'Hall' of a prospect

The first time he saw Tennessee's freshmen in action, junior post Kenny Hall was struck by the resemblance. Sign in or subscribe now to start familiarizing yourself with the freshmen of the Volunteer basketball team.

The first time he saw Tennessee's freshmen in action, junior post Kenny Hall was struck by the resemblance. Months later, Hall is still reminded of another Vol basketball player each time he watches rookie teammate Yemi Makanjuola.

"He can get up off the floor pretty nice and he's got good basic fundamental moves," Hall said. "Once all of that tones up he could be something special. He's just a little raw. He kind of reminds me of how I was when I first got here."

At 6-feet-9 and 244 pounds, Makanjuola is a little taller and thicker than the 6-8, 225-pound Hall. The former is incredibly early in his development, however, due to limited experience in hoops.

"I've been playing basketball for five years," Makanjuola said following a recent individual workout at the Pratt Pavilion. "Actually, I played soccer all of my life, and my friend was going to be a basketball coach, so I started playing basketball."

Being taller than everyone else might have contributed to the move from soccer to basketball.

"Yeah, it was part of my decision," he conceded. "I achieved so much in one year (of basketball) that I gave up soccer."

The transformation from one sport to another took place in Logos, Nigeria, where Makanjuola spent most of his early life. Realizing he had a future on the court, he decided to move to America, where he could get superior coaching. After a year at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, he wound up at Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C.

Naturally, Makanjuola faced some adjustments — not the least of which was trying to master a new language.

"When I come here I speak real quick," Makanjuola recalled. "The coach tells me to speak slower, and I think that helped my English."

He spent most of his time at Word of God Christian backing up Joseph Uchebo, a 6-10, 240-pounder who committed to North Carolina State before ultimately taking the junior college route. Naturally, battling a Div. I prospect in practice each day aided Makanjuola's development.

"Me and Joseph went out every day and really made each other get better every day," the Vol freshman said. "He helped me by playing good defense on me and I helped him by playing good defense on him. We really helped each other out."

After facing mostly small private schools during his prep days, Makanjuola is seeing a much better level of competition now that he's a collegian.

"On college team everybody's good, so there's competition every day," he said. "In high school you're The Man, so it's a big difference. For every position there are people who do what you do and are even better than you, so you have to go hard every day to compete with them."

Although preseason drills haven't started yet, NCAA rules have allowed Vol head man Cuonzo Martin to put his players through some individual workouts already. Makanjuola quickly discovered that college workouts are a lot more intense and rigorous practice than what he's accustomed to.

"It's hard and I like it," he said. "I'm getting better every day."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories