By Van Williams
Media Classic Director
The Tounde Yessoufou Show came to the Classic and it’s as good as advertised.
A highlight waiting to happen, the St. Joseph (CA) freshman delivered a commanding 24-point, 16 rebound, 5-dunk performance to highlight his team’s 72-56 victory over the Dimond Lynx on Day 1 of the Alaska Airlines Classic at West High.
Oh, and he set a tournament single-game record with seven blocked shots.
It was one of the greatest games in Classic history. Remember his name (pronounced Yes-o-foo).
Yessoufou started slow but the 6-foot-5 high riser finished with a bang, racking up a hat trick of dunks in the closing moments – including a one-handed alley-oop finish.
It was just one game but he’s already lived up to the hype as the mayor of Dunk City. He now has 53 dunks in 15 games.
Yessoufou was hardly the only attraction for the Knights of Santa Maria, California.
St. Joseph (17-2) is loaded. Elijah Allen had 15 points, Luis Marin added 13 points and Dre Roman scored a quiet eight points. He will heat up.
Marin was money on the corner 3-pointer, burying three of them in the first quarter, the last to supply St. Joseph with an 18-12 lead.
Allen made four 3-pointers and none them touched the rim. He caught fire in the third quarter and teamed with Yessoufou for a 7-0 run to make it 48-34 after it looked like Dimond might make a run.
The Lynx (8-3) hung tough against a bigger, stronger team behind the 1-2 combo of Luke Johnston (16 points) and Amari Hill (15 points, 8 rebounds). Johnston was the team’s go-to scorer while Hill got his production off effort around the rim.
Trailing 39-21, Dimond rattled off a 12-7 run that was kickstarted by Maguire Hamey’s 3-pointer and powered by Hill’s half dozen to get the Lynx within 41-34.
Yessoufou makes it impossible to take your eyes off him. He flies around the rim, skying for rebounds, soaring for blocked shots and stunning the crowd.
He is a must-see playmaker.
Yessoufou’s seven blocked shots broke the previous record of six set in 2015 by Corbin Merritt of Windermere Prep (FL). Merritt went on to play at Oklahoma.
Yessoufou’s 16 rebounds just missed cracking the top-10 in Classic history. It’s the most rebounds in a tournament game since 2020 when Jalen Haynes of Dillard (FL) had 17. Haynes is now at Virginia Tech.
Everything was going right for St. Joseph’s on this night. The team’s big man, 6-foot-8, 275-pound Caedin Hamilton, looked like a guard when he picked off a pass at halfcourt and took all the way to the rack with a defender right on his hip.
St. Joseph Knights 20 14 21 17 – 72
Dimond Lynx 12 9 17 18 – 56
St. Joseph – Roman 8, Marin 13, Kuykendall 9, Vidor 0, Thompson 0, Allen 15, Cota 0, Mensah 1, Telcide 0, Yessoufou 24, Hamilton 2.
Dimond – Casey 2, Hajdukovich 6, Walls 4, Kile 0, Johnston 16, Hill 15, Hernandez 0, Fautanu 0, Baker 6, Hamey 7.