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Leadership In Training: An Interview With Miles Plumlee

Duke

Blessed with a reported thirty-six inch vertical, a 6’11,” 247 lb. frame, and the mind of a high school salutatorian, Miles Plumlee is a rare specimen. On a relatively young squad, Miles, a twenty-three year-old third generation college basketball player, has started more games, forty-one, than any current Duke player. The team will need him to provide leadership, experience, and low-post production to a more featured frontcourt.

Already a national champion, having grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes against Butler in the 2010 Championship game, the eldest of four Plumlee progeny brings the hunger of a man anxious for one last good meal. The psychology major has tried to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him this summer. Initially, the one-time engineering student with an entrepreneurial zeal worked in New York for Jesse Itzler, a serial entrepreneur who created Marquis Jet. The Winona Lake, Indiana native followed that experience up by participating in the college portion of the LeBron James Skills Academy, as one of the twenty invited players, including his talented and gracious brother, Mason. Most recently, the former high school track star enjoyed a thirteen day around the world trip with his Duke University teammates as part of Duke’s Friendship Games, playing in Dubai and three Chinese cities, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In the three games competing against the Chinese junior national team, Miles Plumlee, who is the team’s second-leading returning scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, averaged nearly eleven rebounds and eleven points, while providing a vital role as a low-post scorer and offensive rebounder (corralling eight offensive rebounds in the final game against China’s large front court).

After Coach Trent Johnson left Stanford for Louisiana State, Miles Plumlee opted to open up his recruitment at Christ School in Arden, NC and ultimately decided to enter Duke University. At the time, he had a reputation for being more of a face-up four and had contributed to consecutive State Championships for the Greenies. Last summer, Miles transformed his physique and game by adding nearly twenty pounds of muscle. Near the end of the 2011 season, Coach Krzyzewski reinserted the eldest Plumlee into the starting lineup, where the Ft. Wayne-born big man immediately stepped up his game in the ACC Tournament, highlighted by his play against Maryland (10 points, 9 rebounds) and using his length against North Carolina’s finesse frontline (helping to hold Henson and Zeller to a combined 9 for 26 in the ACC Title game). Based upon his recent play, it appears as though he has continued to become more acclimated to the transition from a floating big to the team’s biggest physical presence, while seeking to maintain the athleticism that once allowed him to perform a 6’9″ high jump.

This year, with both brothers Marshall and Mason on the Duke’s campus, Miles Plumlee would like to take more of a leadership role in his final season of college basketball and go out with a second National Title. Miles spoke with BDN about a variety of topics, including stepping out of his comfort zone and into an increased leadership role, his relationships with both the coaching staff and his brothers, his team-centric focus, and an entrepreneurial future.

Maybe we can start with both leadership and your role on this team.

You know that’s the biggest thing I’ve been thinking about in this off-season. I’ve been focusing on it and, you know, I had an experience where I was doing an internship with one of the coaches’ friends.

I’m definitely going to get to that in just a moment…

Yeah, well, it kind of goes hand-in-hand.

Okay, great.

The biggest reason I wanted to go there is because I know [Jesse Itzler]’s a great leader in what he does and I learned a lot from him. I picked his brain and I got a lot of great advice. He started his own company a few times now, so he’s been successful and that was one area where I think it’s going to help me, but also coming back and being an older brother my life, you know, trying to apply that to the team. Just trying to bring that brotherhood to the whole team.

[private]

I wanted to get to the issue of you and brothers, too.
(laughs)

What are the expectations from your perspective and the coaching staff? What have they asked you to work on?

Well, I don’t have any personal accolades in mind, but all of my coaches know how high my ceiling is and I know how high it is. So, I’m just trying to reach a level that I’m really happy with, but more importantly, I’m concerned about the team competing for national championships.

Yes, absolutely. I mean you’ve already accomplished that once.

Yeah, but now to do that and be a leader on the team would be another thing. That’s the biggest goal on my mind.

Is being a captain something you aspire to? Have the coaches talked about you being captain or part of a committee, so to speak?

Yeah, I know, they said they’re going to wait and see how everything goes in China. They want to see how people’s roles surface, but, you know, I’ve been through more than anyone else on the team.

Right.

I’ve played with a lot of great leaders, like Jon Scheyer, a lot of great seniors growing up.

Who was the best leader you’ve played with? Is Scheyer the best?

He and Lance did a great job that year. There’s a reason why we won it. What was the initial question?

It had to do with leadership and whether you aspire to be a captain.

Oh, yes, they’re not going to make a decision until after China, but I’m already trying to assert myself and get out of my comfort zone because I’m not the most vocal guy.

Neither am I, but I try to push myself too.

Yeah, well, I’m trying to talk more on defense and also off the court. Yeah, you know, defensively, I can talk to people on the court, but I’m really trying to become a leader off the court. It’s not something I’m really comfortable with, but it’s something that I’m trying to grow into. I want to get that role.

Just out of curiosity, as you were saying it, I was thinking about being the oldest brother. I’m the oldest brother as well and by nature, you almost have to a leader among your younger siblings. Do you think that will help and have you found that to be the case?

Definitely, I think it’s a huge advantage in my position. I don’t think I’ve been the best big brother in the world, but I think there’s some things I’ve done right, and if I can learn from them..

God knows, I haven’t been.
(

laughs) Yeah, you know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but all of them are experience that maybe an older brother has to have.

They can, sort of, learn from your own mistakes.

Yeah, yeah. Then, they can make their own. (laughs)

How do you think you’ve developed, both physically and from a skills perspective over the past few years? Physically, you’ve gotten a lot bigger.

Yeah, you know, I’m still continuing to push my body.

Always a work in progress.

I’m trying to get stronger and that, but I got really pretty athletic when I got to college and you know, I was more of a face-up player, but I’ve tried to adapt my game and become more of a back-to-the-basket player since coming to college.

Yeah, I wanted to touch on that as well.
Yeah, so you know, that’s probably been my biggest focus and the other stuff’s there and we’ve got such great guards coming to Duke each year. Yeah, maybe down the road I’ll use that more at the next level, but right now I want to make the biggest impact I can for our team and so that’s inside, giving us a low-post game.

In terms of mentoring, it sort of goes hand in hand with leadership, but how do you feel you’ve done as a mentor to your brothers and some of your future teammates this year?

I think it’s something I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to do. We have so many young guys and I need to mentor them and show them the ropes. We need them to win. They don’t even realize it yet. I mean, I was in that position as a freshman too, I didn’t know where I was at. We’ve got to bring them on board real fast and mentoring will be a big part of that.

You know him better than anybody, what dimension do you think Marshall can bring to program? Maybe give a scouting report on him to the fans that may not have seen him play.

Yeah, he’s surprised me. He’s really grown into his body. I think the number one thing if you’re scouting him is his motor. He never gives up, he goes full blast all the time he’s out on the court.

He’s a really nice kid, too.

Oh, yeah, he’s really nice, but he’ll take it to you on the court.

Yeah, he’s very serious and competitive on the court though.

Oh, yeah, definitely.

He said he’s very good at video games too.

Yeah, he is. Me and him always go at it.

In terms of a scouting report…

Yeah, a scouting report..he’s going to be going at you every minute of the game. He’s going to be busting his ass 100%. Yeah, I think that’s his biggest attribute right now is just running the court.

How do you think he differs from you and Mason at the same point in your lives?

You know, his whole life he always wanted to be a big guy for some reason, and it just so happened that he kept growing. You know, a lot of guys want to be big buys, but you can’t control that. So, I think he’s grown up wanting to be in the post doing the dirty work. He has fun just running the court and getting the ball. A lot of big guys don’t want to do that, they get spoiled, lazy, and they don’t want to do all of that work if they’re not going to get the ball every single time. That’s huge for a team. That changes the game.

Yeah, it does. I was just curious about that. What are you trying to work on this summer primarily on the court?

The same thing, but you know, just taking that post game to another level and getting more comfortable. I really thought that I made huge strides towards the end of last year, just having confidence when you get the ball in the post, and wanting the ball, and in the end, that makes a huge difference in the game when it comes down to the wire. You’ve got to want it.

Is it a “no hesitation” kind of thing for you?

Yeah, exactly. I really think that’s been my biggest setback is really getting out of your own head. You catch it and you immediately react.

I remember going to one of your practices a few years ago and Coach Krzyzewski was talking about how you were very hard on yourself, but that was a few years ago.

Definitely, that’s been my biggest problem. In practice, I play great for three years. Well, my freshman year was kind of tough, but for the last few years I played great in practice, and now the thing is to try to translate it to the games.

And it can happen, it’s just a matter of time and concentration.

Yeah, absolutely it can happen.

Can you touch on being an engineering student and how that differentiates your game? I remember you used to be an engineering student.

(laughs) Oh, no, that was way too much.

I was an Economics major there.

Yeah, my first semester there was the hardest of my life.

What’s your major now?

Psychology. You know, I think it’s something that’s applicable to anything I do in life, but, you know, it’s way more flexible for basketball.

Way more merciful too. They’re tough in terms of grades too.

Oh, yeah, it’s just tough.

The reason I was asking was because I was wondering if you saw the court differently by having somewhat of an engineering background.

Oh, yeah, you know I always thought I see angles differently. I don’t think a lot of basketball players realize what they’re seeing. I think it gives me a better sense of what I’m seeing…helps to visualize.

Would you describe your summer job as more of a finance job? How would you categorize it?

Yeah, well, it’s sort of hard to explain, it was really more of a company that Jesse Itzler founded, more of like a marketing thing. He founded Marquis Jets and now it’s like more of a marketing agency and a brand incubator. We came up with a few of our own products.

Would you like to get into that post-basketball? Perhaps be an entrepreneur?

