NKU adds size, length, international experience


Inks Fiston Ipassou, highly-touted Australian guard

The Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball program recently added more international flair to their roster, signing 6-5 guard Fiston Ipassou, a native of Adelaide, Australia and product of the renowned Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE).

If it appears as though NKU’s underclassman stable is nearing United Nations status, that’s because it is.  In adding the rangy Aussie to next year’s roster, the Norse will have players from Australia (Ipassou), Suriname (Imanuel Zorgvol), Lithuania (Hubie Pivorious) and Republic of Congo (Cesar Tchilombo).  On an unrelated note, the Norse also recently had impact players from Czech Republic (David Bohm), Nigeria (Silas Adheke), Canada (Adham Elleda) and France (Paul Djoko), all whom have moved on to other programs to finish their careers.

Ipassou has taken a bit of a circuitous route to Highland Heights, building up quite a hoops resume after growing up in South Australia, representing the state of South Australia in the Australian Junior Championships and playing as a junior player for the North Adelaide Rockets.  The Rockets play in the National Basketball League 1 (NBL1), Australia’s highest semi-pro league just below Australia’s NBL Pro League. 

According to Australian pro basketball scout Michael Houben, Ipassou was invited to join the prestigious CoE academy program in 2020, which partners directly with the NBA Global Academy in Canberra where the most highly rated young Aussie players are invited to train.  Houben, who also serves as a pro hoops analyst and writer for “The Pick and Roll” web site specializing in Australian basketball, stated Ipassou has widely been rated as one of his class’s top prospects. 

“Fiston’s a really great athlete, he can play above the rim, is a great perimeter defender who can navigate screens and defend well on the ball, can handle (the ball) a bit for his size,” Houben said.  “He isn’t a bad shooter but will need to continue working on that area of his game.  He’s 6-5 with a 6-8 wingspan and resembles someone like a (LA Lakers guard) Lonnie Walker…as a long 2-guard that can play above the rim at times, handle a bit, shoot it decently. Lonnie is another level as an athlete and finisher, but Fiston probably has a bit more feel/decision-making while making plays handling the ball.”

As a top prospect in Australia’s premier leagues, Ipassou has trained alongside prolific players such as Dyson Daniels of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and Tyrese Proctor of Duke, who is a star on the Australian National Team. 

Speaking of the NBA, Ipassou played a key role for the NBL1’s Forestville Eagles semi-pro team (9.58ppg, 5.42rpg, 2.26apg, 56.6% FG%), which in turn led to a “promotion” to the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers as a Developmental Player (DP).  Shortly after joining the 36ers in the top Australian pro league, Ipassou actually gained playing time against the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder in an early October preseason exhibition game in Oklahoma.  While the Adelaide squad lost the preseason game in a route (131-98), it gave Ipassou enough court time against top competition to realize he could one day play at that level. 

As a DP player in the NBL, Ipassou trained and played on a non-paid basis which allowed him to retain his amateur status as an athlete.  Instead of choosing to develop on the bench in Australia, Ipassou instead chose to open himself up to playing Division I basketball in the U.S. where he surely would have a chance to show out and develop on a more public stage. 

After this season, the Norse (currently 11-8, HL 6-2) lose veteran guards Trevon Faulkner and Xavier Rhodes, both of whom have started games at the guard spots this season.  While the Norse will still have a surplus at the guard spots between the remaining rostered players and incoming freshmen, Ipassou’s size and international experience at the highest levels may garner him some early looks from Coach Darrin Horn and his staff.  

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