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Noah Vonleh: A New England Warrior

Noah Vonleh BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

After a one-point loss in triple overtime of an end-of-the-summer AAU event, 6’7″ Noah Vonleh, an amiable gym rat from Haverhill, Massachusetts comes over and tries to collect his thoughts. The son of a nurse who escaped war-ravaged Western Africa in the mid-90s is preparing for his own move in the coming weeks. The fifteen year-old decided to leave the comfort of his local public high school, Haverhill, where he dominated the competition, averaging eighteen points, seventeen rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks.

From his home in the formerly thriving industrial city, Haverhill, on the outskirts of Boston, he’s heading an hour north to a New England prep school, New Hampton, the chief rival of Brewster Academy (where Duke recruit Mitch McGary attends) that has produced ex-NBA players Lawrence Moten, Darius Songalia, and Rashad McCants as well as former Duke Blue Devil, J.D. Simpson. The versatile forward has also decided to reclassify to the 2014 class, in order to acclimate himself to his new school and the NEPSAC AAA league, the most challenging high school league in the country. New Hampton, located in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is coming off of a very good year, where they made a run to the NEPSAC Finals.

Vonleh, who enjoys a 7’4″ reach, anticipates that he will have to deal with bigger, stronger, and older players than in his prior Merrimack Valley league. The hard-working forward is eager to utilize the valuable facilities that New Hampton enjoys and the easy access that he’ll have to them. One person who will help in his adjustment is his Massachusetts Rivals AAU teammate and fellow high-major recruit, 6’9″ Zach Auguste, who played for the New Hampton Huskies last season. This AAU season, the duo has helped Coach Vincent Pastore, Vonleh’s longtime AAU coach and mentor to former McDonald’s All-American Scott Hazelton, enjoy a few successful runs over the past few months, including recently at the Super 64 in Las Vegas and the Best of Summer Showcase in Southern California. Vonleh, who was one of only seven 2014 prospects to attend the LeBron James Skills Academy, has generated interest from both of the “Tobacco Road” schools and offers from several big-time programs, including Kansas, Syracuse, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Florida.

Always respectful, but understandably exhausted, Noah gave Blue Devil Nation a quick update on his future and a recap of his summer.

I’m sorry to have to talk to you after a terrible loss like this, but what went into your decision to transfer to New Hampton and reclassify to the 2014 class? Why did you choose to do it and what are you hoping to get out of it?
Yeah, I’m going to New Hampton and I’m going to be in the class of 2014. The reason why I left is that the prep school competition is a lot better than the high school competition that I’ve faced so far. I really think it’ll help make me a lot better. I’m really looking forward to it.

[private]
Staying with that theme, tell the audience both a little bit more about both the level of competition that you’ll see in the New England prep school leagues and the recent rise of New England overall on a national stage. Both have gotten a lot better in recent years.
Yeah, there’s a real rush of great players coming out right now. Andre Drummond, Ricky Ledo, Nerlens and a lot of players have helped to show what we’re capable of this summer. I’m not really sure why, but it’s great to see.

Not that it’s extremely uncommon anymore, but what went into your decision to reclassify?
Yeah, well, I’m still only fifteen years old so I felt that it wouldn’t be a big deal and hopefully would help me when I went to my new school and got used to their facilities and competition. I think it’ll help me get bigger and better in my time in high school. I’m going to be playing against a lot stronger players and competition, you know. I mean some of these guys’ll be a lot older.

As you mentioned, you’re still so young, but what is it like playing in front of the college coaches? Does it get you excited or motivated?
Yeah, it kind of gets me nervous and motivated. I want to play my best and perform in front of the college coaches. 

Absolutely, what are your offers and what schools are expressing interest in you?
Providence, Syracuse, BC, Georgia Tech, Kansas… Duke has shown interest and actually so has UNC. That’s all I can think of right now. 

What about a position? What do you view yourself as?
A small forward or a combo forward, I guess. Probably a small forward. 

What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?
I think scoring the ball and my versatility because I’m able to score inside and post up against smaller players or I can take bigger guys off of the dribble from the outside or just shoot over them. 

Speaking of that, do you prefer to play with your back to the basket or face-up? In this game, you played a lot more with your back to the basket, but a lot of other games you stay outside or move around.
Oh, yeah, definitely face-up.

Have you taken any visits and do you have any planned?
I haven’t taken any visits really. I think I’m going to wait. I don’t have any plans. 

What are you looking for, ideally, whenever you do decide?
A school that will make me better, a school that will push me, both on the court and academically, and that will help me in school. I also like to be comfortable with the players and coaches. Just a place that I’d like to be.

Will distance be a factor?
No, it won’t be. 

What are your goals for this high school season?
To help my team become successful and for me to get better.

How do you feel you did in your original sophomore year at Haverhill this year?
Yeah, Haverhill. I thought I did well, but the competition wasn’t really great. I think I played well overall, but we didn’t win as many games as we probably should or could’ve, which was a little frustrating. 

How do you feel you’ve played so far this AAU season?
I thought I’ve been playing really good this year. We’ve done well as a team, which is important and we’ve got some good talent here too. We’ve been able to beat and compete against a lot of good teams, which is also important. I think I’ve done really well. I feel like I’m competing against my rivals. 

Whenever you do decide, who will you turn to for guidance?
My AAU coach, Vincent Pastore, and my mom. 

Speaking of your mom, how does your family feel about you going away to school this year? Are they excited for you? Or are they sorry to see you leave?
They’re very excited for me. They can’t wait for me to go. They think it’s a great opportunity. 

Who do you try to model your game after?
Kevin Durant. We’re around the same size and I guess I just love to watch him play.

How do you feel you shoot the ball? What do you think is your range?
Well, I think I can shoot it all the way to the three point line. I just didn’t shoot it well today. I’m not sure what happened. 

No, no, don’t worry about that. I’ve seen you shoot the ball well before. Who’s the toughest player you’ve ever gone against?
I guess the toughest player I’ve gone against is Nerlens Noel. He blocks everything. 
Yeah, it’s like he’s got a broomstick out there or something.

From what we touched on before, what are you looking forward to gaining from facing the competition you’re going to see next year?
I’m looking for guys to keep pushing me and competing with me and helping me to get better, both on my team and the teams we’ll be facing. I’m looking forward to working with my new coaches, too.

Other than Zach (Auguste), do you know any of your teammates or coaches pretty well at this point?
Yeah, Zach Auguste. Zach helped me and encouraged me to go there. It’s good to know somebody who’s actually there right now. Also, Mike Auger, who’s out here.

Did the coaches there talk to you about what your role will be or what their expectations will be of you?
No, not really. They’re going to tell me when I get there.

How far will it be from your hometown of Haverhill?
It’ll be about an hour, maybe a little bit more. Not too far.

Earlier you mentioned that the two Tobacco Road schools, Duke and North Carolina, had expressed interest in you.
Oh, yeah, they’ve both shown interest so far.

What do you know about the programs?
Two things…they get a lot of players to the NBA and they win National Championships.
(Laughs)

What would like the audience to know about you, on or off the court?
That I work very hard at basketball and take it very seriously. I try to put in a lot of hours…day or night.

Thanks very much.
Yeah, I really appreciate it.[/private]

Prince Ibeh: A Prince By Any Other Name

Prince Ibeh BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

Three years after trying organized basketball for the first time, 6’11″ Prince Ibeh played in a very lightly attended AAU evening game on the outskirts of Las Vegas. There were sixteen coaches in attendance, however, including three Duke coaches: Mike Krzyzewski, Jeff Capel, and Steve Wojciechowski. Ibeh, who wields a 7’4″ wingspan, has landed on the radars of high-major programs like Texas, Florida, Maryland, and Vanderbilt by possessing a tantalizing mix of size, athleticism, and upside.

For the majority of this AAU season, the 2012 prospect has been the defensive stalwart and veteran presence on a young Texas Titans team, where Ibeh, who has added more than twenty pounds of muscle, was a teammate of both Dallas-area Duke 2013 recruits Julius Randle and Matt Jones. The Garland, Texas product’s performance at the Amar’e Stoudemire Skills Academy earned him an invitation to Akron’s LeBron James Skills Academy. His length, lateral quickness, and quick-twitch second jump has made him into one of the better shot-blockers among the rising seniors.

Recently, he spoke with Blue Devil Nation about Duke’s recent interest, his unique first name, playing with Randle, and the keys to being a good shot-blocker.

For those that may only recently have seen you play, touch on your growth as a player over the past few years?
Yeah, a couple of years ago, I was pretty bad. (laughs) I was just starting and I guess I just got used to my body. I practiced a lot more and things started to fall into place.

In terms of your offensive growth or progression, where do you view it now and how far do you feel that you have to go? Where do you think it needs to be?
I think it needs to get a lot better, but it’s actually improved a lot.

Yeah, I think that your comfort level on offense and filling out your body have been the two biggest things that you’ve improved on since last year.
Yeah, absolutely.

With respect to recruiting, what schools are after you right now?
Duke, Texas, Florida, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Maryland, and then Baylor and a couple of other schools.

[private]

You must be, at least, a pretty good student.
Yeah, I am.

What was it like playing with Randle and Jones earlier? You were sort of their man in the middle to sweep up any mistakes.
Oh, it was good, but I didn’t have like any offensive sets on that team. (laughs) So, it was really just a defensive role, but it was nice playing with them.

You get a lot more touches on this team?
Yeah, but I knew what I was getting in to… (laughs)

What are your strengths and weakness right now?
My strengths are rebounding and blocking shots…pretty much defense.

Well, what do you feel are some areas for improvement?
Yeah, I really need to improve my shooting…my free throw shooting.
Well, you hit the one you took in this game.
(Laughs) Yeah, I was glad I made that one.

Do you view yourself more as a four or five?
A four.

Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself away from the court? Well, first of all, how did you get that name?

Prince?
Yeah.
My mom thought I was going to be a girl and so she was going to name me “Princess,” (laughs) but I ended up a boy and, so, I’ve tried to make the most of it. (laughs)
Sure, that wasn’t exactly the answer I was expecting (laughs). Back to telling the audience a bit about yourself away from the court…
Yeah, I’m pretty laid-back. I just like to hang out with friends and listen to music. That’s pretty much it.

Okay, by the way, in terms of distance, will that be a big factor for you? It seems like you’ve got schools all around the country, but I had heard that you might want to stay near your family in Texas.
No, it won’t be much of a problem.

With respect to your timeline, do you still view this as early in the process for you? Late? I had heard you’d like to sign in the early period.
Yeah, I want to decide sometime in November.
You want to take some visits?
Yeah, definitely.

Have you taken any unofficial visits recently and do you have any planned?
No, I haven’t taken any that I’d call very recently and I don’t plan on taking any more unofficial visits. I think I’m just going to take my official visits.

Who will you turn to for guidance, whenever you do sit down and decide?
Coach (Lawrence) Mann, who’s my AAU coach, and my high school coach, Coach (Jeff) Clarkson

What are you looking for ideally, whenever you do decide?
A good coaching staff and a good opportunity to play…things like that

How long have you been playing basketball and what other sports have you played through your life?
I used to play mostly football. That was basically all I played, until my freshman year. My freshman year was when I started playing basketball.
So, it is true that you’ve really only been playing basketball for about three years.
Yeah, for better or worse, I’ve only been playing since my freshman year.
Any chance of seeing you at wide receiver or defensive end?
(laughs) Yeah, well, I used to actually play both wide receiver and defensive end.

How long did it take you to adjust to a new team?
The Titans?
Yes.
Sure, it didn’t take too long. I kind of understood right when I got there that they already had a system and how they were going to do things. I didn’t need much time.

Are you a Mavericks fan? How did you feel about them winning the title?
Oh, I hate the Mavericks. (laughs)

(laughs) I’m trying here. You’re sort of known as a defensive and rebounding specialist. Who’s been the toughest guy for you to defend?
There isn’t one guy that comes to the top of my head, but Julius (Randle) probably would’ve been.
Yeah, I was going to ask you about the best teammate that you’ve had, but I guess Julius would be your answer.
Sure, that would definitely be Julius.

What are some of your goals for the high school season, both individually and as a team?
Oh, well, for the team, we want to win the state championship this coming year.
You guys didn’t make it quite as far as you wanted to this year.
Yeah, definitely, we lost in the second round of the playoffs, but I think we’ll do a lot better this year.

In terms of Duke specifically, what do you know about the program and who has contacted you from their staff?
Coach Capel has called me. I don’t know too much about the program, but I know that it’s a good program.

What do you feel are the keys to being a good shot-blocker? Timing? Positioning?
Yeah, timing and positioning…oh, and athleticism, I guess.
Well, you sent one shot into the third row in this game.
(laughs)

Rather than necessarily having a player that you model your game after, who’s your favorite player right now?
Oh, definitely Kevin Durant.

Where do you prefer to catch the ball on offense?
In the high post..
Sort of around the foul line extended, where you were catching the ball a lot in this game and against the zone
Yeah, that’s right.

Does playing in front of college coaches have affect your play at all? Does it change your emotions at all?
It makes it a lot more frustrating when you make a mistake. It magnifies things, but I think it also makes people or, at least, me play harder and more consistently.

Do you think it affects players or teammates in general?
Yeah, I think it does affect them, but some just don’t want to admit it or say that it changes them a bit.

How do you feel that you’ve played throughout the AAU season, both here and with the Titans?
I feel like I’ve played pretty good overall. I feel like I’ve grown and contributed. I would’ve liked to have scored with the ball a little bit more, but things happen.

Staying with that and we touched on it before, but where would you like to be offensively by the time that you reach college? Where do you view as the area that you can improve most rapidly before college? Low-post play? Improving your shooting from the outside?
Yeah, I think improving my low-post play and developing more low-post moves in general. It would help make it tougher on defenders, I think.

Do you work on that often? What’s your schedule typically like? How much time do you put into improving yourself on the court?
Yeah, I try. I work out about three times a week. Um, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
With a trainer or by yourself? How does that work?
Sometimes by my self.

Alright, well, thank you very much, Prince.
Thank you very much.[/private]

Jabari Parker and the Eventful Summer

Jabari Parker BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

Since last we profiled Chicago’s Jabari Parker, he has led the United States to a Gold Medal at the FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Mexico, where the 6’8″ wing was named the MVP of the tournament. Over the past month, Parker stood out against the nation’s best at the LeBron James Skills Academy and helped take his relatively young Mac Irvin AAU squad deep into several tournaments including the Peach Jam, Fab 48, and, most recently, into the finals at the Desert Duel.