Yeah, you know, that’s what it really opened my eyes to. An amazing opportunity would be to play in the NBA and not just squander it.

I’m glad you have your eyes wide open. There are so many sad stories, unfortunately.

Yeah, I know there are. Yeah, I want to make things happen. There are a lot of guys from Duke that have done great things like here or in China and you know, really have an entrepreneurial mindset just like him, and you know, it was a great experience.

What is your emotional reaction to finally get the opportunity to play with all of your brothers and be at the same school together? Excited? Happy?

So excited! I really think this is going to be the funnest year by far. You know, I’ve always had a blast, but you know, me and Marshall, we grew up hanging out together like non-stop and I was so much older than him, but, now, you know, we’re competing on the same level and it’s an adjustment.

Do the three of you ever just walk into the Y or something like that? Did the three of you walk in and people just go “Holy cow?”

(laughs) Yeah, I mean, we did, but we didn’t used to be this tall. Yeah, the last time I was at a place like that was back home and I was only like 5’9” or 5’10” as freshman. But I think it’s going to be a blast. It’s going to be a great senior year.

And what’s Mason’s take on all of this?

Oh, yeah, he’s been great. We both just love Marshall to death. It’s just fun to have all three of us together again.

Can you talk about the addition of the freshman class and Coach Capel? Those are the two big post-season additions to the program.

Yeah, I mean, everybody in the freshman class seems to have a great attitude. They’re really skilled, they’re really athletic. I think they all really have a great attitude, they all really want to get better. Coach Capel is just a great addition because he knows so much, he’s coached great players, and I love his positive attitude. He’s really good at pumping everybody up.

He can also relate to players. He’s still young and yet he’s got that head coaching experience, which is a great combo to add the staff.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty young and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great group to be around.

What’s your relationship like with both Coach K and Coach Wojo?

First of all, I’ve got to say it’s like family. I mean, they’ve been there for me in more than just basketball. That’s just one small part of the whole thing. You..you come to Duke and I had no idea what it was all about. You become part of this family. They’ve become like fathers to me. There’s a bond. I come to them for advice on everything. I know..I know I’m going to stay in touch with them for the rest of my life. It’s something that’s really special to me.

I don’t think a lot of recruits necessarily realize that, to paraphrase Coach Holtz, it’s not a four year thing, it’s a forty year thing.

No, you know, I don’t think a lot of them realize it. You don’t realize what you’re signing up for. If they did realize it, I think even a lot more would jump on it, but I know that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

How comfortable do you feel you are with your back-to-the-basket game and how far out do you feel your range is at this point? Because you still have that face-up game that you were talking about before.

I’ve always felt that I’m really versatile and now it’s not just a matter of how to use it, but when and where to use it, what opportunities you have and reading the defense. So, becoming a lot smarter and putting it all together. It’s something I’ve really worked on in the last year.

And in terms of your back-to-the-basket game?

Yeah, I’m realizing how much you can control the game with your back to the basket. Seeing, you know, guys like Tim Duncan and those kind of guys..taking your time, seeing the floor.

Is that what you worked on at the LeBron James Academy?

Yeah, you know, it was great playing against some of the best players and some of the best bigs. I was just trying to see where I stack up.

How did you do and what was the toughest guy for you to defend?

Dude, you know, everybody’s tough. Everybody’s good. I feel like I did as well as anyone. It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to where it takes my game.

What are your expectations or goals for the team this year? A National Title?

A National Title all the way, that’s all I’ve got to say. We’ve always got talent. I just feel like we’ve just got to bring it together and develop that chemistry along the way.

Thank you very much, Miles.

No problem.

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BDN Premium talks with Duke prospect Tony Parker

When it comes to big physical big men in the 2012 high school recruiting class, not many are bigger and stronger than Georgia big man Tony Parker. Parker has long been on the Blue Devils wish list for 2012 recruits to try and get that bruising cog to man the middle. Parker, who stands 6’9 and 260lbs, has had the Blue Devils high on his list for as long as many remember. However, many Duke fans are struggling to fully emerge themselves into the twisting and turning of Parker’s recruitment. In recent interviews Tony hasn’t exactly made glowing comments about Duke, but they haven’t been comments that fans would like to hear. The Duke brass has showed Tony plenty of film on former Blue Devils Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, and Shelden Williams to display their use of big men and what they can achieve when they commit to play for the storied program. Whether the perception of Duke being a guard school is right or wrong, the Blue Devils have to consistently combat that view to land that low post bruiser that fans have long been clamoring for. BDN got a chance to briefly speak with the highly touted big man and get some of his thoughts.

BDN: How was it playing against the pro’s in the Elite 24?

TP: It was good. It was fun. But you know we play against pro’s back home in Atlanta, they’re local pro’s, but playing against pro’s from all over was cool. You know they had top draft picks, it was fun.

BDN: Most difficult aspect?

TP: It was just, you know, their moves are so quick and they’re real controlled. It’s just really playing defense. It’s not about scoring, everybody out here can score, it’s just playing defense.

