The tenth annual Coach K Academy is underway and that means the media gets a little time with Duke Head Coach Mike Krzzyewski. I asked him a question about his busy summer schedule and here is his response, via BDN Video:
This weekend, Semi Ojeleye helped lead his Mo-Kan Elite team to a 5-1 record, guaranteeing them a coveted trip to the Nike Peach Jam in July. The cerebral 6’6″ wing, who was profiled last month averaged nearly eighteen points and six rebounds in the Oakland session of the EYBL.
The sole loss occurred against a Spiece team from Indiana. Semi sat out the first half with an ankle injury that was iced up by his mother, Joy, a nurse, the night before. At halftime, Semi entered the game and helped will his AAU brethren back from a late game deficit to overtime, scoring fifteen points in the second half. It’s that kind of determination that has made Semi one of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2013.
On the thirty-first of May, Semi, an excellent student with an interest in finance, will visit Duke University. Before the visit, he spoke with me about the latest in his recruitment, his conversations with Coach K, his family’s thoughts and points of emphasis on the recruiting process, and the upcoming visit to the Triangle.
Let’s start with the matchup with James Young (Young was held to a 5 for 20 shooting performance). What were your thoughts going into it and how do you think you played overall?
Well, he’s a good player. I mean, he’s obviously ranked high. He’s a highly skilled player.
Had you ever played him before?
At camps last year. I thought he was one of the best players that I played then. I thought he was a different type of player now. It was interesting.
How do you feel the team’s playing? Last week, you guys won the KC Classic. I wasn’t there, but I heard that you won it.
Yeah, well, the KC Classic gave us a little bit of trouble.
I mean, it wasn’t bad, but we hadn’t played against teams that..well, aren’t at the highest level. You know that this is the highest level, so it’s kind of a step-down thing. That’s not a knock on those teams, but it’s kind of difficult for some of the guys to get up, but we figured it out and we played great there in the end and we’re on a four-game winning streak here.
Yeah, it looks like you guys are going to make the Peach Jam.
Yeah, yeah. That’s exciting, I mean.
Yeah, free trip.
Yeah, exactly. (laughs)
From the last interview, I knew that you wanted to work on driving the ball, your middle game, and your defense. How would you assess those three things right now?
I think, frankly, I’ve gotten a lot better..
I think you did a great job containing Young in this game. You were textbook, in terms of following his hips when he tried to shake you with his crossover.
Yeah, and I thought I did a good job not settling for jumpers in this game. I think if we were playing in the last session, I would have been settling for a lot of jumpers. I probably wouldn’t even have scored at all.
There was even that sequence at the end of the game where you gave him a pump-fake and drove past him to the basket. In the past, you would’ve just tried to shoot it right over him or shoot off of one dribble. This game really showed the growth in your game in a few areas.
Yeah, I know. I probably would’ve settled in the past. I try to do really whatever the coaches tell me to do. They push me to drive the ball more. This was a nice step.
I also think you did a good job with your self-assessment. Talk about the upcoming visits you have.
Well, I’m going to Duke on the 31st and we’re staying til the 2nd. Then, I’m probably going to go to Stanford and UCLA in June, but we don’t really have the dates set up.
I didn’t know if you were going to visit Stanford, since you’re so close right now. You had mentioned that you were going to go to Wisconsin. Are you still planning on visiting there?
Yeah, well, if I do, it’ll probably be for an additional visit. Hopefully, I can just take officials later. And maybe something else in the fall.
Obviously, there’s one visit that the audience is highly interested in. Let’s talk about the Duke visit coming up.
Yeah, this one is really exciting for me.
Well, you’re the man of the hour for our site, so…
(laughs) I’ve gotten to talk to Coach K twice now and I mean, it’s a blessing. When you’re younger, you’re always thinking well, it’s a great school, but when it comes to reality…
It’s just unrealistic for many.
Yeah, exactly. (pauses) It really humbles you and can makes you want to work harder.
Speaking of that, what have they told you that they like about your game?
He told me they didn’t think I was playing anywhere near my potential. When I get there, he wants to work with me and make me a lot better.
In what aspect?
Well, all things, but I think to be more assertive offensively.
Well, frankly, I think he’s right. I don’t think you have approached your ultimate potential.
I think if you receive elite level coaching, regardless of where it is, you really do have a lot of potential.
Who have you spoken with on their staff, other than Coach K?
Coach K has primarily been talking with me and Coach Wojciechowski has primarily been talking to my brother.
Has your brother, Victor, been handling most of your recruiting?
Yeah, my brother talks with me a lot because he’s been there. And he also talks with the college coaches and he‘s a big factor. So, if they want to get to me, they have to go through him.