Recently, Jabari spoke with us about a variety of issues, including his USA Basketball experience, his recent profile in Sports Illustrated, and a scouting report on some of his recent teammates, who also have received recruiting interest from Duke.

What schools are you considering?
Kansas, Washington, Duke, Illinois, and Michigan State.

What’s going to influence your decision when you choose a school?
The best program where I can fit in, a program where I can develop as an individual, both in basketball and character-wise.

[private]
(Other site) Chicago basketball, is that the best basketball in the country or what?
I would say in the country because, as a public school, we don’t have the ability to recruit as the other schools do, so I always consider us one of the best high school programs in the country.

What did you learn about yourself at the academies?
I learned that these guys are just as good as me, so I have to work hard, I have to make myself stand out through hard work.

What do you feel you need to work on?
Not just being an individual, but being able to have your teammates play around you and it’s not about one person…Just getting to loose balls and playing better defense, too, cause you know I can lag on that. And getting my jump shot improved, too.

What’s it like playing in front of college coaches?
Not a lot of pressure, but, you know, I’m kind of used to it, but it’s good because you know…
Do you find it makes you play or act differently? Do you find it motivates, excites, or even makes you a little nervous?
It makes me kind of motivated because I can show them what I’m not good at and show what I’ve improved on and lacking in skills.

Do you feel you’ve improved as a shooter over the past few months?
I’ve gotten better, but it needs some work. You know, I’m just getting in the gym and getting shots up. I’m not thinking about it too much, but just..
Getting comfortable with your range?
Yeah.

What was the USA Basketball experience like?
It was very good. It was very aggressive. It’s kind of different from the States because they called a whole lot of ticky-tack fouls. In the national game, they let you be more physical where hand-checking is allowed.

How long does it take you to get used to the rules, etc.?
Well, it took me about a week. We practiced in Colorado Springs, so they had us learn the rules.

What about winning the MVP? It must have been exciting.
It was good. I was actually surprised because you know Aaron?
Yeah, Aaron Gordon..
He played well and just my teammates..they were just as good as me, so when I got it, I felt honored.

What were the highlights of the trip? The highlight was obviously winning the gold medal, but other than that, I meant…
Yeah, but off the court, we went to Chichen Itza. It was one of the Aztec pyramids or something like that we got to see. It was like another wonder of the world. We got to see that up close.

Oh, that must’ve been a great experience. Forgive me, but what’s the latest in your recruitment?
Missouri just offered me, Tennessee just offered me, and UConn, too.

Who’s been after you hardest since that June 15th deadline?
Illinois and DePaul. DePaul has sent me a lot of things. They kind of get under you because they’re the local school.

Have you enjoyed playing with Jahlil Okafor? He said he looked up to you. What’s your relationship like with him?
Oh, that’s like a little brother to me. Jahlil’s very good. He’s a really big person down-low that you can throw the ball down to. He’s looking to be like me- one of the top players in his class. He’s very dominant.

He had mentioned how you had slimmed down on your body and how he was going to try to do the same.
Yeah, with me and him, it’s all about our bodies are different. Growing up, it’s about eating the right food. You can’t get away with taking a lot of days off.

Can you give the audience a scouting report on Theo Pinson?
Oh, Theo’s very good. You know, without the ball, he can run the lanes very well. He’s very athletic. He’s just good for his age. He can do so much that other kids can’t do at his age.
He’s a very natural player.
Yeah, he’s very natural.

What was the experience at LeBron like?
It went well. We did a lot of skill development, getting coaching from all different levels- from the NBA down to high school. You know, it just brings different views.

What sort of things did you learn?
Footwork, just different footwork… and skills as far as reverse pivots and face-up game.

Speaking about those five or six schools that you mentioned before, can you mention something about each of them?
Well, they each have great coaches, they have a long history, they’ve been able to win, you can also develop as a person too with them and you can trust them. I just like that the coaches there are all good.  I think I can fit into their systems well.

What makes you think that you can fit into their systems?
Because it’s versatile. I’ve been scouting throughout the players they had and I’m similar to some of those players..the ones that are able to post inside and out and play the small forward position.

How likely is it that your schools are likely to change from here on out?
It’s able to change, there are a lot of schools trying to come in, but you know, things can change, I guess. I just like those schools.

I guess I was just curious, but do you have a friendly rivalry with Julius Randle?
Well, you know, he’s a very good player. You know, me and him are a rival on the courts, but me and him get along very well and we talk. We share words and we talk about schools. I just like being around him.
I know you guys are often associated on a national level.
Yeah, yeah.

In terms of visits, have you taken any recently? Do you have any upcoming?
I don’t have any visits planned because, you know, I’ll be busy. In August, I really don’t know.

