WESTFIELD, Ind. — N’Faly Dante was inconsolable.
The MoKan Elite post’s mitts slipped off a rebound, the ball falling into the hands of Las Vegas Prospects forward Edward Turner. Then Dante mistimed a would-be swat, putting Turner on the line late in a nip-and-tuck affair Saturday afternoon.
As Turner prepared to step to the line, MoKan combo forward Malik Hall pulled Dante inside for a few calm words, squeezing his hands on an invisible ball — a subtle reminder of securing the rock before pivoting to fire an outlet pass.
“He’s our guy,” MoKan coach Chris Neff said after the 71-64 loss. “He’s going to lead this team and do a lot the things we need to in terms of coach-on-the-floor stuff.”
No one has quibbled with Hall’s status as a top-50 prospect, but adding seven offers in three days last week — highlighted by Villanova and Louisville — is upping his national profile. The deluge caught the 6’7, 210-pound Hall by surprise.
“I didn’t think I did that well last weekend,” Hall said, “but I was a good leader and I showed coaches that I can do more than score the ball.”
Malik Hall — EYBL Statistics
Since arriving at Sunrise Christian Academy and joining MoKan’s ranks in the last two years, the Chicagoland native cut a quiet profile. Last season, Jontay Porter was the face of the program, with Hall showcasing a solid face-up game to go with deft footwork and finishing moves inside.
In Indianapolis, though, Hall proved he’s grown adept at putting the ball on the deck and attacking gaps, especially on secondary breaks. With Dante, the No. 6 recruit in 2020, patrolling the paint and snagging misses, it’s freed up Hall take outlet feeds and push for scoring chances against a defense scrambling to matchup. On a couple of occasions, Hall knifed in from the right wing, used the rim as a shield and finished with his left hand.
“To be honest, I want more,” Neff said. “He’s a real difficult kid to guard once he starts getting to the rim. He’s become a pretty good passer as well.”
He’s MoKan’s closer, too.
Trailing Seattle Rotary on Friday night, Hall took the wheel to help force overtime. He scored on a low-post from the left block that became a 3-point play, followed up by a 3-pointer from the top of the key. In overtime, he was hammered on a would-be dunk in transition and sank a pair of free throws. He split a pair of free throws a trip later. All told, he scored eight of his 18 points in the final six minutes of game action, helping MoKan to a 73-71 victory.
“This group is kind of leaning on him,” Neff said. “Some of these guys aren’t near as talkative as they need to be. And this can be a pretty uncomfortable setting if you don’t have a veteran. We’ve been fortunate over the years at MoKan to have kids play up as 16-year-olds and eventually fill in as veterans. That’s what he’s been for us.”
In four games, Hall averaged 14.3 points, knocking down 55.3 percent of his shots, and pulled 5.3 rebounds. Yet Hall doesn’t view efficiency as solely a statistical enterprise. There are downstream effects psychologically.
“When you keep missing a bunch of shots, your teammates start to notice,” he said. “It brings people down a little bit more. Being efficient, for me, would be a big deal. I get a lot of shots, where initially they’re good shots for me, but I just have to make them more so we can start to get a flow and a little rhythm.”
Hall said Mizzou remains in contact, with assistant coach Cornell Mann and Cuonzo Martin texting regularly. But even if Hall is more talkative on the floor, he holds the details of recruitment tight. Asked whether the slew of recent offers changes his plans, Hall simply said, “I’m just [in] wait-and-see mode.”
Hargrove settling in
Terrence Hargrove Jr. knew it would take time acclimate when he stepped off the independent circuit and joined Brad Beal Elite on the EYBL circuit.
The East St. Louis wing’s exposure comes in modest doses as a member of the reserve unit, spelling Moses Moody and trying to fill in the margins of the box score.
“I don’t mind coming off the bench at all,” Hargrove said Friday night. “I’m still playing. My role is to run the floor, rebound, get dunks, get layups.”
The next day against BABC, however, Hargrove appeared to be finding his way, tallying 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting and coming up just shy of a double-double with nine rebounds. He sank a jumper at the top of the key, attacked and finished at the rim in transition and sailed in for two rebounds that resulted in putbacks.
When Hargrove Jr. decided to leave Hoopville Warriors, the club team he’d play with since middle school, the impetus was to improve his stock in the eyes of high-majors by measuring them against elite prospects that dot EYBL rosters. Similar to McKinney, BBE’s depth makes hefty minutes hard to come by, but if he can put together outings like the one he produced Saturday, it’ll lend credence to the notion that Hargrove could grow into hybrid forward for Mizzou.
So far, Missouri State and Colorado State are the latest to offer Hargrove, and MU remains the highest-profile school to get involved. The Tigers’ interest hasn’t ebbed, either. “I hear from Mizzou all day every day,” said Hargrove, who is rated as the nation’s No. 143 prospect by Rivals. “I’m really close with all the staff.”
- Isiaih Mosley goes to school just down the road from Mizzou Arena, but his correspondence with MU, which offered the No. 146 recruit in the country last June, has fallen off. “I haven’t really been talking to them at all,” said Mosley, who is averaging 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for MoKan Elite. “They haven’t really been in contact with me.” Given the fact MU’s staff remains in touch with Hargrove, it would seem Martin and his staff prefer Hargrove — who has a bit more size and positional flexibility — over the Rock Bridge product.
- Missouri remains nominally in the race for Brad Beal Elite post Francis Okoro — if he remains part of the 2019 class. Okoro, though, is reportedly considering a reclassification to join a college roster next season, a move that would leave Purdue, Illinois and Oregon as the favorites. Over the weekend, he remained coy about those plans, but the big man out of Normal (Ill.) West pointed out he recently scored a 32 on the ACT, which “kind of opens doors for me.” In fact, he was just up the road in West Lafayette, Ind., taking an official visit Friday to Purdue, and he could head to Illinois this coming weekend, trips that could set Okoro up to make a decision.
- Unfortunately, I was only able to see Rockett Watts in small doses this weekend, and he didn’t swing by the interview pen when I requested him. Alas, you’ll have to make do with highlights.