I was so impressed by your brother, when I was doing my research from your prior interview. Someone could have done an entire story just devoted to him.
I know. I know.
What are you hoping to see on your visits?
Just how things work and how the staff interacts with the players and hopefully get to talk to some of the players and see what their experiences were like.
I hope some of them will be there for that. I think some of them will be there for summer sessions.
I think they said that some will be back.
I remember that you said that you were interested in engineering. They have an engineering school.
Yeah, I’ll be looking at that, but I’ll probably be looking into finance though.
That was my sort of background, well, economics. Better choice.
(laughs) I know, right?
Well, I guess your brother also majored in that, well, accounting and finance. I remember he got a job at Koch Industries. Do you know which camps you’ll be going to?
NBA Top 100 and LeBron too.
Hopefully, I’ll be there for that LeBron one
I guess those are the only ones I’m invited to.
Well, between AAU Events and those camps, I’m sure your schedule is very full. Don’t worry about that. Who would you say has been your toughest matchup in the EYBL?
That’s a tough call. A lot of guys do different things. So, I really can’t think of one guy that stood out over all the others.
You cut your list to 11. What was the idea behind that? Was it to make your recruiting more manageable?
Yeah, it just became too overwhelming. There were just too many schools that would come up, then drop out, then come back into the picture. I think I needed to decide who was really in it and who I was really interested in.
Do you have a timeframe for when you’d like to decide by?
Yeah, I’d like to do it before the high school season begins. I’d like to get that weight off my chest.
When does your high school season start?
We start the first week of December. Around the first..
Oh, you start a little later.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’d like to do before then, because then if I don’t do it, I’ll have to worry about it all high school season because I won’t be able to take my official visits until after the season.
You might have more pressure on your chest after the season.
Obviously, you’ve spoken with your whole family about the process. What are their thoughts on the matter?
Well, we’re a family.
Do you have sit-downs or an occasional discussion with family members when you’re driving somewhere or doing something? How does it work in your family?
Well, if a coach calls or writes, we’ll talk about it. I give them my thoughts and they give me their thoughts.
What are your dad’s thoughts on the matter? I remember that your dad was a family practitioner who was trying to practice medicine with a Christian background or emphasis.
He’s not really worried about the basketball aspect.
He’s mostly worried about the academic aspect.
He’s really interested in the weather, the academic environment, how the schools work, what their environments are like. They all have their own interests, but they all have my best interest at heart.
What are the interests of your mother, your father, and your brother?
My mom, she’s most interested in how the coaches treat the players after my brother’s experience.
Well, he had a very intense coach.
Right, right. My brother is very interested in concentrating on how all of the basketball programs work..the various aspects.
Well, he’s able to give you his impressions as a recent Division I guard at a high level program.
Yeah, I’m lucky.
What are your brother’s thoughts on how your recruitment has taken off? What kind of guidance has he given you? I remember that he did a post-graduate year at The Patterson School, in order to get more exposure, and was discovered by a Kansas State assistant that went there to look at another player.
He just tries to help shield me. He tries to encourage me on the court and tells me not to worry.
Has he been a more compassionate aspect, in terms of family structure, or does he go after you?
That’s another interesting question. He’s definitely pushing me into working out, but, at other times, he just wants to help me just focus.
Are you fairly self-critical? I mean ,there are some guys that put enough pressure on themselves that they don’t need an outside source to put any additional pressure on them.
I mean, I think we always need outside influence or guidance, otherwise I think things can go to your head, but I’m very self-motivated.
Yeah, that’s exactly what I was wondering.
I’m always hoping to improve. I’m never really satisfied completely.
Well, that’s it, Semi. Thanks for your time and good luck.
I hope that all of you are having a great Memorial Day weekend and that you are all fresh and ready for the coming coverage at Blue Devil Nation. We have had Andrew Slater in Oakland, California all weekend long covering Nike EYBL Session 4 and he has updated via his twitter site but the good stuff is on our members only message board. Slater has let our members know of all the latest on Duke Basketball Recruiting prospects and secured interviews with the likes of recent Sports Illustrated cover boy Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and many more, including some relative new names to many. We hope you consider joining to read those coming interviews while getting the very latest on each prospect and their thoughts on Duke. That said, we take a look ahead and toss out a few notes in our latest Monday Musings column.
Coach K Academy begins
The annual Coach K Academy begins this week where a bunch of 35 years and older men participate in the ultimate fantasy camp while raising money for the Emily K. Center and other Duke related charities. This is also a homecoming for ex players and many will be on hand to participate in the event which is fun for all. BDN will be interviewing some of the ex players, catching up with them on the latest happenings in their lives starting Wednesday, so you can look forward to that. We also have a member and occasional employee participating in the event and he’ll share some of the happenings.
