Jamal Coombs Thriving

When Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs became Jim Calhoun's earliest commitments ever, it was Oriakhi who was considered the big prize. However, the smooth and versatile 6-foot-6 Coombs is playing well. Maybe even better than his teammate.

Jamal Coombs was hardly the "other" guy when UConn coach Jim Calhoun decided to take the earliest commitments in his 20 years at Storrs.

Coombs and his BABC teammate, Alex Oriakhi, both made decisions that they will attend UConn after three more years at Winchendon. The 6-foot-8 (and still growing) Oriakhi was considered the prize of the duo, but many observers feel that Coombs is the better of the two at this point.

The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Coombs may not blow people away with his athleticism or even his scoring ability, but he does everything well – and that's the main reason why Calhoun decided to offer both he and Oriakhi.

``He's a guy who can handle the ball and is an Antoine Walker-type player," BABC coach Leo Papile said of Coombs. "He does a lot of the same things Antoine did. Jamal is a very versatile player."

Coombs began his high school career at Charlestown High (Mass.), but despite plenty of hype, he played sparingly on the varsity squad his freshman year.

``I was supposed to go to prep school my freshman year, but it didn't work out," Coombs said. "I couldn't afford it and some schools didn't have any openings."

However, after one season at Charleston, Coombs and his family opted to go the prep route – and he spent last year re-doing his freshman year at Lawrence Academy (Mass.).

``It was a good experience," Coombs said. "We won a championship, I improved and got a lot of exposure."

Coombs' biggest strength is his versatility. He displayed that last week when he earned all-star honors at the Elite 75 New England Showcase. Picture a cross between Julius Hodge and Marcus Williams of Arizona. He handles the ball extremely well for someone his size, has terrific court vision and makes his teammates better. He'll still need to become a more consistent shooter from the perimeter, but Coombs doesn't have many weaknesses and possesses a high basketball IQ.

While Oriakhi appeared to struggle at times last week and it could have been having to live up to the expectations of being a UConn commit, Coombs thrived.

``I just tried to play my game," he said. "I didn't let it distract me."

``I think I was looser than usual," Coombs added. "I'm not sure why. I think committing to UConn just made me work harder. I just need to maintain my grades and also keep improving on the court."

If he does, Coombs won't be known as the "other" guy for long.

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