BDN: What’s [private] their advantage that puts them where they are?

TP: Obviously you know their bodies, the way they play and how strong they are. How quick they are on their feet, it’s a real big difference.

BDN: How does it feel to be selected to the Elite 24?

TP: You know it’s a great experience to be selected to the Elite 24. I’m really happy for me and my family to be able to watch me on TV and everybody just coming out to support us is real cool.

BDN: Did you have a toughest opponent you played against?

TP: Probably Derrick Williams.

BDN: What official visits will you be taking soon?

TP: I should be taking one on September 9th to Ohio State, October 15th to probably either Georgetown or Memphis.

BDN: Have you figured out a schedule yet for Duke?

TP: I haven’t set that up yet but I’ll probably set that up soon.

BDN: Some say you’ve cooled on Duke.  Is that the case for it seems you mention other schools more often these days.

TP:  Not really.  They’ve been in my top 3 from the start, so …

BDN: Do you have a front runner?
TP: I mean, I like Memphis and Ohio State a lot, but they’re all about equal right now.

BDN: What are you ultimately looking for when you make your decision?

TP: I’m just going to be looking for an all around good school, some place to play, some place where they have a good basketball atmosphere, and a great place to just have fun. A place that has good guys and good coaching.

BDN: What is important with concerns with a coach?

I just want somebody that has a good track record and gets along with his players.  I mean a lot of things will go into my decision but the coach is a big part of it.  I want somebody I can talk and relate to.

BDN: Are you waiting to see where other prospects go before deciding?

TP: No, not really.  I mean, it could have some bearing. [/private]

Shabazz Muhammad looking forward to a return trip to Duke

The nation’s top player, 2012 Shabazz Muhammad, was back for his second trip to the Boost Mobile Elite 24. Last year Muhammad was one of the few juniors selected to the team, and this year he is one of the veterans of the competition. It was never a surprise that Muhammad would have a return trip to Venice Beach as the senior has maintained his status as top dog with a constant target on his back. The Las Vegas product has filled in his frame giving himself a college ready body to go along with his unmatched effort and focus. Duke has long stayed on the prospect regardless of rumors of where he may end up. BDN got a chance to speak with the talented senior and get his thoughts on his return trip to Venice Beach. (BDN Premium  is currently running a membership special where you can save up to 15% off our normal rates.  Go to the join page to see discounted options and come inside for more exciting information)

BDN: Being the veteran at this event now is anything different or easier about it?

SM: Yea it’s a little different. Last year I was the young guy and I learned a lot. Now I’m a veteran trying to teach these young guys how to fit into this event.

BDN: How do you like the gear they hook have hooked you up with?

SM: Oh yea definitely. The gear is nice. We get a lot of stuff. UnderArmor hooks us up with a lot of gear and their stuff’s really comfortable so it’s a great event to come to.

BDN: Who was the toughest [private] pro you got to play against? Either here or at Impact (Las Vegas basketball facility)

SM: Probably Derrick Rose.

BDN: What can you come away with from the training session they had?

SM: You can come away with a lot of stuff. The drills they taught, some of those drills I didn’t know about, like the one with the weight vest and weight ball. You can definitely take that back home and work on that stuff.

BDN: You spend a lot of time with these guys have you had a chance to make any new relationships?

SM: Yea I made a lot of new friends especially going into this. I didn’t really know a lot of these guys and now I’m getting to know them all. It’s a great event to make friends.

BDN: What do you believe is the most improved aspect of your game since your last visit here?

SM: I really think my ball handling and my change of direction on my jump shot. I tried to work on it out here, even though it wasn’t falling. I’m going to continue to work on that stuff because at the next level that’s the stuff I really need. I’ve also been working on my right hand a lot.

BDN: What official visits do you have set up so far?

SM: The only official visit I have so far is Kentucky for their Midnight Madness, that’s one I know I’m going to, and the rest I’m going to decide with my parents and go from there.

BDN: Do you feel like you’ll make an early or late decision?

SM: Probably a late one.

BDN: In the spring?

SM: Yea wait until the spring. I really want to make sure I make the right decision and talk a little bit with everybody.

BDN: One of the teams that is recruiting you is Duke, have you been able to watch any of their games in China?

SM: Yea I have been able to watch them. I talked to Coach K when he was in the airport. Their cell phones were out in the one country they were at but I talked to him in China also. He said they were going to go sight-seeing at the Great Wall of China. It’s a great experience and I really love Coach K and the relationship we’re building is a really great one. Coach Wojo is also a great guy and I can’t wait to go back there again.

BDN: You’re entering your senior year now, what are you trying to prove?

SM: I just think I have to maintain what I’m doing now. They ranked me as the number one player so obviously I have to continue to work hard and not rest on my laurels. I just need to continue to get into the gym and work on the things I said I was working on like my right hand, and change of directions from a jump shot. I know I’m gonna keep working on it and getting better at it.

BDN: Much appreciated for your time Shabazz.