Football is right around the corner
Duke Football is about to embark on its fifth season under Coach David Cutcliffe and the chatter starts to increase in June. Recent publications ranked Duke as the 10th best team in the ACC but the Blue Devils hope that all come full circle this season and they can surprise a few teams on a very demanding schedule. BDN analyst Partick Cacchio and myself will start to bring you more and more coverage leading right up until kickoff in home opener against FIU, a team that is loaded and coming off another bowl season. Make no mistake, the opener is tough and pretty much a must win game for the Blue Devils.
Other Duke Athletes earning honors
While the men’s LAX team fell short of playing for the national title today, they had a great season and nothing should take away from that. Duke athletics has become very competitive in many sports. Duke junior Lindy Duncan was named the winner of the Ping National Player of the Year in women’s tennis, so congrats to her on a fine season. Kim Wenger and Emma Ham earned All Americans honors as well for their work with the Duke Womens’ LAX team.
The warm months means BDN Premium will bring you our usual broad range of coverage during all the major recruiting events. We covered the Nike EYBL this past weekend and will take in Pango’s which is another star-studded event this weekend. BDN sends our staff to events to give you in person scouting reports and coverage with the focus on the prospects you want to hear from. Neither stringers nor national types, but actual staff members who concentrate on the news you covet represent the Nation giving you a lot of bang for your buck as a subscriber. And in June our coverage will continue with the NBAPA Top 100 Camp and a few more surprised sure to please. The off season is one of the busiest times of year around here, so if you like recruiting and desire up to the minute information join BDN Premium for a month and check us out for yourself. Or go ahead and join for a year which is the best value.
Props to Vets
Many have served in the military for their country and many have fought for the freedom of all who live in this country. I once participated in a march in the United Kingdom celebrating the fallen and there are more than you will ever know who sacrificed their all. Vets are often under appreciated, so if you know one take some time out of your holiday fun and wish them well. I am proud to have served my country straight out of school and I would do it again for the many are always more important than myself. War is a horrible thing but we will always need those who are willing to defend our rights and continue to make America the best country to live in.
Changes are coming
BDN will unveil a facelift down the road and we are at work on the process. We’ll also be adding new features and some new blood. We are excited about serving the entire Blue Devil Nation for years to come. Thanks for the continued support and I promise next weeks Monday Musings will return to the information that you have come to love.
The news went public this week that Miles Plumlee has been invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago, Illinois. This is a great opportunity for the eldest Plumlee to show off his skills and the plan is to impress the numerous team scouts that will be in attendance.
Plumlee settled on Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment as his agent and the two have been setting up private workouts with NBA teams. With respect to privacy, we’ll not mention specific teams scheduled, but I can tell you that several are on his list according to those close to the situation.
Bartelstein represents 43 current NBA players including Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers. In an interesting side note, Plumlee has been working out with former Duke players who transferred in Olek Czyz and Eric Boateng who are also with the agency. Another player on the fringe, Robbie Hummel is also in the group.
While some players elect to sit out these events and take their chances, Plumlee believes he has a chance to turn a few heads with good play and he expects his measurements to be solid as well. Plumlee was a former high jumper in high school and is considered to have above average athletic abilities.
Like most other young men, Plumlee has his eyes set on the NBA but may consider other options but only after he gives his best effort to get in the league.
Plumlee graded out as one of the best players in college basketball on one list of production per minute which makes him an intriguing prospect to many and a player who will surely be inked by some team, drafted or not.
While some feel he may go the free agent route, Plumlee has different ideas and believes he can work his way into the second round. Just recently, Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports rated Plumlee the 49th best prospect in the draft which would put him late in the final round of the draft.
Much of the combine will be televised by NBA TV, so you can watch Plumlee compete for a spot at the next level. The NBA Draft consists of two rounds with 60 total picks. This year’s draft will once again take place in Newark, New Jersey on June 28th and will be televised by ESPN starting at 7:00 on the east coast.
More Duke Draft Notes of Interest - Duke Coach Mike Krzyzeweski has had a total of 13 second round draft picks since being at Duke and recruited all but two of those players, Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard. He has a coached a total of 23 players, who have been drafted in the first round which is the most of any active coach. Since the inception of the lottery, Duke has had 18 players selected in those coveted spots. The draft went to just two rounds in 1989 when Danny Ferry was selected in the first round. Duke is expected to have another lottery pick in Austin Rivers this coming season and they of course had the first overall pick a season ago in Kyrie Irving who also earned the NBA Rookie of the Year. When Austin is picked in this year’s draft, he will be the fourth one and done player drafted in the Krzyzewski era at Duke. Irving joined Art Heyman (1963) and Elton Brand (1999) as the top overall picks in the draft.