Who are some coaches that you’ve enjoyed talking to?
It was surprising to see Jim Calhoun, you know he just won the National Championship..and his interest in me being very high. He’s always won national championships and he plays in the Big East.

Have you spoken with Durant and what advice did he give you?
I met Durant in Chicago and…
I remember you really looked up to him, I remember that he was one of your favorite players. I’m glad that you had the opportunity to meet him.
Yeah, he’s a very good guy. He was always involved with us. He also worked with us individually as well. He also told us that we need to work hard and told me not to let my talent be wasted by not working hard.

Did you get to play against him at all?
Yeah, I got to play against him.
How did you do?
I did okay. He didn’t really play to his full effort, but…

How far along do you feel you are in terms of your recruitment?
I think it’s getting there. I think it’ll be before my senior year. I’ll be able to decide one day. Only time will tell.

(Kentucky site reporter) You mentioned Kentucky. You’ve gotten a little interest from Kentucky. Have they called you since June 15th.
Yeah, they called my parents and they didn’t really give me any insight into what was said. They just said that they were very interested in me.

(Kentucky site reporter) Do you feel like you have an offer from them?
Not really, because I think that they’re interested in other kids from the 2012 class. But Coach Orlando, he contacts my mom sometimes.
(Kentucky site reporter) What would be your interest level if they did come through with an offer?
It would be so-so.

Have you visited all five of them?
I have visited all but Kansas. I haven’t visited Kansas yet. I’ve been away and at the camps. I haven’t visited them yet.

Is that something you want to do or thought about?
Yeah.

Since we’re getting near the end of the season, how do you feel you and your team are playing right now?
I think we’re playing well, you know. We’re playing well as a team. This spring, you remember we were struggling a little bit, when we were trying to get used to each other and our surroundings. Right now, we’re starting every game strong and everybody is playing well with each other.

What is the importance for you and your teammates of going out with a bang…ending the summer on a high note?
I’ve been playing pretty well this summer. You know getting a lot of hard work in, between the Nike Skills Academies and the LeBron James Camp… and I’ve just tried to grow from there.

It translates also back to AAU ball.
Yes, it does. It really started from USA camp. We worked very hard from there and coaches there just said, you know, to play as hard today in practice as you will tomorrow in the games. We all tried to take that to heart, you know.

Speaking of USA Basketball, what was it like playing with Tyus Jones? How did he mesh with the team as your point guard?
Oh, yeah, it was really good group and Tyus was one of the best guards at passing. He really facilitated more than he scored for our team, but, you know, he could score anytime that he wanted.

In terms of watching tapes or games of older players, which ones have you enjoyed watching most?
I’ve actually enjoyed watching a lot, but recently I was watching the Boston Celtics against the Houston Rockets. I just loved to watch Larry Bird move around the floor and seeing how he stayed active and involved. Then, I’ve also been watching the Portland Trailblazers against the Nets or I mean the 76ers back when they had Doctor J and just trying to take from that and how they played hard and how they would try to get their baskets.

I saw you yesterday trying to incorporate the bank shot, which is sadly missing in a lot of the younger guys’ games.
Oh, yeah, definitely.

What did you think of the recent SI article?
Yeah, it was real good. You know I appreciate it. The guy interviewed me and he thought I was a very good guy.
Yeah, well, you are.
Thanks, you know I’m just glad with the way it turned out and I appreciated his time. I’m just so glad that I had an opportunity to have an article on me and I never want to take it for granted.

How do you account for the improvement in your explosiveness? When you’re dunking the ball, how much does the thought of igniting the crowd play into what you’re going to do?
You know I just started to get a little more bounce.
Sure.
Yeah, and you know the weight going down has helped me a lot as far as being lighter and helping me stay in the air a little longer.

What about your match-up with (Kuran) Iverson? He’s got a lot of tools too and he’s around your size, age, and athleticism.
Yeah, I’ve got to say that he brought the best out in me. He made me play harder and not so sluggish. In the beginning, I thought he got the best of me and so I needed to come out strong for my team in the second half.

Thank you very much. It was great to see you, Jabari.
It was great to see you.[/private]

Bronson Koenig: One of Wisconsin’s Better Players

Bronson Koenig BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

The college town of La Crosse, Wisconsin sits on the banks of the Mississippi, which provides the border to Minnesota. It is the hometown of Bronson Koenig, a 6’2″ guard who straddles the line between point guard and shooting guard. The 2013 prospect has recently picked up significant interest from the Duke Blue Devils. As a sophomore, he led Aquinas High School to a state title and was named All-State in Wisconsin.

On the AAU circuit, Koenig competed with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors 16-and-under squad at the Adidas Super 64. He had been getting recruiting interest from Kansas, North Carolina, and in-state Wisconsin, but recently the Jayhawks were able to receive a verbal commitment from Connor Frankamp, a Wichita guard who led his 16U squad to the Super 64 Championship.

