At the end of the night, Mouphtaou Yarou, Mo Sutton and Isaiah Armwood all stood on the hardwood together. The sweat dripping from Yarou and Sutton's faces was a telling reminder of the high-energy level that took over in the fourth quarter when both teams kicked their efforts into a higher gear. Armwood was in the house to watch his friends and former teammates play on the home court of his current university, as they suited up for The-BALL's exhibition at George Washington's Charles E. Smith Center.
Ramon Galloway and Dionte Christmas aren't names that you normally expect to see as teammates for Villanova alumni Yarou and Sutton, but on Monday night in Washington D.C., they were. The-BALL (The Basketball Alumni Legends League) is a series of summer exhibition games between teams constructed from the alumni of various regional school alumni, and for one-night-only, these strange bedfellows were brought together as Team Philly.
Neither Villanova big man was drafted into the NBA after their senior years and this showcase was a chance for a late-summer challenge against other Division I alumni. The game had a couple strange rules, there was a four-point shot , a 20-second shot clock, and a player fouled while shooting would just get the extra point without shooting. That didn't bother Sutton.
"You just gotta play through it, whatever they tell you, you just gotta do it," Sutton said. "It's still team basketball, the rules are still the same, but it's a little different. You got an extra shot and you've got extra stuff, but hey, we're out here playing."
After the draft both athletes took opportunities with NBA teams who wanted to kick the tires and see what they were made of. Yarou, projected to be a star as he was leaving Montrose Christian Academy four years ago was called in by a lot of teams who were curious about the Beninese athlete. Sutton wasn't subject to as high expectations coming into college, but his height caught the curiosity of a few teams, including his hometown Washington Wizards.
"It was a great experience for both of us," he said. "I speak for [Mouph] — he had way more workouts than I did, you know what I mean, he got to see it a lot more — but it was different coming from college to NBA. We're learning though, both of us, definitely still there's a lot more learning. There's further to go."
"Like Mo says," Yarou added, "it's a learning process, we're taking whatever we get and we're trying to get better. Nothing is changing, we're trying to get better."
Both players are still waiting to determine the next steps in their careers. The NBA might be the brass ring each hopes to reach for, but no matter whether their phones start ringing during camp season or not, both Villanovans hope to continue their careers.
"I'm trying to play basketball, whether it's training camp, overseas, whatever I get," said Yarou of his future plans.
Sutton agreed with his frontcourt companion, adding, "just trying to find the best option for me and my family and just bringing it every day."
Sutton started out strong early in the game, opening the scoring for Team Philly with a layup inside for two points. He would score six in the first quarter and another four in the second to go into halftime with 10 points. Yarou, however, was off to a quiet start in the first half, working hard on defense, but silent on the scoreboard. Team Philly would go into halftime down 50-58 to the "DC Dobermans" team made up of alumni from Georgetown, GW, GMU and American.
After the intermission, however, Yarou seemingly woke up on offense, scoring his first points early in the third and tallying six total in the quarter, which his team finished down 78-83. He then went on to score eight more in the final period of play, bringing his total to 14 points in the game and helping Team Philly come back from their halftime deficit to win the game, 106 to 98.
On the difference in his play after the break, Yarou explained, "I was trying to get my team going, its attitude, man, Villanova attitude! That's all I'm gonna say. We all played great, in the first half it was coming to Mo and in the second half it was coming to me, thats how we played."
The two bigs shared the frontcourt load evenly, with Sutton adding a basket in each of the final two quarters to bring his total to 14 points as well.
While their next career moves are still a mystery, both players are likely to return to the Main Line to do additional workouts at Villanova's basketball training facility. Along with a number of other alumni, the Davis Center was their home for much of the Summer months.
"I was at the Davis Center most of the Summer, definitely, thats where we both worked out," spilled Sutton. "Its definitely familiar, that's family, Villanova is always family. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat."
From his offseason prep work at the Davis Center, Yarou offered some thoughts about next season's team as well.
"They're all getting better, they're all improving. Ryan [Arcidiacono] was great, he got better a lot, JayVaughn . . . they have a great team," he claimed. "They're all going to be good.
"Just saw [Ochefu] start some game yesterday; he's ready, just confident and he's going to learn a lot. He's probably going to struggle at the beginning because its a new role, but he's going to get better."
"He can handle it," Sutton added.
As for the Freshmen and underclassmen just getting started at Villanova, the five-year Wildcat, Sutton, also offered some advice.
"Its just like now, its a process, you just have to keep working at it and getting better every day. Just keep working hard and tapping at the stone until it breaks."