Phenom: phenomenon; especially: a person of phenomenal ability or promise
Phenom is an overused term in sports, but there are times when it merits use. 6’11″ freshman Karl Towns, Jr. has already helped lead St. Joseph’s Falcons of Metuchen, New Jersey to a 28-2 record and its first New Jersey state title. It’s a feat that alumni including the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum and former Duke All-American and Chicago Bull Jason Williams weren’t able to achieve during their time at the North Jersey Catholic school. After averaging a double-double in the always competitive New Jersey Catholic leagues, MaxPreps named Towns, Jr. to its freshman All-American team.
Off the court, Towns’ impact was also felt at St. Joseph’s, as Karl, a sociable and conscientious young man, took on a leadership role as the freshman student class president and has earned a reported 4.3 GPA in the classroom. When Karl, a Knicks fan, was contemplating a career in sports broadcasting, MSG Varsity, a regional cable network, sent the then fifteen year-old to interview his basketball hero, forward Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the halftime of a Rutgers-Seton Hall basketball game earlier in the year, Victor Cruz, the All-Pro wide receiver for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, wanted to meet with the young phenom. An exceptional all-around athlete, the Piscataway, NJ native is a scratch golfer and, although perhaps not yet Randy Johnson, the 6’11″ freshman right-hander, who wears a size-20 sneaker, reportedly can already throw a baseball over eighty miles per hour.
On the court, “Little Karl” has benefitted from the tutelage and guidance of his father Karl Sr., a 6’5″ former tenacious rebounder for Monmouth University (still the university’s leader for rebounds in a season and game) and a successful high school coach at Piscataway Vo-Tech High School in New Jersey for the past fourteen years. His father has also coached Karl, Jr. on the AAU circuit, including for the Sports U. 16s at the Pitt Jam Fest, where the freshman was named to the All-Tournament team by HoopGroup. In order to honor the Dominican heritage of his mother, Jacqueline “Jackie” Cruz-Towns and to give his relatives a chance to watch him play competitively in person, Karl has trained with the Dominican National Team and yesterday made the senior team, which is still hoping to qualify for the Olympics in London this year.
A rare, young American big man who is both able to play with his back to the basket and has a face-up game to beyond the three-point line, Karl came within one shot of winning the three-point shooting contest at the recent Mary Kline Classic, a charity event in Pennington, New Jersey that included some of the best talent on the East Coast. Towns, who was one of the youngest participants, wanted to play in the event, which was able to raise over $20,000 dollars for brain cancer research, because he lost his grandfather to cancer.
Under Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has developed a legacy of success with tough New Jersey high school basketball players. All four of Duke’s National Championship teams had, at least, one starter from the Garden State. NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving (St. Patrick’s), the Bulls’ Luol Deng (Blair Academy), the Hornets’ Lance Thomas (St. Benedict’s), the Pacers’ Dahntay Jones (Rahway), Jason Williams (St. Joe’s), Bobby Hurley (St. Anthony’s), Roshown McLeod (St. Anthony’s), and Alaa Abdelnaby (Bloomfield) all went onto have NBA careers.
After the event, Karl Towns, Jr., an ambitious and cerebral young man with a disarming smile and a big heart, spoke with me extensively about a variety of topics.
Let’s start with the state title run.
Oh, you know, it was a big thing for us at St. Joe’s. I always told St. Joe’s that I wanted to do something that had never been done before: I was going to bring a state title to them. When we were going for the state title, we knew we had a chance to win it. We knew that we were the best team there.
At what point in the year did you get a sense that this could be the year? When did you feel that the group was really clicking?
When I first committed to the school..
Oh, really (laughs)
Yeah, you know, I did. I always have a high confidence that I know that we can do well in whatever we set our minds to. After the game in Teaneck, we lost the second game of the year. We came back and we won that third game. After that game, I just felt that we were going to gun for a state title this year. We weren’t going to wait.
Can you touch on your thoughts on two other talented guys that have passed through those same hallways, Jason Williams and Andrew Bynum?
Oh, Jason Williams is a great player and so is Andrew. I’m just trying to make my own legacy at St. Joe’s.
Bynum is such a great player and I just wanted to use the shooting touch of Jason and put it with Bynum’s post presence and then just try to make that work.
In terms of international play, you’ve trained with the Dominican National Team. How has that unique experience gone so far?
