One of the top wing players in 2016, 5-star SF Mustapha Heron, has narrowed his list of schools as he nears a fall decision. SMU made the cut, along with six other schools, and is in a solid spot with the Connecticut native. Heron’s father, Bryan, talks about his son’s college options, visit plans, thoughts on SMU and much more.
Patrick Engel: What has been your and Mustapha’s approach since opening things back up in April? (Heron decommitted from Pittsburgh in the spring).
Bryan Heron: “He has a lot more attention. He just wanted to see what else is out there, because the whole Pitt stuff was a relationship. I’m not ruling Pitt out either, but it was a relationship with a former assistant (then-Pitt and current Saint John’s assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen) than it was anything else.”
Patrick Engel: I know you and Slice go way back. Is that relationship that both you and Mustapha have with Slice going to be a big factor going forward?
Bryan Heron: “It’s definitely a factor. I’m not sure how big it’s going to be, but that’s why everyone links (Mustapha) to Saint John’s. But you also have to find a situation that’s best for you, and you hope the relationship can sustain it.”
Patrick Engel: You guys have the list of seven (SMU, Maryland, Saint John’s, Marquette, Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn). What were some of the criteria you and Mustapha used to narrow it down?
Bryan Heron: “Style of play. Accountability.”
Patrick Engel: Would you say it’s still an open or fluid list?
Bryan Heron: “It’s open, but it’s narrowed down. It’s not open to 20 different people, but there are some guys that you identify that, from their track record, you can rely on their structure.”
Patrick Engel: So are those seven schools a pretty set seven then.
Bryan Heron: “There could always be a wild card, but I don’t see anything happening. There could be a wild card somewhere along the way, say in early August, somebody that just wows you, and you just didn’t think about them before. But those are the most consistent schools that are in contact.”
Patrick Engel: So naturally, those are the seven that Mustapha is the most interested in.
Bryan Heron: “Right. The style of play fits him. It has to be somewhere that really fits what he does.”
Patrick Engel: What about SMU’s style of play do you think fits Mustapha really well, and what does he think fits well?
Bryan Heron: “Well first and foremost, they have a Hall of Fame coach who has done it on both levels. That’s the first thing. Academically, it’s one of the strongest schools in the country. That’s very important for what he’s going to do after all this basketball stuff is over.”
Patrick Engel: Is the interest from SMU pretty serious?
Bryan Heron: “I have a sense that my dealings with coach Brown have been beyond positive. And he has a plan. You know, a lot of guys, they call you but they don’t have a plan. They just call you because other people call. But he calls with a plan, like ‘this is what I would do with him. This is where I could help him.’ He has a really good and concrete plan how he would work with Mustapha. And that’s important. Go back to style of play, just guys that can put him in a position of power.”
Patrick Engel: Now you and Mustapha haven’t visited SMU yet. Will you?
Bryan Heron: “No, but we’re planning on it. We haven’t set a date, but we’re planning for the end of August or early September when school gets back in session.”
Patrick Engel: Has coach Brown himself been the main guy recruiting Mustapha, or is there an assistant coach in there too?
Bryan Heron: “The assistant, Jerry (Hobbie), is probably the main guy. But coach Brown has been right there by his side. He’s been at his games, I’ve been in contact with him.”
Patrick Engel: “So it seems you’ve gotten to know both of them pretty well throughout the process.
Bryan Heron: “Right, and one of my best friends is really tight with coach Brown. That helps because the stuff that I need to know that other people might not tell me, he’ll be able to tell me. That really helps.”
Patrick Engel: Now onto some of these other schools. You just visited Alabama in early July. What did you get to do, and what impressed you?
Bryan Heron: “I mean Avery (head coach Avery Johnson), his resume is very impressive. The facilities are really nice. He also has a good plan.”
Patrick Engel: And of course Saint John’s, with Slice being there, and him being the guy at Pitt, that’s a big deal too.
Bryan Heron: “That really speaks for itself.”
Patrick Engel: You visited Marquette at the end of June, what was your impression after that?
Bryan Heron: “It was great because Woj (head coach Steve Wojciechowski), his energy, he was hungry. His work ethic and energy is just unbelievable.”
Patrick Engel: And with Mississippi State too with another coach (Ben Howland) with a great resume and some great talent coming in there. That must be impressive.
Bryan Heron: “Howland’s done a really good job with all the guards he ever touched. They all got better.”
Patrick Engel: Is a rising program like Mississippi State just as appealing as an established one?
Bryan Heron: “Yes. I actually like the rising programs with the younger new coaches or the (household) names. I just think a place like Alabama or Mississippi State, just because they’re new, they’re trying to make a splash, so they have to have the energy. I think that a lot of it is energy.”
Patrick Engel: I’d have to think that another riser in Auburn is right there too.
Bryan Heron: “All those programs are, all those coaches are fairly new to those situations. So they’re trying to make a splash, have a lot of energy. They’re going to push Mustapha.”
Patrick Engel: Even though you like the rising teams, a team like Maryland that’s already there has to be just as appealing.
Bryan Heron: They’re probably going to be one of the best teams in the nation this season. Plus, the coach (Mark Turgeon) and I have a lot of mutual friends. So I’m able to get the ins and outs.”
Patrick Engel: You talk about wanting a plan and hearing how a team would use and develop Mustapha. So you’ve probably gotten the chance to sit down in-depth with some of the coaches and listen to their plan. Is there any one coach who struck you?
Bryan Heron: “I think all of them have a similar plan as far as how to utilize him. He’s a multi-skilled player. He can play all three front positions. He’s able to handle the ball, able to play off the ball, and they’re all defensive-minded guys. I think one of Mustapha’s strong suits is defending and rebounding. So those are the programs I’m looking for that are going to play to his strengths.”
Patrick Engel: Was there any one coach who really struck Mustapha?
Bryan Heron: “I think Avery, (Saint John’s head coach) Chris Mullen, I know he loves Woj’s energy.”
Patrick Engel: Now visit-wise, what’s next for you guys?
Bryan Heron: “The only set one right now is Mississippi State on the 27th of August. That’s locked in. But the rest of them are hopefully between the second week of August and the second week of September so we can make a decision before the high school starts.”
Patrick Engel: And those would all be official visits?
Bryan Heron: “Some of them will, some of them won’t. But Mississippi State is an official right now. You only get five, so you have to use them wisely.”
Patrick Engel: You do have a couple more schools on the list than you slots for officials. What’s the big thing that is going to help you get to five schools?
Bryan Heron: “We definitely want to get them in September or when school is back in session so we can see some of their workouts, and the team when the team is around, different workouts they are doing, just so Mustapha could spend a day or two there and see how the team works out and stuff like that. But we want to get everything done by October. I don’t think he necessarily has to have an official to say, ‘that’s where I want to go.’ It’s more relationship and the positive vibes you get from the guys.”
Patrick Engel: As far as SMU goes, do you know if you’re for certain going to take an official there?
Bryan Heron: “Yes.”
Patrick Engel: You haven’t set a date, but it’s almost a guarantee to be on the official schedule?
Bryan Heron: “That’s an guarantee, that’s going to be a guarantee.”
Patrick Engel: And I’m guessing you want to get everything done by October so Mustapha can sign during the early signing period?
Bryan Heron: “Right.”
Patrick Engel: Of the seven, are there any one or two that are putting the full-court press on, coming the hardest and showing the most interest?
Bryan Heron: “I think it’s all the same. They all have a different pitch but the same frequency.”