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Freshman’s year at American Christian sets him right

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Achraf Yacoubou didn’t see much playing time as a freshman at American Christian Academy, but it was a season that shaped him as a basketball player. Every day in practice, the Bronx native went up against a nationally ranked guard, be it Lamont (Momo) Jones, Jeremiah Kelly or Tyreke Evans.

Jones is now a freshman at Arizona, Kelly plays for DePaul and Evans is enjoying a sterling rookie season for the Sacramento Kings, averaging over 20 points per game.

“He’d take a beating and keep on coming,” American Christian Academy coach Tony Bergeron recalled. “He really developed that season.”

Fast-forward two years later and Yacoubou is one of the best guards in the country, he’s verbally committed to Villanova and leads defending state Federation Class A champion Long Island Lutheran in just about every relevant statistic.

Yacoubou was integral in the Crusaders winning the state title last year, scoring 16 points in a 68-51 win over defending champ Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.). He was arguably the most important player on a team that included Tobias Harris, a Tennessee recruit that transferred back to Half Hollows Hills West after the season.

His role has only increased this year. With point guard Mike Florin out for the time being because of injury, he has run the point. He has played inside and out, developing as a playmaker as the opposition has used more double teams to quiet the explosive guard.

At a chiseled 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, blessed with quickness and an improving perimeter jump shot, Yacoubou is the 16th-ranked shooting guard in the Class of 2011.

Despite growing up in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, Yacoubou wanted to avoid the distractions that come with the local basketball scene and concentrate on his academics. When Yacoubou, who has an 85 average at Long Island Lutheran, was in middle school, Bergeron said he often practiced with his Wings Academy’s team, where the two formed a fond. Yacoubou followed him to American Christian Academy before landing at LuHi prior to his sophomore year.

Immediately, first-year coach John Buck said he saw a high Division I player.

“With his size, quickness and touch and work ethic, there was no doubt,” Buck said. “He just seemed like a real tough and hard-working kid. He was coachable, he had great size for a shooting guard, and was just explosive.”

Bergeron, who now coaches at East Longmeadow (Mass.), said Yacoubou’s development should be credited to his mentor, Randy Harper, and his time at LuHi. There is also the freshman year at American Christian, when he went head-to-head with the three star guards, including Evans, who many consider a leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

“It was tough guarding him, but it got me better,” he said.

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