Mustapha Heron: Junior Primer

Pittsburgh has thrived for years while relying on the talents of Northeasterners, and Mustapha Heron projects as the next in line to keep the Panthers competitive in the loaded ACC.

How he got here

We hardly had a chance to become acquainted with Mustapha Heron while he was an uncommitted prospect. We didn’t observe him in action a ton during his underclass years, and last January he committed to Pittsburgh.

But the 2014 spring brought Heron front and center. The aggressive, slashing wing traveled with New Heights to the Southern Jam Fest and showcased big-time scoring ability, proceeding from there to impress at events such as the Under Armour Finals and USA Basketball.

Heron never has shied away from contact

Utilizing exceptional power at 6-4 thanks to broad shoulders and a wide base, Heron simply won’t be denied on his way to the basket. A southpaw, he changes up the cadence of his dribble and keeps defenders off balance. Though not a secondary handler versus pressure, he possesses tricky dribble moves and the attitude that he’ll go through the defender on his way to the bucket.

With a full head of steam, he leaps explosively for all kinds of slams and and-ones through contact. Heron also has improved as a jump shooter, particularly from the middle areas.

His recruitment ended as early as it did due largely to former Pitt assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen, who had a connection to the family. As Heron’s father, Bryan, told colleague Evan Daniels:

"Barry and I played overseas together a very long time ago, before Mustapha was born. That's how far the relationship goes back. Once he went back to Pitt, it made it very easy because of our history."

Following Rohrrsen’s departure for an assistant’s job at Kentucky last April, many speculated that Heron may reopen his recruitment, but a year after his commitment he remains pledged to Pitt.

To 2015. …

Heron’s primary goals for this year should boil down to two areas: 1) Expand his jump shooting range; and 2) Improve his ballhandling.

As mentioned, Heron does possess a crossover dribble and others moves that propel him to the rim, but at the same time he still handles less effectively as a control dribbler when he doesn’t have a driving lane. And as his peers mature physically, he won’t enjoy as significant a strength advantage.

His jump shot also is functional from deep but could be more fluid. He possesses good touch, however, so the potential to raise his accuracy appears to exist. Besides, it’s not like he needs to become an outright marksman; a player with his strength and athleticism merely needs a serviceable stroke.

Heron’s case is interesting for another reason: Through Wednesday night, his Waterbury (Conn.) Sacred Heart team had played only six games. They have only 20 scheduled games, while squads such as Oak Hill will compete in over twice that many. For that reason, then, he won’t enjoy as many exposure opportunities until spring.

Having said that, next week Heron and Sacred Heart will square off against Christ The King at the HoopHall Invitational. Heron presently ranks No. 15 nationally in the Class of 2016 and undoubtedly will try to impress the national audience on hand.

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