After a 52-44 defeat by New Heights, the third straight defeat for the ultimately 1-4 Warriors, the terse Koenig spoke about Duke’s recent interest, how he felt he performed in his initial game in front of Coach K, and how he’s going to try to improve his game in the coming months.

What position do you view yourself as? A combo or more of a one?
It doesn’t really matter. I mean I can play point guard in college or I can play either the one, two, or three.

In terms of the colleges that are pursuing you, Wisconsin and North Carolina are considered two of your leaders. Kansas took a commitment last week from Connor. Are those your two primary suitors or are there other programs out there that are still in the running?
Yeah, I’d say Virginia, Duke, and Kansas are the other ones. That’s pretty much it.
[private]

How far along do you feel that you are in terms of deciding? Is this near the end or do you still feel you’re in the early stages?
I’d say late… Late.

You’re sort of known as a three point shooter and a secondary ball-handler. How have you tried to diversify your game, in order to make it more difficult for defenders to guard you?
I’ve tried to improve my ability to get in the lane and then either improve my ability to dish it off or lay it in.

Is there significant in-state pressure to choose Wisconsin?
Yeah, um, there is a little bit.

For the audience that may not know much about you, you won the state title this past year and made All-State as well. Share with the audience what this run was like?
Yeah, it was a really good team and I learned a lot that I’ll be able to use later on too.

What are your goals for this upcoming high school season?
To win another state championship.

Alright, what are you hoping to improve upon most over the next year?
Getting stronger, getting lower, and developing my core game more and I think I need to work on my conditioning a little bit, do you know what I mean?

Yeah, I do. By the way, do you view three-point shooting as your strength or is it something else?
Um, yeah, I’d say shooting and passing.
Shooting and passing?
Yeah.

Is there a guy that you try to model your game after?
Not really.

One of the other schools you mentioned before was Duke. What do you know about the program and which coaches have you spoken with?
Oh, yeah, I talked to them when I was in Louisville. They said that they were going to go ahead and watch me play here. So, we’ll see..

What do you know about the program?
It’s a really good program.

What do you find are some of the differences between playing with the 16s versus the 17s?
Yeah, as I’m sure you know, it’s a big difference. they’re physically so much bigger and more athletic and stronger. I’d say athleticism and strength are the biggest things. I’m not sure, but I’ll probably play with them at the next event. You need to get stronger as you move up the ranks.

What are you looking for ideally whenever you do decide on a college?
Well, I think it’ll pretty much come down to how comfortable I am with being there. Just a comfort level.

Who will you turn to for guidance whenever you do decide?
My parents. Yeah, my parents probably.

Have you taken any visits recently and do you have any planned?
I went to North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas.

Who’s the best player you’ve faced so far, either in Wisconsin or nationally?
I don’t know. There are a lot of really good players. (laughs)

Coach K came and saw you play for the first time. Did that have any significance?
Um, I guess it was in the back of my mind a little bit, but I just tried to play through it.

Was it similar to when some of the other big-time coaches came and watched you play for the first time?
Um, yeah.

Is it pressure, hunger..
A little of both, but I guess a little pressure.

How do you feel that you played?
I don’t really think about it. I though it was really clogged up and I couldn’t get anything going.

What do you think you need to focus on?
Getting stronger and getting lower…just getting my body lower and eventually being able to get above the rim.

Defensively, which position do you feel most comfortable guarding? They switched you a lot out there today. Mostly playing guys off of the ball.
Either one, it doesn’t really matter.

Thanks for your time.
Thanks.[/private]

Duke Basketball Team & Recruiting Update – A Crystal Clear Picture

The Dynamic duo of Matthew Jones and Julius Randle srike a pose for BDN - BDN Photo Do you want an accurate take on Duke Basketball Recruiting? Well, join BDN Premium and we'll give you a crystal clear picture.

BDN’s Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Updates have set the standard among the sites and sure enough, this concept is now being copied.  We’ll take that as a compliment but when push comes to shove, it is all about the content and we’ll stack ours against anybody.  Here at BDN, our staff is in the trenches at AAU events.  That means our members are getting live streams of information as it happens, making our site well ahead of the curve.

We can lay claim to the fact that we cover more major recruiting events in person than any other site and that has been a running thing for several years now.  We don’t send “stringers,” with limited knowledge of the subject matter to do our work, nor do we sit back and depend on national network guys to do our job for us.  Seriously, do you not want first hand observations from an accomplished staff that has seen the prospects play multiple times?  No knocks here on the National guys in that many are our friends, but their sole focus is certainly not on Duke prospects nor is it a priority to cover them.  There are no smoke and mirrors tactics at BDN folks, nope, we are straightforward and honest when it comes to our coverage and we take pride in that.

