The run of top college recruits passing through the Hillcrest Prep basketball program has slowed. But that hasn’t kept the Gilbert basketball academy from having a good shot at a national title this season.
Hillcrest was the first basketball academy to start in Arizona, debuting during the 2015-16 season. Oftentimes referred to as “basketball factories,” these programs are set up for the specific purpose of developing prep athletes considered among the nation’s best. Those in Arizona are not members of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which governs high school sports in the state, so they don’t play local high schools, but play a national schedule instead.
The program gained instant credibility when Marvin Bagley III transferred in from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. The 7-footer was rated as the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2018. He was followed by a second No. 1 prospect, DeAndre Ayton, who went on to play his only college season at University of Arizona.
And last spring, it looked like Hillcrest was going to add another top prospect to its roster when Omaha Biliew, who had been ranked the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2023 by the recruiting publication Nothing But Net, appeared headed for the Arizona program. The 6’8″ combo forward out of Iowa changed his mind over the summer and decided to stay in the Hawkeye State and play for a Waukee program.
Hillcrest is 31-0 so far this year, and hardly lacking for talent. But the program has just added a little extra insurance in the form of a 7-foot import from West Africa.
Actually, the purported height of Mouhamadou Cisse has probably been rounded off to the high side. Various recruiting sites list him at anywhere from 6’8″ to 6’10”. But his presence should still have an immediate impact — particularly on the boards.
The native of Senegal has been playing for Espoirs Monaco, an under-21 team in France, where he has been averaging nine rebounds a game.
Cisse averages seven points a game, but his true worth is going to be in his ability as a shot blocker and rebounder. Senior Mike Foster is already handling the bulk of the scoring chores for the Bruins and Hilcrest’s recruiting coordinator, Nick Weaver, told the media that “He will complement Mike big-time.”
The 6’9″ Foster, rated by most services among the top five prospects in the class of 2021 and listed as No. 4 by Sports Illustrated, is averaging 32 points a game.
But Foster also chips in more than his share of the rebounding effort. He is averaging 19 rebounds and seven blocked shots a game. The addition of Cisse provides a twin-tower effect that will make it even harder on opponents to collect points near the basket.
The Bruins feature a high-octane offense this year that scored 100 or more points in 14 of their first15 games, and hit the century mark 20 times overall.
Cisse’s addition may not change those numbers much, but he will definitely make the Bruins tougher to beat.