SM: No problem. [/private]

Speed Trap: The Kasey Hill Interview

PG Kasey Hill Adidas Photo

This coming year Kasey Hill, a 6’1″ Umatilla, Florida scoring point guard, will have a pair of significant additions to his Montverde Academy (FL) program. Kevin Boyle and Dakari Johnsonhave traded New Jersey winters for Floridian humidity. Boyle, who coached Kyrie Irving, the former Blue Devil guard and the NBA’s number one overall draft pick, in high school at St. Patrick’s (NJ), takes over a Montverde Academy program that finished 22-4 overall and fifteenth in the country last season. Montverde, located about thirty minutes away from Orlando, has two current NBA players, Solomon Alabi and Luc Mbah a Moute, as alumni.

Hill, who has been playing varsity basketball since he was a sixth grader at Mount Dora Bible School (FL), demonstrated more of an ability to be a facilitator, while leveraging his natural speed and penetrating ability, for the Florida Rams Black this AAU season. A high point of the rising junior’s summer was winning the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and being named the tournament’s MVP. The born scorer, with a penchant for finishing in traffic, led his Florida Rams Black team with 28 points and orchestrated the program’s offense in front of an assortment of college coaches and a national television audience.

At the Super 64 in Las Vegas, the 2013 point guard played briefly in front of the Duke coaching staff. Last weekend, Kasey Hill played in greater Los Angeles, as part of the latest Adidas Nations event.

Kasey spoke with Blue Devil Nation about the latest in his recruitment, his new coach,

Can you talk about, perhaps, a highlight of your summer, your (MVP) performance at the Addidas Invitational? Touch on how you and your teammates played at that tournament.

I did pretty good at the Addidas Invitational, but most importantly, it was a team effort. It wasn’t just me. It was just a lot of good things coming together.
[private]

How much momentum were you able to carry and how much of that winning mentality that you had earned were you able to bring to the future events?

I think it helped a little bit. We should’ve been able to use that. We have to stay consistent with our defense and use it to motivate ourselves.

People are always interested in recruiting. What schools are currently recruiting you?

Florida, Memphis, Louisville, Kentucky, USF, Miami, Baylor, Kansas. I’m sure that I’m missing some.

Anyone recently coming into the picture?

No, not that I know of.

In terms of your overall timeline, is this relatively early for you?

Yeah, it’s really early.

Do you view yourself as a scoring point guard? Is that a fair characterization?

Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.

Kasey Hill Andrew Slater/BDN Photo

What do you know about Coach Boyle?

He seems like he’s a great guy. I’m excited to play for him. I’ve talked to him on the phone a couple of times. Overall, he seems like a good guy.

He seems excited?

Oh, yes, sir, he definitely seems excited.

Did he give you any advice, in terms of what he’s looking for out of you next year?

Not really. He says we’ll sit down and talk about what the team needs when it gets closer to the season.

Well, you’ve got a valuable new addition and a very nice kid in Dakari Johnson.

Yes, sir. I heard he’s really good.

It’ll be great to have a quality big guy out there to take some pressure off of you.

Yes, sir,. We’ll be young and improving too.

Do you know which national tournaments you will be playing at next year that people might be able to catch you at?

I really have no idea. I don’t know that the coaches have made the schedule out so far.

For people who haven’t seen you play, what would you say is your greatest strength right now?

I’d say penetrating and just getting to the baskets.. my explosiveness. I guess I’d say my strengths are just getting to the basket and now getting my teammates involved.

What would you say is a weakness that you’d most like to improve upon?

My jumpshot. I’d like to improve upon that.

You’ve hit a few threes in several of the tournaments, including the Addidas Invitational, but it’s always good to hear that a player recognizes there’s room for improvement.

Yes, sir.

Is there a player you try to model your game after? Or a favorite player?

No, not really. I can’t think of one guy.

I was trying to figure out if I could recognize a player whose game is or was similar to yours.

Yeah, I can’t really think of one. I don’t know him. (laughs)

What are you looking for ideally, whenever you do decide?

Just like a college that fits my game overall and has great coaches.

What would you say is your overall game? A penetrating point guard?

Yeah, a penetrating point guard and one who wants to get out and run.

And who are you turning to for guidance whenever you do decide? Who are some people?

My Coach, Jeff Simmons, who’s also my guardian, and my mother and my grandmother.

Do you have any visits planned?

No, not yet.

Did you have any favorite teams growing up? Either college or pro.

No, not really.

Where did you actually grow up, by the way?

Umatilla, Florida. It’s in, like, Central or North Florida. It’s a really small place.

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?

That I’m just a really laid-back kid and that I like to have fun.

And very active on Twitter, I see.

Yes, sir. (laughs)

Kasey Hill Adidas Photo

Who’s the best player you’ve played so far?

So far, I’d probably say Shabazz Muhummad. I couldn’t believe how good he was when I played him in Georgia.

Yeah, he always goes hard.

Yeah, he’s amazing.

