Playing just 315 minutes after being forced to sit out much of the early part of the season once diagnosed with Hepatitis B, Mouphtaou Yarou
's freshman campaign was not very conclusive, but did feature some extremely intriguing moments.
Standing 6-10, with a terrific wingspan and an outstanding frame, Yarou looks the part of an NBA center, and moves like one too. He has good hands, is very fluid relative to his size, and is just now beginning to tap into his immense potential after only starting to play basketball at age 14. With a fascinating background story under his belt, Yarou is reportedly an extremely intelligent, hard-worker who speaks five languages, and shows many of the characteristics you look for in a top-shelf big man prospect.
Yarou's offensive role as a freshman was extremely limited, as he ranked 9th on Villanova's squad in field goal attempts per minute at just 7.6 per-40. Nevertheless, he was able to drop some extremely interesting flashes of potential both with his back to the basket and even facing it, leaving plenty of room for optimism regarding how he might develop down the road.
Most of Yarou's shot-opportunities came by simply crashing the offensive glass or cutting to the basket last season, but it's clear that he has both the tools and budding skills to do more. He has the strength and girth to establish position in the paint, and can carve out even more space by backing his man down and then spinning off either shoulder impressively. He needs to be more aggressive looking for his own shot, though, as he was often too indecisive with the ball in his hands last year, which rendered him fairly turnover prone. At his size, he must take advantage of opportunities he has to assert himself against smaller players, and not be as deferential to his older teammates as he was last season.
Not just strictly an inside presence, Yarou even has a bit of a mid-range jumper in his arsenal, showing good mechanics, a high release point, and interestingly knocking down 71% of his free throw attempts last season. Yarou's feel for the game is pretty advanced relative to the stage of development he theoretically should be at, as he shows solid passing ability, has nice fundamentals, and can finish with either hand around the basket, which is certainly a plus.
Defensively, Yarou is a massive presence inside the paint with his chiseled frame and outstanding wingspan, and already was able to establish himself as a solid shot-blocking presence in his limited playing time, averaging 2.5 blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted. Yarou has good instincts and moves his feet well, being able to contest shots impressively at times with his length and effort-level. His lack of experience definitely shows up here on occasion, though, especially on the perimeter, where he tends to struggle. He's very foul prone for that reason, one of the reasons he wasn't able to see extended minutes in certain games last year.
Yarou still has room to improve as a defensive rebounder, where he's not quite as productive as you might hope. He tends to go after loose balls with one hand at times and doesn't always do a great job of boxing out his opponents.
More than anything, Yarou is in need of plenty of playing time in order to continue to garner experience and increase his comfort level on the basketball court. With a good part of Villanova's frontcourt returning and a McDonald's All-American power forward coming in, Yarou's time to breakout might be a little longer in the waiting, but it should come sooner rather than later. There's a case to be made for him as the best long-term prospect in the Big East, but it will be up to him to prove that first.