Talented Hoops Teammates Like Barbee, Tigers

A report on two of the state of Alabama's top basketball prospects is featured.

Birmingham, Ala.--Auburn continues to be in the mix for a pair of in-state rising senior basketball players whose stock is on the rise.

Willy Kouassi, a 6-9 center, and Bernard Marena, a 6-7 forward, are expected to take an unofficial visit to Auburn this month now that their summer AAU season is completed.

The teammates at Central Park Christian also play on the same AAU squad, Team Alabama, and both call the African nation, The Ivory Coast, as their home.

Their AAU coach, Darien Knox, says Marena and Kouassi are receiving plenty of attention from college coaches. "Recruiting has continually picked up," he points out.

"Willy just picked up an offer from Memphis, Georgia Tech and several other schools and Bernard has picked up an offer from Western Kentucky and he finally got that offer from Alabama he has been wanting," the coach says. "They are doing pretty good. "They are still looking at everything."

Prospects who were impressive at new Auburn head coach Tony Barbee's one-day elite camp in June, both are interested in the Tigers.

Auburn, UAB, Ole Miss, Memphis and Georgia Tech are among the colleges in the mix for both players, says Knox. "I know they are serious about wanting to play together in college," he says. "Will they stick to their guns all the way through recruiting to the end? I can't speak for them, but I know they are very serious about going to the same institution."

Bernard Marena

Both players are strong academically. Kouassi is interested in majoring in business in college while computer engineering interests Marena. Knox notes that the players are serious about their academics and serious about developing as basketball prospects."Mom and dad didn't send them 3,000 miles away from home to play," he points out.

Knox says he believes that Auburn is very interested in signing both players.

"I am impressed with Coach Barbee," he notes. "It is not often that a head coach will go to AAU games on a consistent basis. He has been there. He has shown the guys he is committed and he has asked them to be a part of the Auburn program. The guys are really excited about Auburn. They are getting ready to come down next week for an unofficial visit to see the various academic departments and to just get a good look and a good feel for the school."

Commenting on the prospects, their AAU coach says, "Most of the coaches want to see Bernard become more of a consistent shooter. I think he did that toward the end of July, especially in the tournament we performed in at Memphis. Coach Barbee and some of the assistant coaches came up to see them. Coach Madlock (Auburn assistant coach Tony Madlock) has been doing a terrific job of recruiting them.

"While Bernard has been working on his shooting, Willy's game in the low post has been developing," Knox adds. Colleges that have offered Kouassi in addition to Auburn include Georgia, Alabama, UAB, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Arkansas-Little-Rock, Memphis, Murray State, Missouri, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Pitt, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Tulane, Wake Forest, Western Kentucky, UAB, UTEP and Vanderbilt with Florida, Arizona State, Georgetown, Iowa State, Tulsa, Virginia and Xavier showing interest, Knox says.

Among the colleges who have offered Marena are Arkansas, Wake Forest, Xavier and Virginia while Arizona State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Maryland, Memphis, Missouri, Pitt, South Carolina and Tulsa are showing strong interest, according to Knox.

Prospects can sign in November for the 2011 recruiting class. How close are the Central Park High stars to making their college choice?

"I think probably next month, or the month after, the kids will be ready to narrow their list down to 10 schools apiece," he says. "We will be looking forward to that. I think this month they will be making unofficial visits to other schools they haven't built a strong relationship with yet."

Knox notes the AAU season ended last Saturday with Kouassi and Marena attending a two-day elite camp for prospects in Memphis. "Coach Barbee and Coach Madlock were there and the guys performed real well," Knox says. "They made the all-star team. They got a chance to go up against some of the top competition from the city of Memphis as well as some of the other top players who are being heavily recruited.


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