A young point guard is the key to St. Peter Marian

St. Peter Marian isn’t a one-man team, but there’s no question who makes them go. As they continue along after a tough stretch where they lost five of six against some tough competition, sophomore floor leader Makai Ashton-Langford is the main attraction and the one who will lead them as far as they go.

The 6’0″ point guard has a lot of potential, although he’s productive right now. He has some help, with Greg Kuakumensah (6’4″ So. SF-PF), who is also a travel teammate, and Connor Brown (6’2″ Sr. SG) being the primary ones. Jamal Smith (6’0″ Sr. SG) could also play college ball as well, and undersized post player Michael Boaheng (6’5″ Sr. PF-C) also helps as an inside presence who can run the floor. As much as they play key roles, it is Ashton-Langford who can make this team bigger than the sum of its parts.

Ashton-Langford is quick, but also adept at finding gaps. Because he can get in the lane so often, he can be a good scorer. He can also facilitate, as he’s a very adept passer all the way around. Given those abilities and the responsibility a point guard has, he naturally is having some growing pains at times trying to strike the right balance.

In one recent game, he did a lot of facilitating in the first half before taking over the game in the second half. His passing included a couple of lead passes for fast-break layups, and then in the second half he got in the lane pretty much anytime he wanted to and either got a layup or drew a foul. Once he did that, he also showed he can pull up and hit from mid-range, a big plus in keeping defenders honest.

At the defensive end, he can be special. Right now he uses his physical gifts and feel for the game to be effective, as he showed one time when he read the play so well he came around a post player and stole an entry pass. He’s very active and even goes inside for rebounds despite being one of the smallest players on the floor. A mindset of defending is something he has always had, and it shows now.

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Defensively, St. Peter Marian sophomore Makai Ashton-Langford can be special (Tyrell Whitted photo)

There is a lot of room for growth. The soft-spoken young man is a baby physically, so his body is going to develop more and he will add strength. Offensively, he will have to continue to strike the balance between scoring and getting teammates involved, and already he understands that he has that responsibility. Defensively, while he plays well now he also does this without always sitting down in a good stance to guard his man.

You think of all that room for improvement on top of what he can do now, and you get a sense of what kind of future he may have.

Ashton-Langford already has offers from Providence and Rhode Island, plus interest from a number of other Division I schools. He’ll get seen by plenty of coaches out on the travel circuit in the spring and summer as well. There, he will be tested to see how he adjusts to having more talent around him, meaning he won’t have to score as much.

St. Peter Marian has had its share of talent over the years, so this isn’t uncharted territory for them. The Guardians don’t have a bad loss this season and are in the midst of a stretch with three games in four nights, all away from home. Come state tournament time, they will be as battle-tested as just about any team in the state even though they will have a few losses on the resume.

Kuakumensah, the younger brother of Brown sophomore Cedric, will be a prospect to watch, but he has a ways to go as he’s very left-handed and needs to develop the skill package for the wing. He will still be a key for this team as one of their most talented players, and Brown is a complementary player who can help a college team with his ability to shoot. Ashton-Langford is already productive and on his way to being even better, and while he won’t do it all by himself, he’ll be the engine that drives St. Peter Marian as far as they are able to go this season.

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