Top Big East recruit travels long road from Africa to Villanova
There were times when Yarou wanted to run right off campus. As well as things went with basketball, he kept in touch with Chris Timba, a 6-11 senior at UMBC who played with his brother in Africa and had attended Massanutten as a postgraduate. In phone conversations he expressed his dismay at the rigid discipline. After a spring on the sneaker circuit that elicited calls from several private and prep schools, Yarou, who generated early interest from New Mexico State, decided over the summer to transfer to the Montrose Christian School, a basketball power in Maryland where Kevin Durant played his senior year. "The mistake that New Mexico State made was letting him play AAU," says one assistant coach familiar with his recruitment. "That's when his name got out."
By late August, Yarou gave a verbal commitment to Villanova, the first big-time Division I school to offer a scholarship. He also informed Massanutten that he would not return. Reluctantly, Massanutten gave Yarou's I-20 to Montrose and the 18-year-old began classes. Though closer to Timba -- his guardian who works at an IT company in Virginia and lives in Baltimore -- Yarou, a Muslim whose father is a polygamist with three wives and 13 children, lives in a three-story house next to campus with six teammates.
"He probably has less leeway here," said Arie Johnson, the house mother who lives on the third floor and is a career counselor at the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Detention Center nearby. "Mouph gets up in the morning when the others are sleeping to go running."
In his basement room, which he shares with T. Jordan Omogbehin, a 7-2, 260-pound sophomore from Nigeria, and Terrence Ross, a 6-5 guard from Oregon, Yarou keeps his perfect push-up handles from Massanutten. "It's tough to get out of your country and past the embassies unless you are special and passionate about getting to the States," said Montrose coach Stu Vetter, who also has Villanova signee Isaiah Armwood, a 6-7, athletic forward from Baltimore, on the roster. "The ones who get here have a built-in work ethic."
In early September, Villanova coach Jay Wright, playing the part of Kevin Bacon's Jimmy Dolan in a reprisal of The Air Up There, flew to Benin with associate coach Pat Chambers. Wright informed him that he wanted to know his family, even though Yarou's parents speak no English. After landing at 7 p.m., Wright and Chambers were back in the air by noon the next day, but the coaches met family members and toured the town in between. "I was impressed that he went," Yarou said.
Yarou, who was not home for the visit, was given a photo in which Wright, Chambers and Jerome are smiling. "My brother asked if they would take care of me," Yarou said. "They said they would. My parents gave their blessing."