Who are some coaches that you enjoy talking to?

Definitely Coach Donovan, Coach Cal, Coach Rick Pitino, Coach Hamilton, Coach Stan Heath, Coach Donnie Jones.

When you’re playing off the ball, what is your favorite place to catch the ball?

Probably on the wing. That is probably my best area.

How far out do you feel comfortable shooting the ball?

Probably fifteen feet…probably a fifteen foot jumper.

What’s the toughest type of player for you to defend?

Probably a lefty. Lefties can be tough to deal with.

A lefty? And does strength play a factor at all or not too much?

No, not really, cause I try to use my speed against them.

And how did you choose your school, Montverde?

I really just chose it because it was a great academic school. It was supposed to be, like, a great college preparatory school and teach you about life.

Do you think Montverde has helped you, long-term, to make decisions and live away from home?

Yes, sir…probably more than most normal kids. In some ways, I feel a little more grown up or mature than some other kids.

Lastly, has Duke expressed any interest in you so far?

No, not really, but North Carolina has… but not a lot recently.

What do you know about those two programs?

I know that they’re great programs pretty much, well, since they started.

And you mentioned before that it was still early. Would you be open to either of them?

Yes, sir, I’ll definitely listen. I’d definitely be open to both of them.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, sir.[/private]

Nate The Great

Nate Britt Adidas Photo

6’1″ rising junior Nate Britt, who was profiled earlier in the year, had a productive AAU and camp season. From an individual standpoint, the zenith was his performance at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, where he finished second in camp scoring and was named one of five Workout Warriors. With his D.C. Assault brethren, the baby-faced leader competed in tournaments from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas, where D.C. Assault and Duke alumnus Nolan Smith of the Portland Trail Blazers helped coach DCA, with a high-point of reaching the finals of the King James Shooting Stars Classic in Akron, Ohio.

This weekend, the Gonzaga guard helped his USA 2013 Red team to a second place finish at the Adidas Nations in Compton, California. Yesterday, the reigning D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year was invited to participate in the Elite 24 in Venice Beach, California at the end of the month. Nate Britt spoke with Blue Devil Nation about various topics, including Nolan Smith, Twitter, and how far along he is in his recruitment.

Starting back a bit with the camps, specifically the NBA 100 one, what was that experience like, first of all?
Oh, it was great experience because they had, like, all the best of the best players. It was an awesome feeling just going against those guys. All of those guys are very talented and they keep you on your toes. It was just a great experience.

Then, transitioning back to D.C. Assault in July, what was that like for you?
Fun. We’ve played together for years and, you know, get to play in big-time tournaments in front of the college coaches. We have a really good time playing together.

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In terms of your recruitment, what’s been going on lately?
The hardest three on me are Villanova, Virginia, and Georgetown. Those three have offered and Arizona. Did I say Arizona?
Yeah.
Those and I’ve gotten interest from Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, UCLA, UConn, Syracuse..those are the only ones I can think of right now. My head’s kinda spinning (laughs).

Are there one or two schools that you grew up rooting for?
Georgetown. That’s the hometown school. I always rooted for Georgetown.

In terms of the schools that were expressing interest like North Carolina or Duke, what have they said to you?
I feel like I’ve spoken to so many programs and coaches that I’m not exactly sure what the message is, but my phone’s been blowing up really since whatever that date was, like, the fifteenth or whatever. I know that I’ve spoken with schools like North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Duke. I’ve been in touch with all of them and I like speaking with them and learning what they have to say.

Are schools still able to get into your recruitment?
Oh, yes, but I’m trying to slow it down.

Will you be cutting it, your list, down soon or do you have any plans in that direction?
Oh, yes, I’m going to try to sit down and cut it down to a more manageable number or whatever after all of this ends..probably some time in late August, you know.

Do you plan, at this point, on taking official visits in your senior year or do you plan on deciding next year?
I’m going to try to decide next year.
Just for clarification, you mean before your senior year?
Yes, before my senior year.

Nate Britt BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

Going back for a second to that NBA 100 camp, how do you account for your success at that event? You had that thirty point outburst that, sort of, put some people on notice. Also, how would you assess the state of your game right now? In the past, you mentioned that you wanted to work on your outside shot and adding some strength.
Yeah, I’ve improved my three-point shot to where I feel comfortable just pulling up and shooting it when it’s in rhythm. I feel like I’m mentally comfortable with making a few a game.

And what about the strength issue? You mentioned that you wanted to be able to play through contact.
Yeah, well, that’s something that I still need to work on and improve, but, with all of these games, you don’t really get a chance. I’m hoping that I can spend August and September just getting stronger and hitting the weights.

Back to that thirty point game and your overall performance, what are your thoughts on why and how you played?
Yeah, I think it was just getting mentally in a place where I could perform. My coach there just kept telling me to score or take it to the rack and I was just feeling it. For whatever reason, it just clicked there.

