LOCATION: Oakland, CA
HEAD COACH: Lance Olivier
2015 EYBL RECORD: 10-8
KEY RETURNEES: N/A
The Oakland Soldiers had an up-and-down season in 2015. By another team’s standards, it may have been a success. But for the Soldiers, who are used to competing at a high level for a Peach Jam championship year in and year out, it was a down season. They qualified for Peach Jam with an 11-5 record, but proceeded to go 1-4 in pool play to end their season. Last year was the first in a long many that they did not have a de facto star to lead the team. Their point guard, Jordan Ford, led the team with 12.6 points per game and has committed to play for St. Mary’s. Carlos Johnson, a UNLV commit, and Remy Martin also averaged double digits in scoring for the squad. The team had three sophomores who were major contributors for the team, but none are slated to return.
The Soldiers bring in an entirely new roster. Gone are the days of a star sophomore (Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Ivan Rabb) stepping up as a junior to lead the team. Last year’s sophomores have moved to different teams, and the Soldiers have reloaded with talent from California, Arizona, Nevada and other West Coast prep academies. Out-of-state players Alex Barcello (Gilbert, Arizona) and Christian PoPoola (Las Vegas, Nevada) head up the backcourt, while international players Amadou Sow and Abu Kigab from Prolific Prep in Napa, California, will be contributors. While the Soldiers are following a different formula this year, their roster is extremely interesting and could be difficult to deal with as the team improves.
For the second straight year, there is no clear star leading the team, but there are a number of extremely interesting and talented players. The star of this team is likely Barcello, a 6-foot-2 point guard who plays for Corona del Sol high school in Arizona. He is a highly regarded junior who is both a solid distributor and shooter and holds offers from a number of strong programs. The other player who could take this title is PoPoola, a 6-foot-4 junior from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas who averaged around 16 points and 6 assists per game for the Gaels this year.
The team’s sleeper is the Canadian import Kigab, a 6-foot-7 junior forward who played for Prolific Prep this past season before committing to play for the Soldiers. Kigab played alongside some strong nationally recruited players in Josh Jackson and Vance Jackson while at Prolific Prep, which should help him with his mentality as he plays in the most difficult circuit in the country. Kigab is already getting looks from a number of high-major schools and could build on that hype with a strong showing with the Soldiers this year.
Kigab’s Prolific Prep teammate Sow will bring some size to the Soldiers and is an intriguing sophomore on the squad. His 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame is the biggest on the roster this season. Sow will be joined in the frontcourt by sophomore Taeshon Cherry, as well as Findlay Prep’s Donnie Tillman, who are both 6-foot-8, and the trio should make up a solid frontcourt. Alfred Hollins will help to solidify the backcourt and will get minutes at forward as well. While Barcello and PoPoola will get a majority of the minutes at the guard positions, Elishja Duplechan will see playing time at point guard.
The most important factor for the Soldiers this season will be whether they can find an identity. They have a number of extremely interesting pieces, and individually the pieces look like they should be a winning team. There are a number of directions the squad could go. One option would be to focus the team around their strong backcourt, while the other would be to use the pair from Prolific Prep to attack the hoop. If this team can gel and find an identity, it may become a force to be reckoned with come Peach Jam.
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