Future Husky plays vital role for powerhouse Brewster Academy
Springfield, Mass. — Makai Ashton-Langford quietly and efficiently went about his business on the basketball court on Sunday at the 16th annual Spalding Hoophall Classic.
There was nothing flashy about his performance.
Yet by the time the future UConn basketball player walked off the court, he had greatly impacted the prep school game.
Ashton-Langford finished with nine points, nine rebounds and 10 assists while helping powerhouse Brewster Academy to a 70-67 victory over Montverde (Fla.) Academy. He took just seven shots, making four.
What the Worcester native cared the most about was the final score.
"We're undefeated right now, so I'm pretty excited about that...," said Ashton-Langford, who chose UConn over Providence last September. "Any team I'm with, I just want to win. I don't care about individual stats. ... If you're hot, I'm going to get you the ball. That's what play-making guards do."
A 6-foot-2 guard, Ashton-Langford is following a similar path as UConn sophomore Jalen Adams, another Massachusetts kid who also attended Cushing Academy before moving to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. The pair were once teammates on a highly-successful Mass Rivals AAU team.
Brewster's Jason Smith, who also coached Adams, sees similarities between the two guards.
"He's very talented," Smith said. "He's a great defender. He's got a lot of similarities to Jalen (Adams) in his game, in particular his body control and his ability to finish around the rim. But he's a different player than Jalen.
"... Makai would fit in anywhere because he's such a good kid, a hard worker and his teammates really like him. He's a winner, that's the main thing. Winning is important to Makai."
With UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, associate head coach Glen Miller and assistant Dwayne Killings watching from the Blake Arena stands at Springfield College on Sunday, Ashton-Langford was content with running the team and setting up his teammates for baskets.
When Ashton-Langford did look to generate some offense, he usually attacked the basket instead of settling for jump shots. He missed his only 3-point attempt.
He's working hard to improve every aspect of his game, especially his perimeter shooting. He's constantly in the Brewster gym firing up shots.
"Makai actually shoots the ball a lot better from three than what his reputation was," Smith said. "I would like to see him have a little bit more confidence in his 3-point shot. But he's done such a great job of facilitating and running our team. Every night we have five, six, sometimes seven guys in double figures. It's very similar to when Jalen played with us.
"If Jalen wanted to, he could go get us 30. ... But he understood he had to facilitate and run the offense. And Makai has a lot of same similarities. Makai can get to the rim whenever he wants to, but he's focused on penetrating and locating shooters."
Ashton-Langford has kept track of the Huskies this season and occasionally checks in with Adams, so he's well aware of their injury issues and struggles.
The UConn coaching staff also regularly communicates with their future guard and tries to watch him play as much as possible.
Next season, Ashton-Langford will join a loaded backcourt that will also feature Adams, Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital. Gilbert will be back after sitting out most of this season with a shoulder injury.
Miller expects Ashton-Langford will be a combination guard in college.
"He's a great kid," Miller said. "We do expect him to contribute next year. He's got good athleticism and length, the type that we look for in guards when we recruit. He can play on the defensive end and he can get into the lane.
"He's a sufficient shooter, so he's got to improve a little bit there. But he's a competitor and a UConn type guard, so we're very pleased."
Ashton-Langford isn't worried about his role with the Huskies.
"I just trust Kevin Ollie," he said. "I just believe in the process and I'll go in and play whatever role he wants me to play."