When you were younger, outside of Georgetown, were there any other programs that you rooted for?
I rooted for Villanova, for a little bit, when I was younger. When they had Allen Ray and Randy Foye and those guys, I was really interested in them and rooting for them.

Is there any sentiment about trying to stay closer to home or you really don’t care?
Well, I would like to stay closer to home because I know that my parents would like to see me play, but whatever is the best situation for me.

Do you have any visits planned?
No, not as of right now, but I’m pretty sure that some will come up.

Who’s the best player that you’ve faced or guarded this summer?
Um, I’d probably have to say Yogi…Yogi Ferrell. I faced him at both NBA Top 100 and also Adidas Nations.

In terms of a timeline in your recruitment, if this were a baseball game, what inning would you say that we’re in?
Probably the seventh..the seventh inning.

I’ve noticed on your Twitter account that you’ve talked a lot in the past about your lack of sleep or difficulty with sleep.
Oh, yeah, (laughs) it’s hard with all of the games I’ve been playing and the travel and time zones. You’ve got workouts and early morning workouts. It’s just kind of hard on the body or, at least, mine.
6:30 workouts in the morning.
(laughs) Yeah, you know, 6:30 in the morning workouts. It’s killing me. (laughs)

How about defensively? How would you assess your defense at this point? I think you’ve stepped up your defense from the past.
Yeah, I’ve been feeling better about my defense lately. I think I’ve given better and really gotten in there. I’ve tried to focus on it a bit so that, if my offense goes in a particular game, at least I’ve got my defense. It’s something that I can rely on.

Before you were talking about playing in front of the coaches, how do you think they have an effect on your play?
Oh, at first, I had butterflies, but I’ve tried to just have fun with it. I try to just get used to it. You know that your playing in front of the greatest coaches and that kind of inspires you. You know that you have to perform and then it’s also great to have that opportunity and also playing in front of fans is fun too.

Who are some of your Assault teammates that have also stepped up their games this year?
I think Kris (Jenkins) has. He’s battled back from injury and been able to help us after sitting out earlier in the year.
And you couldn’t be tighter with him (Jenkins lives with the Britts) so you know the pain that he must’ve been in to sit out?
Yeah, absolutely, we’re very close and he felt terribly about missing so many games with that badly sprained ankle. He was worried about it too. I feel like we really jelled well together as a team.

I just want to clarify an earlier answer. You mentioned about how those three schools stood out. Were you implying that it was too late, in essence, for other schools to get involved or just that those three happened to stand out right now?
Oh, no, no. Yeah, it’s not too late. It’s just that those three schools happened to be recruiting a little harder than the others at this point.

Has there been any really new school to step in?
Well, Maryland offered and North Carolina stepped up their interest.

Well, that must’ve made you feel good.
Oh, yeah, it did.

What was it like, by the way, when Nolan Smith joined the Assault coaching staff?
(laughs) Oh, yeah, that was great because you know that’s a guy that accomplished so much and he’s got a really good basketball mind. He doesn’t get crazy out there. He just helps you focus.

Did he help at all with the strategy?
Oh, yeah, he helped. He pointed out things and, you know, who for us to make switches on. It was great to have him out there with us, you know. I think we all appreciated it and certainly I did. It was great.

He mentioned that he was going to say something to the team.
Oh, yeah, he talked to all of us. He mentioned how it wasn’t long ago that he was in our seats. He talked about hard he worked and has to work to continue to make it. He encouraged all of us to get out there and work. It was inspirational.

Nate Britt BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

It’s amazing that he was in your spot or grade just five years ago.
Yeah, it is . It just goes so fast. It helps keep him in touch. He just kept saying how hard he worked and to stay focused and stuff like that. He always, like, had his eye on the prize and encouraged us to do that to.

Before you were talking about how you guys play so many games, do you feel that momentum carries over from one tournament to the next.
Yeah, I think it does, when we play events really close to one another. When you win or lose a lot in one tournament, I do think it carries over…it can help bring confidence to a team or sometimes drag it down.

Is there any player nationally that you wanted to get a chance to play or take on this summer and you didn’t get a chance to at one of the various events?
That’s tough. Not really…I think I’ve played just about everybody at this point. (laughs).

In terms of position, is anyone recruiting you as a combo guard at this point or is everybody now looking at you as a straight one?
Really, just a one now. Just a straight one.

How are you trying to use Twitter? Growing your audience. Is it a way to get your voice out there?
Oh, yeah, I’m just trying to get people to know me a little bit and, like you said, grow my audience or voice.

Lastly, you’ve traveled all around through basketball. What’s been your favorite tournament that you’ve played in so far?
I would probably have to say Vegas. It’s either Vegas or Indiana. Those are my two favorites because they just feel bigger and there’s more excitement in the air for whatever reason. Kids are pumped up to play in front of the coaches, I guess. The games feel more important.

