Even with UConn coming off a season it was barred from the NCAA Tournament, the uncertain future of star guard Shabazz Napier and questions over Kevin Ollie’s ability to succeed coaching icon Jim Calhoun, Sagemont 6-4 star junior guard Prince Ali never wavered in his oral commitment to the Huskies.
Ali’s decision to go with the Huskies over Florida, Kansas, Syracuse and UCLA, among other Tournament teams, has been rewarded with the Huskies’ improbable run to the Final Four.
"I am happy for UConn and coach Ollie after everything they have been through," Ali said. "When I committed early people were asking me why UConn. They faced a ban and there was talk if their seniors were going to stay. Well it turns out like I made a great decision.”
While UConn was still trying to get its act together, the high-flying Ali was averaging 18 points in leading Sagemont to the Class 3A state title, the first perfect season (33-0) in Broward County's rich prep basketball history and berth in the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament.
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Ironically enough, Ali will have a chance to play at historic Madison Square Garden, site of the Huskies’ stirring 60-54 come-back victory over Michigan State, the East No. 4 seed, on Sunday, if Sagemont advances to the National Tournament Finalson Saturday at noon.
Sagemont, ranked No. 4 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, faces No. 2 Montverde Prep (25-0) in the National Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
On Saturday UConn (30-8), which rallied from a nine-point second half deficit behind Shabazz Napier’s game-high 25 points, faces Florida (36-2), a team, Ali recalls "didn’t recruit me as hard as some other prospects” in the Final Four.
Florida has rattled off 30 consecutive games since losing Dec. 2 to Connecticut on a buzzer-beater from Napier.
"Napier is playing like he is the best guard in the country," Ali said. "He is stepping up like his team needs him to. I definitely watch him and take things from his game. I think it will be a dog fight. Its looking like whomever coaches a better game will win.”