NEW YORK — When New York City guard Dupree McBrayer picked a college this past August, one of his primary reasons for choosing Minnesota over both Seton Hall and St. John’s was his relationship with Gophers assistant Kimani Young.
“[It was] very important,” the 6-foot-4 McBrayer told SNY.tv. “He was a straightforward person with me. We had a close bond from the beginning, from when he first started recruiting me. The fact that my mother and grandmother loved him was important, too.”
A Queens native who joined the Minnesota staff in 2013, Young not only helped land McBrayer, who is spending a postgraduate season at Sunrise (KS) Christian, but Maryland point guard Kevin Dorsey and New York big man Jonathan Nwankwo as well.
Young now makes his return to the New York area when Minnesota (3-1) meets St. John’s (3-0) in the NIT Season Tip-Off Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Gonzaga meets Georgia in the second game of the doubleheader, with the winners set to meet in Friday’s championship.
The Minnesota-St. John’s game not only has NCAA Tournament implications for both teams, but has added meaning for Young, who was the Video Coordinator on Norm Roberts’ staff at St. John’s during the 2008-9 season.
“It would be a great win,” Young told the Pioneer Press. “The exposure of playing in Madison Square Garden (is tremendous). Obviously, we’re recruiting in that area. I’m not putting the fate of our season in the hands of this one game, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”
While one season of recruiting doesn’t tell the whole story, it’s clear that Young has been a critical recruiter for head coach Richard Pitino’s club.
As the former Athletic Director for the New Heights AAU program, Young has strong ties to the New York City AAU scene and to New York in general.
While he has helped land McBrayer, Young and Nwankwo, St. John’s to this point has just one commit for 2015 in Philadelphia guard Samir Doughty. The Johnnies recently missed out on five-star point guard Isaiah Briscoe, who chose Kentucky over St. John’s.
“He’s a great person, a great father and a man of good character,” Pitino said Tuesday on a conference call. “My biggest thing when hiring coaches is I want to hire people first who have got a strong desire to work, but also great people. Kimani is that. He’s got unbelievable ties, not just to New York and New Jersey, but throughout the country. He relates so well to the players. I think he’s one of the most underrated (assistant) coaches and recruiters in the game. He continues to get better, and he’s been a valuable asset to my program and my staff. Certainly, he’s got great knowledge of St. John’s, not just from working there but being a New Yorker and a St. John’s fan.”