Oh, I actually just left our practice to come to this event. It’s just a great experience and know that I’m playing for my country and playing for something that’s much bigger than me is just rewarding and puts a lot of pride in myself.
As you know or can see I’ve tried to do a lot of research on you..
and I know that your mother is of Dominican descent and your grandmother and other relatives still live there.
Yeah, you know, my mom was born in Santiago. My mom’s mom, you know, my grandmother built a house in Santiago. I guess that I’m just trying to keep the Dominican family name alive. Really, everything I work for is for my family. So, in this case, if I can help the Dominican team in any way, I’m happy to.
Another distinguishing thing about you is that you’ve reportedly earned a 4.3 GPA. First of all, is that still 4.3 GPA true? Secondarily, talk about your emphasis on academics and how you feel that sets you apart?
Yes, it is true. You know having a 4.3 GPA is something that I always wanted to achieve and so I went out there and earned it. I was always a great student when I was younger, but I just wanted to prove that, as a freshman, I’m a great student and also a great athlete as well. I wanted to show other kids that it is possible to be great at both. I’ve worked hard in both areas and tried to use both to my advantage. For me homework and school come relatively easily because my mom and dad have been teachers.
I knew your dad was a coach.
Yeah, he’s a coach and a teacher as well. I’ve used his teaching methods and I just tried to put it into my work.
Since you mentioned it, how difficult is it for you to balance the almost unrelenting number of basketball events and still try to achieve in the classroom? As you may know, I’m at these AAU events and, as a player or coach, they essentially take up your entire weekend if you continue to win, advance, and then travel back in a van or catch connecting flights from God knows wherever the organizers can find the cheapest venue. In your case, you don’t play in as many AAU events as some other kids and your dad has your best interests at heart, but still there is the balancing aspect that you have to deal with.
Yeah, yeah, definitely, you know it’s just making sure that you have your priorities straight or right. You have to use your time valuably. So, there are times when we have AAU events and, well, instead of me going around and going into other hotel rooms and part..
Don’t worry, I know.
Yeah, doing stupid things or hanging out, I’m studying..or I’m hanging out and studying sometimes too.
So, for you, it’s a lot about time management.
Yeah, it’s all about time management.
What are your favorite subjects and have you thought at all about what you’d like to major in?
Oh, my favorite subject is social, well, history. I love to learn about the past. I like World History especially. Then, I guess my second favorite would probably be math.
In terms of leadership, I’ll sometimes talk to team captains or point guards, but you are the class president. What was the election experience like and how has it shaped your leadership ability?
The election was funny because it was during this thing in the beginning where all of the freshman get together to see who has the best freshman class and we won. Then, the election took place and I won and I knew that, as president, I had to have the priorities of not just me but for everyone in the school. So, I have to try to make sure that everything runs smoothly in the school and be a good representative. I’ve had to make a lot of decisions that I am proud of and the same time everyone has benefitted from them.
You’re supposed to be a scratch golfer and play baseball as well.
Yeah, I well quit baseball this year so that I could concentrate on basketball, but I’d like to play again. So, maybe next year I’ll play.
I heard that you can throw it over eighty miles an hour right now.
Oh, yeah. (laughs) You know actually I was going to go golfing tomorrow actually, but it’s funny baseball was always my first love really.
Now, what’s the latest in recruiting for you? By normal standards, it would still be very early, but..
There are so many schools to remember, but I always get new schools every week and every day. There are just so many schools that I don’t want to leave anyone out. I can pretty much say that almost every team that was in the NCAA Tournament has offered me or expressed interest.
Are you in any sort of rush to decide? Some kids are, while others would prefer to wait until the end.
Yeah, you know the thing about picking a college, I feel like I have four years to do it.
I feel guilty even asking you about recruiting, but there’s been some talk that you’d decide sooner than later.
Yeah, you know, I feel blessed to have four years and have options. I didn’t have to wait until my junior year to get some notoriety like some kids. I think that I’m going to wait for a little bit, before a decision.
Sure, your father played at Monmouth and has been a coach for almost your entire life. What advice has he given you and talk about his influence in your life?
Yeah, you know my dad is always, well, he went to Monmouth and he’s still the greatest rebounder and blocker in their program’s history. I’m so competitive that I wanted to beat him in anything that I do so
What was that experience like the first time that you beat him in basketball? He’s a big guy, but I heard that it was fairly early.
Yeah, you know I beat him in one-on-ones, but the first time I beat him I was, like, six or seven
Yeah, and he didn’t want to talk about it anymore (laughs), but, you know, anytime I’m out on the court, I’m always trying to break any amount of blocks or rebounds that he’s ever gotten.
