Etiwanda’s Jahmai Mashack is using defense to impress colleges
Jahmai Mashack is one of the top defenders in high school basketball in Southern California. He has been able to lock down some of the top wing players in the Southland and is versatile enough at 6 feet 4 to take on many post players as well.
This summer, the Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda guard was the one who got locked down.
He landed wrong at practice and fractured his right foot. He couldn’t play, practice or work out. It came at an inopportune time during the evaluation period between his sophomore and junior seasons when a lot of college scholarship offers are extended. Coaches wanted to see the development of his game, but Mashack was sidelined.
He was disgruntled and was going stir crazy for a month after the injury. Watching basketball only made him more frustrated, so his family stepped in. They took a trip down to a local fishing hole. Jahmai needed to get outside, get his mind off basketball and get a smile back on his face.
“I think I only caught like one, but my sister and my mom ended up catching like two or three,” Mashack said with a chuckle. “They reminded me to always keep things in perspective. It’s OK to feel frustrated with my circumstances — injuries, bad games, social media — but to remember I am beyond blessed.”
It was the recharge he needed before getting a cast removed and beginning his rehabilitation.
“They really help me get my mind off of basketball sometimes and when it is on basketball, they give me the best advice, so I really take what they tell me to heart and make sure I take it serious,” he said.
Mashack battled back from the injury with his family’s support and has been a standout in helping Etiwanda to a 12-2 record through the first half of the season.
Those scholarship opportunities he missed out on this summer now seem inevitable. He had offers from Liberty, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. He recently was offered by Cal Poly and has been talking with several high-major programs, including California, Colorado, Oklahoma and UCLA.
Mashack has a nice catch-and-shoot mid-range game and is working to improve his range, both in catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble situations. He scored 24 points in a win over Los Angeles Salesian in the Classic at Damien, but he continues to catch the eye of college coaches and evaluators with his intensity on the other end of the court.
Rancho Christian ended the Trailblazers’ 22-game winning streak in showcase of Southland talent.
“He’s a great defender with great length and shot-blocking abilities,” said Etiwanda senior and four-star prospect Jaylen Clark, who has to go against Mashack in practice.
Mashack said as his recruitment picks up, he will be looking for a program where his aggressive man-to-man defensive mind-set is appreciated and coveted.
“I really want to go into a program that fits my play style and something that I’m comfortable with and somewhere that I can play at my best and we’re on the same page,” he said. “That’s really important to me, so yea, looking at schools like UCLA that have that defensive mind-set. It is a great, great outlook.”
A good fit?
UCLA has told Mashack it likes his intensity, energy and what he brings to the floor on both ends, particularly on defense. The four-star prospect, per the 247Sports composite rankings, is the type of player who seemingly would be a good fit under first-year coach Mick Cronin.
The Bruins have made a strong early impression with Mashack.
Oneyka Okongwu has quickly become a force for USC’s basketball program. But the freshman forward remains level-headed, always mindful of his brother who died in 2014.
“I have really appreciated Mick Cronin and everything that he says in interviews, what he says to his team that I’ve heard,” Mashack said. “He’s really a guy that has the same mind-set as me, especially on the defensive end. Tough coach. Really like his play style and he’s a great person to talk to as well.”
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