ASU lands commitment from Russian forward

By Hod Rabino

Since he was a third-grader, Egor Koulechov has dreamed of playing college basketball in the United States. The first step in that journey took place last summer, when the Russian native moved from his home in Israel to Florida to finish his high school career.

On Tuesday night, Koulechov took a much bigger step toward making his dream a reality, as the Weston Sagemont High School forward committed to Arizona State.

Koulechov had been pursued by ASU for several months, and the forward said that during that time, he built a strong relationship with assistant coach Scott Pera and the rest of the staff. The forward’s first-ever college recruiting visit was to Tempe, and that trip planted the seed that sprouted a verbal commitment just days later.

“The reason I committed now to Arizona State is because I feel they are a very good fit for me in terms of what I’m looking for in a basketball team,” Koulechov said. “I really liked what I saw last week on my visit. I really liked the campus, the business school, the practice facility. I really like the coaching staff, and I just like where this program is going because it has a bright future.

“It was my first (recruiting) visit, and I’d never been to a college campus before, so I didn’t know what to expect. But my coach who has been to schools like Syracuse and Louisville told me that Arizona State was a very nice school, and it really was.”

Koulechov’s other scholarship offer was from Providence, and schools such as Richmond, UAB, Rutgers and Vanderbilt were all showing interest.

The ASU coaches told the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Koulechov that they appreciated his high basketball IQ and outside shooting ability.

“They play in a system that shoots a lot of 3s,” Koulechov said, “and that is why they thought this would be a good fit for me. They also liked that academically I’m a good student and I have good character.

“I feel that I’m also a good rebounder and that I can drive into the lane. Defense is something that I need to improve on. My favorite player is Kevin Durant, but because James Harden went here and I’m not going to be 6-10, I want to follow in (Harden’s) footsteps.”

Sagemont head coach Adam Ross told the Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller, “The best way to describe Egor is he’s a very hard-nosed, blue-collar kind of player. He rebounds very well for a guard. He has a big, strong body. He can absorb contact and finish around the rim. And he can shoot the ball very well. For his age, he’s very advanced offensively.”

Koulechov is a native of Russia, and at age 7 he immigrated to Israel, where has lived until last August. At that point, in order to pursue his college basketball dream, he moved to Florida as an exchange student and enrolled at Sagemont.

“Last year just seemed like a great opportunity for me to come to high school,” Koulechov explained, “just to get used to America and American basketball. I know I came to a great college prep high school with a great coaching staff that has helped me a lot, and I really appreciate all their help working on my skills and also how they helped me with my college recruiting.

“I live here with a host family, and I can’t describe how much they have helped me with everything. They treated me like family since I got here. Everything has been more than I could ever ask for.”

Suffice it to say that Koulechov’s transition on the court has been a smooth process thus far. As a junior for the 25-8 Lions, who were the state’s 3A runner-up, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

The forward did, however, acknowledge that there were some adjustments to be made on the court.

“The rules here are different that European basketball,” Koulechov remarked. “I played (in Israel) four quarters of 10 minutes each, and here it’s eight-minute quarters. There is no shot clock here, and there I had a 30-second clock. The game here is faster and more athletic than it is in Europe.”

Koulechov will return to Israel in late June and join the 18-U national team, which will play in the European Championships in Bosnia at the beginning of August, as his team tries to elevate itself from Division B to Division A in the European rankings.

“I’d much rather commit now so I’m going with a clear head to the 18-U championship and I don’t have to worry about it,” Koulechov said. “Arizona State seems like a good fit for me. I’m very happy with my decision. I feel that I made the right choice, and I just want to come there and help them win games.”

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