A Coach's Perspective: Ashton-Langford

While many of Maryland's 2015 hoops targets have been identified, there are plenty of new names cropping up in the 2016 class. One of the most recent rising stars is St. Peter Marian Jr. Sr. HS (Worcester, Mass.) point guard Makai Ashton-Langford, a 6-foot-1, 165-pounder that figures to be a national recruit before it's all said and done.

While many of Maryland's 2015 hoops targets have been identified, there are plenty of new names cropping up in the 2016 class. One of the most recent rising stars, who Terps assistant and New England native Scott Spinelli checked out in early January, is St. Peter Marian Jr. Sr. HS (Worcester, Mass.) point guard Makai Ashton-Langford, a 6-foot-1, 165-pounder that figures to be a national recruit before it's all said and done.

Ashton-Langford holds one early offer from Rhode Island, but the Terps, and possibly Providence, are already closely monitoring him.

"Coach Spinelli did contact me [in mid-January] prior to our game with one of our big rivals and let me know he was going to be in town to take a look at Makai," St. Peter Marian head coach Marcus Watson said. "[Spinelli] was definitely here to see him. I did not talk to him other than I shook his hand before the game, but he had definitely heard that Makai was a very talented young sophomore who is starting to create a lot of buzz for himself based on his play."

Ashton-Langford, who just turned 15 in late October, is averaging 17.9 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals per game thus far. His squad just recently finished a three-game stretch where they took on the No. 1, No. 5 and No. 9 ranked teams in Massachusetts and managed to stay competitive in each thanks to Ashton-Langford's contributions.

"Makai is our starting point guard, and he was a major reason why we were in those games," Watson said. "He's a very hungry young man, he's ambidextrous, he can score both ways, he sees the floor well, he runs the floor well, he defends at a high rate and his basketball IQ is very high. He's about 6-1, 165, and looking at him, he has long arms and doesn't look to be done growing. It wouldn't surprise me if he grew to 6-4, 6-5.

"But he has a lot to work on. We're talking about a 15-year-old kid. He's generated buzz based of his potential, and there's a lot to like."

Watson mentioned Ahston-Langford's 3-point stroke and the ability to find his teammates as two primary areas he needs to hone, although he's made improvements in each since last year. The St. Peter Marian head coach said if his sophomore point is left open from deep "he can make you pay the price."

But physical talent only tells part of the story. Ashton-Langford has grown up in a basketball family where his mother was a 1,000-point scorer in both high school and college, while his father, who knew Spinelli coming up through the ranks, looked to have a promising career before being sidetracked by an injury. Thus, Ashton-Langford honed his skills early on, and has an advanced knowledge of the game for his age.

"His mother told Makai at a young age he needed to work on his left hand, and he worked on it so much a lot of coaches who don't know him can't tell which is his dominant hand," said Watson, who also mentioned that Ashton-Langford's older brother is a talented football player, while his younger brother is an emerging hardwood star who wears a size-14 shoe. "He's very proficient with his left hand. Last year as a ninth grader he started tinkering and shooting the ball with his left hand, and he had a better stroke left-handed than a lot of kids do right-handed. He's a natural right-hander, but he can use both equally well, and that makes him special on the floor."

Watson went on to say Ashton-Langford's family is very tight-knit, and Makai and his siblings are well-mannered and humble. The coach said academics are stressed in the household and will undoubtedly play a significant role in where Ashton-Langford attends college.

This season, however, could very well be the last Watson coaches the up-and-coming point guard. After the year is out, Ashton-Langord will likely transfer to one of the prestigious prep schools in the area such as Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) or Putnam Science Academy (Putnam, Conn.). Either way, he will continue to play for the nationally-known Mass Rivals AAU squad in the offseason, giving Ashton-Langford even more exposure.

"He's traveled and played at a very high rate for a long time now," Watson said. "That's how he's generated a buzz, and he's only going to get better. He's only 15."

Watson would know. Just a couple years ago he coaches a top-100 recruit in Naadir Tharpe, who is now the starting point for Kansas. Ashton-Langford, the coach surmised, has similar potential.

"Naadir's ball-handling skills, court sense, all of that, at the age of 15 was off the charts," Watson said. "And Makai's basketball IQ and basketball sense are off the charts too, and he's more athletic at 15 than Naadir was. Makai plays above the rim, and his athleticism is off the charts for his age.

"His shooting ability is about equal to Naadir's, and their defense I would say is about equal. Again, I don't want to compare [Ashton-Langford] at 15 years old to a point guard at Kansas University, but for a reference point I'd say Makai is in that same mold. And with preparation and development, he has the potential to reach [Tharpe's] level."

TerrapinTimes Top Stories