Coach K had a memorable quote a few years back when he was asked what position Kyle Singler played, at a time Kyle was being moved around all over the court to shore up some areas in which the Blue Devils needed some help. K’s response: “What position does he play? He plays winner.”
Same deal with key 2014 recruit Justise Winslow, the 6’6″ lefty out of Houston. This guy really does it all. I liken him not only to Singler, but also to Grant Hill in terms of the “queen on the chessboard” qualities that he brings to a team.
The first thing you notice about him is the rock-solid body, the body of a pro. He can play inside or out; he makes the midrange jumper, and even steps out a little further on occasion. He can drive the ball to the hoop; he is very, very good in transition, and he hits the boards hard at both ends. He is an outstanding passer. And he can D it up against just about anybody. I’ve seen him play a number of times now, and seen him shut down everyone from point guards to power forwards and everyone else in between.
One thing I love about Winslow’s game is that while he can get buckets if he needs to or wants to, he doesn’t seem to need to be the leading scorer on his team every time out. No, what he gives the team is whatever it happens to need at any given moment. Guys like that help teams win championships. He could probably lead any team he wanted to in scoring, but he doesn’t seem to have an ego that requires him to be the #1 scoring star. He knows that he can do it all on an as-needed basis; coaches know it; and everyone knows that translates into winning. He’s not as flashy as some other guys out there, but he’s a guy you win with, and he would be a huge asset to the Blue Devils should he pull the trigger for Duke. Here’s what Justise had to say last weekend at the Adidas Nations event about his recruitment, what he’ll be considering, his experience with Team USA this summer, and other issues.
BDN: All right, I’m here at the Adidas Nations with Justise Winslow. They just won the semifinal game, heading for the finals tomorrow. Justise, it’s been a long summer. You must be tired.
BDN: I get the feeling a lot of you guys out here are tired after the summer, yes?
JW: Yes. I mean, I’ve been on the road a lot. Overseas with the United States U-19 and the Peach Jam and all that stuff. But it’s been great. It’s been a great summer. It’s been fun. I just enjoy basketball, so it’s taken me a lot of places. It’s winding down, my last summer, but I’m enjoying it.
BDN: I’m going to ask you about Team USA in a minute, but where else have you been, what else have you done over the summer? Where have you been?
JW: Well, we had the tryouts in Colorado Springs. We had some exhibition games in D.C. and then we went to Prague. That was the USA stuff. And then after that I had Peach Jam in Augusta, Vegas and Orlando, and now I’m here. So I’ve been pretty busy.
BDN: How did it feel to put on that red, white and blue with “USA” on your chest?
JW: It’s a great feeling. Coaches always preach to play for the three letters on the front and not the name on the back. So that’s what we tried to do. Everybody had the goal to get the gold, so we went out there, we competed, we listened to our coaches. We just played with a lot of energy and intensity and we got the gold.
BDN: Let me ask you something. What do you think you brought to the table that got you, as one of three high schoolers selected to that team over some very good and experienced college players that were available? What do you think the coaches saw in you that they wanted you on that particular team?
JW: Just my versatility. I can score, rebound, defend. With my athleticism and size I can guard one through four internationally if we go small. So that was something they saw. That I brought something unique to the team. And I think those are a couple of reasons why I was selected.
BDN: That makes sense. You must be so tired of talking recruiting and lists and cutdowns and all that kind of stuff with everybody coming at you. So I’m going to try to keep that part of it quick. Can you just review for our readers – I know you cut the list down – can you review for us what it is?
JW: Right now it’s Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA and Stanford. Just going east to west.
BDN: Can you tell us if you’re going to cut it down further, or are you just going to make a call from that list?
JW: I’ll probably have to cut it down further, ‘cause I’m looking to take officials. But at this point I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just trying to finish Adidas Nations and then take a couple weeks off, think about things before my last event at the Elite 24, but after Adidas Nations I’ll think about dates and things like that.
BDN: OK so you don’t have any dates for cutting down or for decisionmaking at this point?
BDN: OK. When it comes down to it, what are going to be the biggest factors for you when actually have to sit down and say ‘I have to make this decision’? What are you going to be weighing in your mind the most?
JW: Just overall comfortability, whether it’s comfort with the coaches and the players or comfortable with the campus life and just comfortable with the school overall and the student body and things like that. Just being comfortable so my family feels comfortable sending me off with people they can trust.
BDN: You know, it’s going to be a hard decision. I would imagine that some factors are in favor of this school, some factors are in favor of that school. Can you give us any kind of a window into how you think about it? Like, “well, when I think about this factor, you know, that factor favors Kansas. This factor favors Duke. This factor might favor Florida.” That kind of thing. Can you give us any kind of indication about how it is that you process that?
JW: The decision’s going to be tough, because every school has its pro’s and con’s. Some schools are better than others at certain things –
BDN: I guess that’s what I’m asking you. Can you give us some examples of “well, I like this about this school and I like that about that school?”
JW: I mean, every school has something unique about them. Whether it’s just Texas A&M, it’s just close to home. That’s something simple, but — staying close to home isn’t that important to me, but if I did go to Texas A&M that would be great ‘cause it’s close to home. Little things like that that make each school unique is what makes the decisionmaking so hard.
BDN: If you were to compare – and I know you’ve got a longer list than this – but let’s say someone said to you, “Give me your pluses and minuses on Duke and Arizona.” Just for an example. How would you answer that?
JW: That’s a tough question, because both schools have had a lot of recent success in the NCAA Tourney, both schools have produced pro’s, have All-Americans, good academics. But it’s just different. The Duke brand, they have a lot of prestige and tradition there, but Arizona is more of a recent success with I think it was the championship in ’01, I think maybe, or around that time, so the schools are just different. But they both have their pro’s and con’s.
BDN: Do you feel like you pretty much in your mind have the information you need to make this decision, or is there still more information you’re gathering?
JW: I mean, if I had all the information, or if I knew what I wanted to do, I would have committed by now. There’s just some things I’m still looking at and that’s why I’m not committed.
BDN: Alright. Tell me a little bit about the contacts you have with Duke. How often are you in contact with the staff?
JW: Probably daily, every other day, things like that.
BDN: Who has your main contact been?
JW: K — Capel, Wojo. I mean, but it’s like that with every school.
BDN: OK, so all of them are in contact with you?
BDN: Last thing I’m going to ask you. Of course, who knows what you’re going to do? But if you were to find yourself at Duke, what kind of role do you think you would play in the Duke scheme of things?
JW: You know, I think I can do it all. I think I can have the ball in my hands. They have a point guard but I can make plays, I can rebound, defend. I think Coach could kind of use me the same way he used LeBron and K.D. with the national team, just playing them everywhere –
BDN: Jack of all trades?
JW: Yeah. Just letting them do their thing.
BDN: Sounds good to me. Listen, I wish you nothing but the best. I know everybody’s coming at you. I’m going to stop here and just wish you good luck, and peace, and I’m sure you’ll make a good decision. Thank you for taking the time.
JW: Thank you.
Winslow Adidas Nations