In terms of being the child of a coach, what do you think are the benefits of being around the game and, perhaps, viewing the game differently than the average player? I would think that it would give you an inherent advantage.
Yeah, you know it is, but the challenge with it is that my dad wants me to do so well that he tries to coach me and sometimes forgets that I’m his son. He gets mad because he never, like, wants to talk to me in a negative way. That’s why I think sometimes that he wants me to be just perfect.
He’s got high standards.
Yeah, he does and that’s how he coaches me, but, as his son, he always helped or gave me ways to improve my basketball IQ or scoring in different ways and I think that’s really helped a lot. He’s given me a lot of his experiences and helped me learn how to do stuff at an early age. He also works me out and so even that helps in a practical way.
This is related to your family and recruiting, but will distance be a factor in your recruitment or college decision?
I don’t know. It could be. I haven’t really thought too much about that issue. I don’t think it will, though, because my parents really just want me to go to the best school for me. They just want me to go to the school that’ll give me the best chance at a good future in my life.
Let’s talk about Kevin Durant. He’s your favorite player and I know that you had a chance to interview him for a local network. What was that experience like for you?
Yeah, Kevin Durant is such a great guy. He’s just such a sociable guy. Kevin..
Yeah, he was, without any fanfare, quietly very good to a friend of mine and he’s got a great work ethic as well, which I’m sure you appreciated.
Yeah, he’s got just an amazing or crazy work ethic which I loved and I was able to spend a day with him for MSG Varsity. It was great to just do that and pick his brain and learning from him. It was just an incredible experience, even with the interview off. It was great to just be able to learn from him and, at the same time, I felt like, in some ways, I could relate to a lot of where he was coming from.
I also saw that you thought of either being a sports broadcaster or eventually becoming a doctor.
Yeah, you know, I wanted to do that, but..
It gave you a taste of it and you didn’t necessarily like it.
Yeah, you know, it gave me a taste of being an ESPN reporter (laughs) and I see how it is now. It’s really a little gut-wrenching I have to say because you know that you have to hide your questions and you’ve got to come out with it, but it really opened my eyes…
As you can see over there, I’ve got some shorthand
Yeah, yeah, (laughs) now, I see, you’re very good, but, yeah, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.
How do you battle against both hype and complacency? There’s, unfortunately, both a tendency to build players up and then try to tear them down. How do you also try to protect yourself against settling or becoming complacent?
Yeah, I don’t mind the hype, but you have to recognize it for what it is and be prepared to live up to it and maintain the hype, if you will. For me, I just go in the gym everyday and I work hard and just make sure that anytime that people make standards for me that I will always live up to them.
Have you taken any visits recently and do you have any planned?
Georgetown was my last visit and I don’t have any planned just yet.
What will you be looking for in a college, whenever you do decide?
Oh, the academic standards need to be top notch. It needs to be a great academic school and it also has to be a great basketball school.
How did you decide on St. Joe’s and will that be a similar process in terms of how you ultimately decide on a college?
You know you’re right. I think it will be a similar thing. For me, it came down to comfort for me with the basketball program at St. Joe’s and I think it’ll that same thing for college.
Who do you turn to for guidance whenever you make big decisions?
Mostly, my family I’d have to say, really my whole general family. They’ve been very supportive.
How would you assess your recent play in AAU competition, such as the Pitt Jam Fest?
Yeah, you know the last time I played was in Pittsburgh and I think I did very well. It was a great time to be back with my teammates and coaches. It was a lot of fun.
What are your goals for next season, for you individually and for your team?
I just want to win a T.O.C. (Tournament of Champions) Championship.
Yeah, you came close this year. I know that strength and conditioning is something that you’ve wanted to work on. How is that going and what areas are you concentrating on most? What have done to improve in that area of your game?
Oh, you know, I’ve just physically been getting stronger overall.
It looks like you’re getting stronger and building up your upper-body and developing a base.
Yeah, thanks, I’ve been concentrating on that area. I’ve been trying to develop a base and work on my legs as well. I want to continue to strengthen my body. Even though I had a very good rebounding season, I want to do even better next season, which, you know, goes back to my competitive side. I know that I can do better and get stronger. This will help.
Usually, guys your age tend to favor one heavily over the other, but I’m curious with you..do you prefer to play with your back to the basket or face-up?
Yeah, you know, it really doesn’t matter for me. i just want to do whatever I can with the ball so that’s why I’ve been working in the gym so hard in order to be able to do both. It’s really just where do I pick up the ball and sometimes habits.
What will be your role next season for St. Joe’s? Quenton (DeCosey, a Temple commitment) obviously moves on. This year, you played all over the court.
