SJ Takeout: Prince Ali

HAMPTON, Va. — I stumbled onto his first game last night. While some lesser known teams took the court at the Southern Jam Fest, I didn't realize I'd walked onto the New Heights court.

And immediately, I saw a 6-3 shooting guard use his shoulders to move an opponent off the ball and then penetrate the lane. That player turned out to be Prince Ali, and his high-major talents are easy to spot.

Ali is an aggressive, herky jerky athlete with explosive reflexes and a tricky slashing style. He tends to spring forth in one direction and then back in another, and his initial burst is superlative. You don't have be a basketball scout to realize he's a high-major.

He's comfortable launching jump shots from the perimeter, though there's definitely a hitch in his release. At this point he appears to be smoother and more accurate from medium-range, where he elevates nicely to loft in shots over defenders.

Meanwhile, he carries a sturdy frame and has plenty of size (6-3) for the collegiate wing. He should develop into a fine defender as well, thanks to his quickness and eventual strength.

There's a program perspective to examine, too. Ali didn't ride the publicity wave following UConn's national championship. He committed last year and accurately represents the type of player the Huskies ultimately relied upon to bring home the hardware in the first place.

He's unlikely to become a one-and-done player and may need three or even four years of college. It's too early to project that with any certainty, of course, but Ali is exactly the sort of performer who's talented enough to make an impact yet also likely to become an upperclassman and provide steady leadership in an NCAA Tournament scenario.

That formula worked out once for Kevin Ollie's program — why not twice?


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