Knockout Punch: Jessie Sapp

No one really paid much attention to Jessie Sapp a year ago when he was the fourth guard on a team with Russell Robinson, Sundiata Gaines and Ronald Ramon. Things have changed for the New York City native and National Christian (Md.) rising senior in a year's time.

When you watch Jessie Sapp, he's got a fighter's mentality out on the court – and for good reason. The National Christian (Md.) rising senior guard and New York City native was a boxer during his pre-teen years.

``I never lost a fight," said the 6-3, 185-pound Sapp, who fought for about four years until the age of 12. "When I'm on the court now, I feel like I have to fight it out, especially in a tough game. That last jump shot could be the knockout punch."

Sapp has been throwing plenty of those of late – and he's seen him recruitment skyrocket from a mid-major guy with looks from Marshall, Fordham and Hofstra to now, where schools like Georgia Tech, Miami, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Arkansas have all gotten involved.

``I don't really have a favorite right now because it's all happened so fast," Sapp said. "I still can't believe it. Just last year, I didn't have any letters."

Sapp grew up a somewhat-troubled kid in Harlem and after numerous distractions made it difficult for him to concentrate on basketball and academics, he decided to head a few hours away to National Christian, where his game and books have both excelled over the past year.

Sapp averaged 14 points per game as a junior and has shown that he's a big-time combo guard who can get to the basket, knock down the perimeter shot and also play tough defense.

``I still think I need to drive to the basket more," Sapp said. "And play with more heart. I'm still not where I want to be."

Sapp, 18, was the unknown fourth guard on last summer's Gauchos team that boasted three tournament titles – and a trio of highly touted guards that consisted of Russell Robinson (Kansas), Sundiata Gaines (Georgia) and Ronald Ramon (Pittsburgh).

``Watching all three of them really motivated me to work harder," Sapp said.

``He's been our warrior," Gauchos boss Paul Brown said. "He was under the radar, but he's done it all. He was our fourth guard last year and didn't get a lot of publicity when we won it all, but now he's used to playing in big-time situations and has really stepped up."

In fact, Sapp went to the Nike Memorial Day Classic late last month without an invitation to the Nike All-American Camp. But after leading the tournament in scoring, he returned home with one.

``I knew the only way to get there was to earn it," Sapp said.

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