he’s the perfect player to fit into Valparaiso’s system. And his mentality and attitude fit right into the type of player any mid-major coach would love to have.
“Anything I can do to help,” Adekoya said about his team-first mantra. “If you win as a team, we all get the glory. That’s all I care about.”
And just to set the record straight, he was just like Nunn, Tate, Ellis, Foster and Ulis in high school: He was the man.
“In high school, I scored a lot and got a lot of rebounds,” he said. “It may look like I was being selfish, but I was just doing whatever it took to win.”
So based on that mentality, the inconsistency of the Crusaders must be killing Adekoya inside. Just when it looks like the young team is turning the corner — like the 52 minutes of crisp, nearly mistake-free play between the second half of the UIC win in the Horizon home opener and the first 32 minutes of the loss on Saturday at Oakland — untimely turnovers crop up again, like in the last eight minutes against Oakland.
During those 52 minutes, the Crusaders outscored the two opponents by 34 points. In that last eight minutes, Oakland outscored VU by 16.
“Most of it is us making steps in maturity,” Adekoya said. “Coach said if we were at home (for the Oakland game), he thought we would have won. But as a unit, we have to learn how to finish games.”
There Adekoya goes again with that team-first thing. But if everybody on Valparaiso can think that way, maybe, just maybe, the team can start playing cohesively for close to 40 minutes.