Yeah, you know I think my role will be even bigger because I’ll have to shoot the ball more and be all over the court and be active. This is just another step in the road and I have to just live up to the hype.
In terms of recruiting, is Duke recruiting you at all? For them, it’s usually very early in terms of evaluating or recruiting players your age. They tend to wait a little bit longer than some other schools that feel the need to get in early with a kid.
Yeah, you know Duke has shown a little interest, but I don’t really think that there has been any scholarship offers or anything like that yet.
It’s still very early for them.
Yeah, yeah, I completely understand.
What do you know about Coach K and what do you know about their program?
Coach K is probably the best coach in college basketball history. Even with what Coach Bob Knight was able to accomplish, I think Coach K has even surpassed him. He’s one of the greatest coaches ever and anyone would be lucky or love to play under him. In terms of the program, the program is just amazing. It’s become just an NBA warehouse or I can’t quite think of the word, but they’ve been able to produce just so many players who then went on to the NBA. Anyone who goes there just…
Does that fit, by the way, in terms of the general criteria..
that you were mentioning before about looking for a program and a school that offered you a balance of a top notch athletics and academics?
Yeah, yeah, it does exactly. I want to make sure that I have a bright future ahead of me and prepare for all possible things.
We’re here at the Mary Kline Classic. How did you get involved in this event and what does this event mean to you?
Oh, this is a great event and for a great cause. I’m here to help in any way that I can. Cancer is such a terrible disease and, you know, I lost my grandfather to cancer.
I lost my aunt to the same affliction as Mrs. Kline.
Yeah, this is something that affects all of us and, in any way that I can ever help out a charity, I’m there to contribute.
I’m glad that you’re here. What are you hoping to show coaches this summer?
Yeah, you know I’m hoping to show college coaches that I have a great post-up game because it often gets overshadowed by the three-point game. People don’t realize that my post-up game is probably better than my three-point game, but the outside shooting tends to get mentioned more because it’s unusual.
I also think that, whether it’s your father’s influence or whatever, your passing in the half-court, especially out of the post, is very advanced. You’re able to quickly hit the open man, when necessary.
Yeah, you know, I’ve always been known as a shooter or as a passer, but I’d like to be known more for my post-up game. I want to show them that my post-up game is probably even better than my shooting.
In terms of size, how tall are you now? I can see those size twenty shoes.
Yeah, I’ve got my size twenty shoes. I’m now 6’11″ and I have no idea how much I weigh today.
What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?
I’m a video game freak.
I know you like the 2K basketball games.
Oh, yeah, I love NBA 2K11 and 2K12. Those are my games. I’m a video game fanatic and I just love the challenge and competition.
By the way, do you think it helps you at all on the court, in terms of things like hand-eye coordination or visualizing plays?
Yeah, you know, I actually do. I think I learn from it. I think a lot of guys play just to play, but I play to learn. I think another thing that people don’t realize about me is that I actually like playing soccer.
Oh, yeah. My God, at your size..
Yeah, it’s fun and helps too.
Who are some other kids, nationally, that you’re close to on the circuit? I know locally your friends with (Isaiah) “Boogie” Briscoe.
I’m close with Wade Baldwin [a 6'4 sophomore at Immaculata HS (NJ) with offers from Northwestern, Seton Hall, and UMass]. He’s actually my cousin. Many people don’t realize that. We visited Georgetown together. You know, in terms of other people, it’s hard. I mean I feel like I’ve got friends all over and so, you know, it’s really hard to say who I’m really close with.
Sure. What’s your take on the state of New Jersey basketball?
You know New Jersey basketball is probably the best basketball in the country I’d have to say. There’s a lot of intensity and competition. I mean you look at it on the high school level and we consistently produce very good teams and players that wind up playing around the country. Amazing consistency
(Interview reconvenes after losing the three-point shooting contest by one shot in the final round)
Oh, I can’t believe I just lost by one. That’s going to bother me for a while.
Don’t worry. That was still impressive. Let’s go, sort of, rapid fire. What’s your favorite pro team?
Who’s the toughest player you’ve played against so far?
That’s a tough one, but I think Al Horford (of the Atlanta Hawks).
What do you plan on working most this offseason?
Strength, my strength.
What is one area of your game that you expect to be better in a year from now?
My strength or rebounding
Do you watch a lot of basketball?
Oh, yes, definitely.
In terms of when you decide on a college, are you looking more for someone who’s going to be your buddy or someone who’s really going to push you?
That’s good. I think for someone who’s a pusher. I think I need or benefit from coaches that push me. I think I need that push.
