As the college basketball season gets ready to start, we starting a new series: “Meeting Top International Prospects with NetScouts Basketball” in which we will help those in the basketball world get more familiar with some of the top international recruits. We are starting the series with Mustapha Amzil, a 6-9 versatile forward from Finland. Amzil has been getting numerous high-major offers after he moved to First Love Academy in Pennsylvania several weeks ago. Illinois, DePaul, NC State and SMU are the most recent schools to make offers with St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Dayton and Pittsburgh and others also in the mix. North Carolina, Duke and Kansas have also started to show some interest.
Amzil has been a constant part of the Finland youth national teams. He had a strong showing at the 2019 U18 European Championships where he averaged 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. He managed to find some time to share his thoughts with us on his expectations for the coming season, his college aspirations and a lot more. Here is the interview:
Hello Mustapha! Hope you and your family are doing well in these crazy times. Can you tell us more about how you’ve spent this past summer during the lockdown? What was your main focus in improving your skill set?
Amzil: The virus messed up everyone’s plans for the summer, fortunately I was still able to get high level workouts in. International competition and traveling were cancelled so I had time to just hit the gym and get my individual game better. Most of the summer I was working out back home in Finland with Omnia Basketball Academy and their coach Justice Graham. I had good workouts with Cedric Latimer near my hometown in Vantaa and some with the Finnish men’s national team. I focused on my scoring skills, finishing through contact and skills that are more usable in the American style of play because I knew my next step is to come and play there.
How did you start playing basketball?
Amzil: I started playing ball when I was 7. I used to be a soccer player but friends in my class started playing basketball as well. One day I went home and asked my parents if they can take me to basketball practice. After that I just fell in love with the game.
Amzil: I was thinking about the best path for my career, between going pro, going straight to college or one year at a US high school. I decided that going to college is the best way to reach my goals and going to a US high school one year to get the exposure and adjusted for the playing style would be the best fit. My family and I decided that First Love is a great school and gives me the opportunity to reach those goals.
What does it feel like for a Finnish kid to go overseas chasing his dream to be a NCAA D1 player? We know that one of your teammates from the youth teams of Finland and HBA Marsky, Teemu Suokas, a 6-2 point guard, will be playing at Ball State this season, while there are several other Finnish players in for NCAA Division 1 programs. What, do you think makes Finnish players a good fit for the American college style of basketball?
Amzil: I think Finnish players are very coachable, humble and ready to put the work in. We usually have a lot of experience from international games and we’re good teammates.
Recently you’ve been drawing strong interest from high-major schools in the USA. What do you think you can bring up to the table for a high-major program and what style of basketball and position you think fits you the best?
Amzil: My versatility added to my height and IQ is something every coach has mentioned when they have made a phone call with me. I can score on all levels and guard from 1-5. I’ve gotten a lot better in my playmaking skills especially as the ball screen ball handler. I’m good on fast breaks as I can get the rebound and push the ball down the court and find open teammates or drive to the basket. That’s why I feel like I can fit on different playing styles, but I like fast paced offense the most. I’m most comfortable at the wing.
Since you have gotten such strong interest from many programs in the USA and having many interviews already, maybe the most important question comes down to your school preferences. What are you specifically looking for when recruited by colleges?
Amzil: The biggest thing is the relationship with the coaches and how involved they are in the recruiting process and being comfortable with them. If I do what is expected having a chance for an impact as a freshman is important for me. How I fit the playing style and a program that believes in me and helps me reach the next level is important too.
You have been living in the USA for awhile already, which are the biggest differences in the lifestyle you’ve been facing so far? Do you think that they might affect your performance on and off the court?
Amzil: The adjustment has been quite easy because two of my very good friends Federiko Federiko and Niki Juntunen came down to Pittsburgh with me from Finland. They went to play for the Post Grad team so we don’t play together but we practice at the same time. Good coaches and teammates help the transition also. I think all this affects positively for me, as I was looking forward to a change of scenery.
What are your expectations and goals for this season? Which aspect/s of your game will you be looking to improve the most over the season?
Amzil: We are aiming to win the State and National championships and grow as a team. My goals are to get my overall game better but more specifically get my shot more consistent as well as getting bigger and faster.
What are your long-term goals, where do you envision yourself playing in 5 years?
Amzil: To be the best player I can be and reach my potential. Hopefully I will be in the NBA.
Are there any players in Europe and in the NBA you like studying/watching and why?
Amzil: Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Paul George and Kevin Durant. All of them are taller players with great overall skills, which I hope I can one day be.
What is your basketball schedule in a normal day?
Amzil: Usually we go do conditioning on the track in the morning and in the evening we have a 2.5-hour practice.
What do you prefer doing in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?
Amzil: Nothing too special just chilling with the family and friends. I watch some movies, play playstation and listen to music.
Thanks for your time Mustapha! We hope you have a successful and healthy season!
Interview conducted by Simeon Marinov of NetScouts Basketball.