Thanks again, Nate. Good luck to you.
Yeah, yeah, sure. You’re welcome. [/private]

Final Four: A Perry Ellis Update

Perry Ellis BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

This past weekend, 6’8″ rising senior Perry Ellis of Wichita helped his USA Red team to a third place finish at Adidas Nations in Compton, California. In his final game, the three-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year scored twelve points and grabbed six rebounds. Since he was last profiled, Ellis, a 4.0 student, has cut his lengthy list of suitors down to a final four: Kansas St., Kansas, Kentucky and Duke University. He is working on setting up future visits.

Over the past month, Ellis has teamed with improving guard Buddy Hield for the Kansas Pray and Play program in events from the NY2LA Summer Jam outside Milwaukee to Las Vegas’ Super 64 to cap off his final AAU campaign. In two weeks, the driven forward, who battled tendinitis in June, will once again be participating in the Elite 24 event in Venice Beach, CA.

The always cordial Perry Ellis sat down with BDN for a quick update following a close defeat to discuss what he’d like to find in the college of his choice and what he hopes to view on his upcoming visits.

How much momentum carries over from event to event or tournament to tournament? Either as an individual or a team?
With our first game, we always seem a little sluggish.

I noticed that. Then, you guys seem to pick it up in the second game, for whatever reason. The team seems to get into a groove and build from there.
Yeah, and then we get into a flow and we get momentum and we’re running up-and-down and things seem to click a lot better. When we’re not, we’re missing easy shots and easy lay-ups.
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Even just one or two tip-ins would’ve changed the course of this game.
Yeah, it’s the little stuff. I mean we lost by what? Three?

Two. It was killing me. (laughs)
Two? Jeez. Man, I can’t believe we lost by two and we missed all of those little things. We should’ve won by twenty or something. There’s no excuse, but we’ve just got to keep our focus.

Yeah, I was just thinking about momentum and what your thoughts were on it. Is there any new news in terms of recruiting or visits?
Um, I’m not really sure when exactly I’m going to visit the schools. I don’t have nothing really planned right now.

Where do you feel most comfortable catching the ball?
Right around the free throw line..

Facing up around the wings?
Wings?

Yeah, I’m sorry, like the free throw line extended.
Yeah, exactly, right around there, you know, just facing up.

How about defending fours versus threes? Which do you feel more comfortable defending against? It seems like you’ve defended everyone from fives to threes.
I mean I like getting out on the wings, but it just depends on what we needed.

Yeah, that’s why I was more curious about what position you felt most comfortable guarding versus what the team needed in a given game or match-up.
Well, I like getting out on the wings because I think you get out on more breaks, you know. I mean most of the time if you’re down low and you throw an outlet pass, it’s already too..

You’re too late to score on the break. (laughs) You want to have some fun out there.
Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

And what position are most schools recruiting you for now? There seemed to be some back and forth the last time over some schools recruiting you as a face-up four versus a three.
I’d say most schools are saying three and, if I’ve got a mismatch, than a four. That’s what they’ve said.

What are you looking for ideally in the college that you ultimately do decide on? What are some things that you hope that they have? Looking big picture now.
The first thing is being comfortable. Being comfortable around the school and just knowing people. Being comfortable there is the first thing.

That’s step one. You’ve got to feel comfortable.
Then, playing on TV. I want to be able to play on TV.

Sure.
Putting out players..they’re developing players.

So, exposure and developing players..
Yeah, definitely.

What about urban versus rural? Will distance play a big factor? You’ve got them both very close by and a few states away.
Yeah, no, distance won’t really matter to me. Just whether I’m more comfortable there than on the other campuses.

How about knowing players either on the current team or in your recruiting class?
Yeah, that would definitely help. It would help as far as knowing other people and being comfortable. Just knowing guys that you might get to play with. That’s definitely something to think about.

Yeah, I was just thinking that might ease some concerns. What are you hoping to see on your visits?
As far as..

Where would you like to go? Do you want to see the facilities, the campus, and the players’ dorms, etcetera?
Yeah, exactly, I’d like to see all the little stuff like what do they do before the games.

Pre-game rituals and preparation.
Yeah, see all that they have to do, where they live, see their classes and so forth.

Have you thought at all about what you’d like to major in or what interests you? I know you’re Mr. 4.0 student.
Yeah, (laughs) I’m not really sure. I’ve been concentrating so much on basketball lately.

Sure, will immediate playing time be a major factor in your decision?
Yeah, I mean, on the one hand, I definitely would like an opportunity to play early on…just like I’m sure everybody does, but, on the other hand, I don’t want people to just tell me that I’m gonna play..I want to work for it. I want people to tell me that. I don’t want to just be given anything.

See, but I remember the last time that you said that you didn’t like guys that were too demanding on you all of the time. How does that..would you like them to push a little bit, but not too much?
Oh, I meant as far as practice.

But you just meant off the court.
Yeah, yeah, breathing room.

Because the last time you were talking about how you liked how some of the programs recruiting you gave their players freedom, but now I understand that you want the freedom off the court, while being pushed on it.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Okay. That’s it for me. I really appreciate it. Good luck tonight.
Alright, sure. Thank you.
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