Jeff Capel and staff hosted an interesting pair of players on Tuesday. Power forward / center Chester Makoi (6-foot-9 inches, 200 pounds) and Mareng Gatkuoth (6-foot-5 inches, 170 pounds) from Williamsburg, Virginia completed an unofficial visit to Pitt. Both players are members of Team Loaded North Carolina (AAU) program and play for Mt. Zion Christian Academy (Durham, NC). They were originally from Anchorage, Alaska and played for Anchorage Christian Academy.
To gain perspective on both players, Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to President of Point Forward Sports Group Cornelius Roberts. Coach Roberts has been both a mentor and trainer for the athletic prospects.
What can you tell Panther fans about Makoi and Gatkuoth?
I recently moved here to Alaska about four years ago, and I started a training program. I got pretty familiar with Chester and Morang through my program. Chester was the first kid that I helped get out there to Virginia to help get some exposure. Both the kids are from Alaska. Chester has really come a long way. When I first met Chester, he was actually playing with his shoes untied. He has a great attitude and he’s a great kid. Chester is always upbeat, and he really reached out to me seeking an opportunity. I decided to take him under my wing to start training him and Morang every day. I actually got him an opportunity to play with Boo Williams, and that’s how they first got out to Virginia, because I knew that they had tons of potential, but you know, it was just difficult to develop their skills with the talent level here in Alaska at this point.
So they reached out to me to help out and get them out there to the East Coast, and try to help get them some opportunities. Since they’ve been there, they’ve progressed so fast. Those kids are like sponges. They’re great kids, great attitudes, you won’t have too many problems out of them at all. They’re hard workers. As far as their skill set, Chester’s a very skilled, big, you know he’s a stretch four, he’s a Thon Maker type. He’s actually related to (Milwaukee Bucks) Thon Maker. He had to work a lot on his motor and understand the grind. By the end of last year, he really came along. Chester was running the floor like a deer. He’s a great defender, and I’d say he’s finally grasping it, and I think he really dos have that high major potential.
Morang’s transition was a little bit difficult. I kind of had to rush him out of here, because he had some issues at home, and we kind of rushed him out. We got him out there too late, so we weren’t able to get him on Boo’s team the first year. So we had to homeschool him, and we sent him out to Mount Zion. Both players were reclassified to 2019. Morang, as far as a player, he’s an excellent shooter. I believe he runs the pick and roll like a pro. He has excellent court vision. My only thing, I think the only thing that’s keeping him from receiving the high major attention that we think that he can, is the fact that he has to get a little bit more aggressive on his attack. He’s not a three level scorer. If he can learn how to finish at the basket consistently, I think he’s a very, very good player.
The Sudanese community here is just different. Like, they’re not really up on everything that’s going on, and they don’t normally know, fully, what it takes until somebody shows them. Once they feel like you believe in them, they’ll run through walls for you.
Is there a possibility that one or both of the players reclassifies to 2018 and potentially joins the Panthers 2018 recruiting class?
It may be possible. That’s the thing, I’m on the process of bringing him back here so we can go through some online classes, to get him caught back up. The possibility for a reclassification to 2018 exits for both. We shall see.
What are your thoughts on Jeff Capel and his new staff at Pitt?
I actually know the entire coaching staff. Jason (Capel) and I played together for Boo, and Milan was our coach. That’s one school that I definitely would recommend to them, and they take my counsel, and I know that’ll be a good school, great conference, and a good opportunity for them to sneak in there and turn some heads. So yes, they actually called me to kind of put the rush on them getting out there to visit.
The Pitt staff is completely professional. Those guys have actually done a lot to help me out because I just came back from overseas. I’m just getting my feet wet in the training thing with my program, and they gave me some great contacts. They definitely pointed me in the right direction. Jason and Milan were just out here when Milan was at College of Charleston. I know their family very well, and actually, Jeff’s dad recruited me when he was at Old Dominion.
Do you have any other players you believe are on Pitt’s radar?
We have another player who’s Morang’s cousin. A kid named JT Thor. JT was at Huntington Prep last year. He’s an NBA prospect. He’s a 6-foot-6 inch freshman, 15 years old. He lives with them. He’s here now with me. J.T. will be back out there next week to visit. I already talked to him, we already set it up.
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru