Talib Zanna, a 6-foot-9 225-pound forward/center for Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) has made enormous strides in developing his game during his two years of playing for coach Marty Keithline and the Mustangs.
That hard work, overcoming broken foot as a sophomore in 2006-2007, building up his body and diversifying his game, has earned the talented Nigerian exchange student a scholarship from Big East power Pittsburgh.
"Pitt really made him feel wanted. He liked the campus and the players," Keithline said. "It is a Top 10 program and they do a great job developing their big men."
Zanna averaged 14 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocked shots as junior in 2007-2008, earning All-Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) honors last year. He is a legitimate candidate for All-Met honors as a senior.
Zanna, who came to the United States from the Nigerian city of Kaduna before the 2006-2007 season, missed 17 games his sophomore year with a broken foot, but finished his sophomore season on a strong note with a 17-point, 15-rebound effort against Paul VI in the WCAC Tournament quarterfinals.
"In Nigeria, I played on club teams, school teams. The basketball is much better here in America," Zanna said. "I like it here, I have fun. I like the education and the basketball."
Zanna said that he is working on improving his quickness, strength, shooting and ball-handling to prepare himself for college and hopefully the NBA.
St. Joe's really recruited him hard along with Villanova, Boston College, SMU and West Virginia.
"They [Pitt] recruited Talib to play power forward, not center," Keithline added. "He might even get to play a little small forward there. Talib is 6-9, but he is very athletic and he can shoot out to 15 feet, put the ball on the floor and get by people -- he has really diversified his game and gotten more versatile."
Keithline is proud of how Zanna has grown both on and off the court.
"You have to give Talib a lot of credit. He came here from another country, another culture, and he adapted. As a player he really improved. Talib basically came here as a back-to-the-basket center who could also block shots, but he couldn't face up on offense or go out and defend people," Keithline said. "Now he can play on the blocks, but also shoot from the perimeter, create off the dribble, pass. … He has gotten stronger and more confident. He has really diversified his skills and his game and become a versatile big man."
James Quinn covers high school basketball for ESPNRISE.com