Where do you like to catch the ball most?
How would you assess your defense at this point?
I think I’m good in all kinds of defenses. I wasn’t the best when I was younger and so I always tried to work on my defense. The work has started to pay off. I think I’m a lot better now.
Do you know what your stats were this year? Does twelve and ten sound right?
Yeah, I averaged twelve points, but eleven rebounds, six blocks, and I think six assists.
Impressive, particularly for a freshman in this area. What about your outside game? It is obviously an important part of your game and a major distinguishing factor for you offensively.
Well, it just cost me a three-point contest. So, I don’t know how good it is anymore.
Oh, no, no, it was a cheap rim.
(laughs) Thanks, but that’s gonna frustrate me for a while. So close. Realistically, my outside game is probably the best part of my game.
I was reading that there’s a Willie Mays’ quote that you have on your wall, “It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What’s tough is being good every day.”
You know because it just shows that people usually have great games once in a while, but they just fade away. A good player can be like that. They can occasionally have a great game, whereas the great player has the consistency to keep having great games almost everyday. They don’t let up.
Well, I think you can see that very clearly in AAU ball, where a player can have a very good weekend. The great ones distinguish themselves by the consistency of their performances. They deliver event after event.
You met with Victor Cruz (an All-Pro wide receiver for the New York Giants). What was that experience like?
Yeah, he wanted meet with me after winning the Super Bowl. He heard about me through New Jersey hoops. He’s from Patterson.
Right, he went to Patterson Catholic.
Yeah, exactly, he was a really good guy.
Running the court and conditioning is often an issue for big guys. How do you feel about where your conditioning is at right now?
Oh, I feel great right now. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m running the court very well. My legs are in great shape and I feel fine.
Lastly, you mentioned earlier working on your low-post moves. What have you been working on specifically?
You know I always had them. They’re actually better than my three-point game surprisingly. It’s just that most of the time coaches don’t want me to use it and so I’ll do whatever they tell me and shoot the three. I feel like we’re really just fine-tuning the moves right now for next season.
Do you have a preferred position?
Oh, no, I’ll go wherever my coach tells me to play. I’ll play wherever he thinks is best.
Thanks very much, Karl.
It was nice to meet you.[/private]
COLORADO SPRINGS – Former Blue Devil and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving was one of 13 players chosen to the USA Men’s Select Team that will train against the 2012USA Basketball Men’s National Team, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, during its July 6-12 training camp in Las Vegas, Nev., USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo announced on Monday.
Irving is coming off of an impressive debut season in the NBA in which he averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He became one of just six rookies in NBA history to average at least 18 points and five assists. Irving scored at least 20 points in 25 games and scored in double figures in all but five contests. The 20-year old New Jersey native also sank three game-winning shots during the season and was named MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge, part of NBA All-Star Weekend, by scoring 34 points – including an 8-for-8 showing from three-point range – during the rookie and sophomore all-star game.
This will be Irving’s second stint with USA Basketball. The No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft, Irving led the USA team to a 5-0 record and a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in San Antonio. He averaged 13.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the foul line for the tournament.
Irving has also donned the USA jersey at the 13th Annual Nike Hoop Summit at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.. He scored 15 points to go along with three rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers and two steals to lead the U.S. Junior National Select team to a 101-97 victory over the World Select team in the contest.
“The USA Select Team was a vital part of the USA Men’s National Team’s training in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and again in 2012 we’ll utilize this team of select NBA players to help get our National Team ready for the very competitive summer that is ahead of us,” said Colangelo.
“Being chosen for the Select Team is quite an honor, and it’s an important step in becoming involved in USA Basketball’s National Team program in the future. In the past, current national team finalists like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala, as well as many other outstanding players got their USA National Team start through the Select Team.”
Other members of the team include: Ryan Anderson (Orlando Magic / California); DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs / Pittsburgh); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings / Kentucky); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors / USC); Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz / Georgia Tech); Paul George (Indiana Pacers / Fresno State); Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls / USC); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz / Butler); Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers / Duke); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs / San Diego State); Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks / Harvard); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors / Washington State); and John Wall (Washington Wizards / Kentucky).
Since the development of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team program in 2006, USA Basketball has selected and utilized three USA Select teams to help the USA National teams prepare for its major international competitions. Irving joins a list of former Duke greats that went on to play for the USA Select Team, including J.J. Redick (2007), Kyle Singler (2010) and Nolan Smith (2010).
The 2012 USA Select Team will assemble in Las Vegas and conduct a training session July 5, then train with the USA National Team July 6-11 (12:00-3:00 p.m. PDT). All practices will take place at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center.