Arkansas’ basketball program is expected to host a defensive-minded center in early June who already has some experience playing in the SEC.
Ivory Coast native Willy Kouassi (6-10, 233), a high school teammate of current Razorback Jacorey Williams in Birmingham, Ala., recently got his release from Kennesaw State and is scheduled to visit Arkansas on June 5-7 per his guardian and former AAU coach Darian Knox.
Kouassi, who played his freshman season at Auburn, will be eligible to play immediately next season as a graduate transfer and is looking for the right fit according to Knox.
“Arkansas and I go way back, they once recruited my nephew Justin Knox – who played at Alabama and North Carolina - recruited Willy out of high school and we have great respect for the program and the coaches they have there,” Knox said.
“I know (head) Coach Mike Anderson and (assistant coach) T.J. (Cleveland) personally and they are men of great character and have been winners wherever they have been.
“Arkansas has a great fan base and support and he also has a former teammate there in Jacorey. Willy also loves their style of play. He thinks if he decides to go there it would be a perfect fit for him.”
Anderson talked to Knox on Monday night about what he is looking for to add to a 2015 class that includes signees Jimmy Whitt and Ted Kapita and Colorado transfer Dustin Thomas.
“I talked to Coach Anderson last night and he told me that he was looking for a long, mean rim protector. That is certainly what Willy is. He hates for anybody to score on him and takes great pride in his defense.”
Kouassi – a four-star prospect and top 100 player nationally out of high school - has already visited North Texas and will visit Western Kentucky on Saturday and Sunday after the NCAA recruiting dead period ends Friday.
He is then scheduled to visit Arkansas, Memphis and Ole Miss before making a decision.
“It was a no-brainer when Arkansas called,” Knox said. “That is one of those schools like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina that have had national success before and you pick up the phone right away.
“Mike got Arkansas back in the NCAA Tournament last season and it is his expectation to keep them there every year now.
“Like with anybody playing his last season of college basketball, Willy wants to be part of a winning program and have a legitimate chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
“Kennesaw State did a lot of losing this last couple of seasons and he wants to be someplace where that is not expected or accepted.”
Kouassi will graduate from Kennesaw in July with a degree in integrated studies.
“He is looking to go to graduate school for sports management or some other leadership type course of study,” Knox said.
“He is set to take this visits, but if he gets some place and decides it is the right place, he’ll have my blessing to go ahead and make that decision.
Kouassi averaged 4.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for Kennesaw State last season after averaging 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 2013-2014.
He blocked 71 shots the past two seasons for the Owls, who fired head coach Jimmy Lallthin – it second dismissed coach in two years - after a 16-47 mark over that time.
Kouassi averaged 14 points, 15 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a senior at Birmingham, Ala., Central Park Christian Academy.
He played in 25 games as a freshman at Auburn while averaging 1.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in an average of 10.2 minutes per game.
“Willy is an old school player in that he is all about defense first and making his impact on that end,” Knox said. “He is not going to go out and put up big points every night even though he can score with his back to the basket.
“He will play that tough defense, get big rebounds and be a force that way.”
Kennesaw State hired former Boston College coach Al Skinner last month as its new head coach, but Kouassi has decided he wants to spend his final year at a different spot.
“He wants to go to a place where he can play and develop and give himself a chance to play professionally, no matter the level it might be,” Knox said. “He’s just like any other young man that just wants to make the most of his opportunity.”
Former Auburn player Willy Kouassi blocks the shot of former Alabama star JaMychael Green.
Kouassi Expects To Take Arkansas Visit
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