If you have yet to try BDN Premium, you don’t know what you’re  missing of late and with some exciting changes on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to check us out.  Our staff is hard working, dedicated and hands on in everything we do.  In our current update we lay out a clear picture of the staff’s efforts.  And before we get on with our update where lots is happening, take a look at how much content we’ve pumped out recently which includes: Two interviews with both Tony Parker and Matt Jones to go with individual interviews with Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Alex Poythress, Perry Ellis, Jahill Okafor, Rasheed Sulaimon and much, much more.  Just today, recruiting analyst Andrew Slater goes in depth with Mitch McGary and we have content laying in wait this week. And our interviews have meat to them in that we don’t lure you in with a premium article featuring a couple of quotes via texting.  Anyhow, let’s move on to another informative and detailed (2521 word) update on the Duke Basketball recruiting scene where we paint a crystal clear picture for our members.  Trust me in that you will absolutely love our update, so if you want to find out where the coaches will be going, who is really on the radar and such, we have the answers for you.  And if you are not satisfied, we’ll refund you within the first 24 hours of joining.

The picture is now crystal clear with concern to 2012 and beyond.  Duke will stick with Tony Parker until his decision is made.  Coach Krzyzewski sat front and center for many of Parker’s games and the big man [private] knew it, cutting his eyes towards the man while playing.  Parker has been a bit up and down with his comments of late but my belief is that Duke is in better shape than anyone else for Tony.  His parents love Duke and if they had their way, this one would be over from what I’ve heard from legitimate sources.  The Parkers sat directly behind the bench this weekend and they certainly saw the Blue Devils’ keen interest.  Duke has been faithful to Tony and his verbal could set other things in motion.  Coach K loves his hands and footwork and wants him to anchor the paint in Durham.  The Blue Devils have made Tony priority 1 on their 2012 wish list.

And if Parker is priority 1-A, then Mitch McGary is 1-B, or you can reverse the order if you’d like.  Duke will go hard after McGary and they feel they have a great chance at the tenacious big.  Sources are now saying McGary may pull the trigger before his high school season and if that is indeed the case, look for a whirlwind of activity in the coming months.  It is safe to say McGary will be visiting Duke and the Blue Devils will be in home with him when the time comes, but that will not happen until the team returns from their venture to China and Dubai.

The Blue Devils were most impressed with Matt Jones and he gained an offer after his play this past weekend.  Of course, as members, you all saw this one coming.  Jones glowed beyond belief when talking of Duke and you will see those videos this week.  We spoke to Jones the other night but kept it short.  He told BDN that he was on cloud nine after Coach K called and that he could certainly see himself there.  He was very excited that Duke moved in and it is fair to say that they went to the top of his list.  Jones has shown steady improvement in his game and he can slash through the lanes and has an outstanding outside shot.  He is a good on-ball defender as well and he sent a game to overtime with a defensive stop in front of Krzyzewski as time ran out.  The only knock I witnessed is that he at times has trouble shaking free for his shot.  He is a great character kid as well and BDN got his AAU coach’s thoughts on that, which is another feature you can look forward to.

His teammate, the hulking Julius Randle, also has an offer and Duke feels they are in good shape there as well.  Jeff Capel has certainly been a help in this one and the thought of a package deal with Jones is most appealing.  But make no mistake about it, Duke loves Matthew Jones as a stand alone player.  Randle was called the best player in the nation on the night he dominated the Memphis front court by someone close to the situation that watched him play.  That was a bit cryptic but easy enough for you to figure out on your own.  Randle was like a bull in a China shop and it is clear that he will not back down from anyone.  I caught several of his games and was most impressed by his enormous upside.  He is a true power player that may or may not fit should Duke get Tony Parker.

The Bull - BDN Photo

And then there is another 2013 product named Jabari Parker.  What a humble superstar he is and you’ll see this on coming videos as well.  Parker likes Duke a lot … a whole lot and the Duke coaches like him a lot, a whole helluva lot.  They are in great early shape with Parker and this one might end in the spring of next year at the latest.  Parker will make an unofficial visit to Durham in due time and we’ll have more on that as it develops.  While UNC and others are on him, Duke has been from the start and that will IMO pay dividends down the road.  Parker is smooth and versatile and at times cannot be stopped.  He is part of the spectacular trio joining Randle and Noel as the best of the best in 2013.

One thing many seemingly fail to see is that Duke has a great jump on 2013 for a reason.  The Duke staff will be tied up with Team USA duties next summer limiting their time on the recruiting trail.  That especially holds true for Krzyzewski and that is why he was so hands-on this past week with the class.  The three aforementioned 2013 players are clearly at the top of the wish list but more names are in the works, specifically Nerlens Noel.  This defensive demon we coined the “Sultan of Swat,” is a most interesting talent and game changer.  Then there is the “Nerlens Noel effect,” which causes players to alter shots for Noel is an absolute terror when it comes to blocking shots.  By the  end of the EYBL he was in every prospect’s head and it doesn’t matter who he is guarding.  In short, he inflicts pain on guys the same age, younger and/or older.  When I joked with Noel about the fact he didn’t send out invitations to his “Block Party,” he loved it.  Form that point on, Noel really opened up to me.  Make no mistake, everybody is on Noel, so Duke will have their hands full as will every other team that vies for his services.  I love me some Nerlens and so does Grant Hill, for he is making his fade rise on the cover of the 1991 Sports Illustrated stylish again;) A side note is that Grant Hill will go along on the China trip and he will be helping to teach the “Duke culture” to newcomers.

Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones, LJ Rose and Rodeny Purvis strike a pose for BDN

Some have attempted to hang me out to dry with a comment on Rodney Purvis which was misquoted, but that is something I am used to from another Duke site.  This time they made sure my name was in the head of a post.  I never intended certain things to go public but when users break the agreement upon signing up all I can do is boot them.  Purvis flat out wants to come in and play right away but Duke has a bevy of wings on the roster and in the works.  Purvis wanted to hang with Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones and LJ Rose this weekend and he is seemingly upset at, well, everything that is said these days.  The mere fact that Duke did not watch him is telling and I can tell you without revealing sources close to the situation that Purvis is no longer an option.  Of course, we were the first to say that in a private forum and now all but one site is on the bandwagon.  I think the offer to Jones may have made him see the light and/or the writing on the wall.  Purvis is a good kid, but his emotion concerns me as does his behavior when he is not on the court.  Would Duke take him if he called and wanted to come?   Make no mistake, Purvis has talent and he is a good kid, so I am in no way beating him down, but he is no Austin Rivers or Kyrie Irving.

We have to watch how we mention prospects around here and even where we’ll be going on the recruiting trail in that it tips off others.  Just this week nobody was on Nerlens Noel until we were seen talking to him.  Yes, people pay close attention to everything we do at events.  It frustrates us at times but what can you do?  All I can say is pay close attention to when information is printed and as a member sit back and know that you were aware of it beforehand.  Noel is sure to pick up an offer soon.

Rasheed Sulaimon played very well at the EYBL finals as well although he saved his worst game for last and a lackluster offensive performance cost him the scoring title.  Still, he finished second and he has improved immensely since a season ago;  he’s like a water bug running all over the place and locks down well on his defensive assignment.  His handle is improving as well and his offense is top shelf.  The Duke staff knew exactly what they were doing in getting this kid aboard early, a testament to Krzyzewski’s eye.  That too should excite one more with concern to Jones.

Wojo was in Wisconsin this week and Krzyzewski was as well before returning to Augusta.  Chris Collins was at home this go round but he returns in the coming week.  The addition of Jeff Capel has been a winner and this staff is, well, pretty darn good.

One kid that caught our eye during the EYBL opening session was  Tyus Jones, a 2014 PG from Minnesota who plays for the older Howard Pulley team.  Once we interviewed him, it was obvious to others he had caught the Blue Devils’ eyes.  Again, our every move is watched by others at events.  We actually interviewed Jones while at Boo, so he didn’t slip up on me at all.  In fact, he stood out and I was amazed to learn he was 2014 for his play was smooth as silk and so far ahead of those in his class.  We have a nice interview coming your way with Jones as well.  I can tell you that he has great character, confidence and his recruitment will go on for a very long time.  Still, both Andrew and myself take pride in giving you background on players Duke likes before it really gets out there.  In short, we anticipate while at the many events, as Andrew did with Jahill Okafor.  What you may not realize is how rare a good interview with Oakfor is, so pay attention to our offerings.

Duke is still keeping an eye on Alex Poythress and Perry Ellis as well.  Neither of them have an offer and both play pretty much the same position.  Duke would likely turn here if they got one of Mitch McGary and Tony Parker but the real need is bangers and not wings.  Still, keep a close eye on these guys as the recruiting evaluation period opens back up.

Just in are the players Duke will watch in Orlando for the AAU National Showcase which runs from the 23rd to the 27th.  Mitch McGary will start there and once it is over go to Kansas City.  Teammates Julius Randle and Matt Jones will be there as well along with Nerlens Noel and Theo PinsonRasheed Sulaimon will play in the AAU Nationals in Orlando which takes place after the loaded Showcase.  And Tony Parker and Alex Poythress will play in both events.  I am trying to swing this event but right now it isn’t looking good.

I am trying to rework my schedule to go to Orlando but a cash crunch may prevent that from happening.  However, Andrew is set to go to Las Vegas and you know his coverage will be top shelf.  In closing our latest update I would like to thank all of you for supporting us through membership.  We would like to give back, so here is an opportunity for you.  If you refer new members to BDN Premium, we’ll give you 15% of their membership provided you e-mail or PM us before they join.  If you have a friend join for a year, that means you get 15$ cash sent to your paypal account.  If it is for six months, you get 9$.  There is no referral granted for a one or three month membership.  This is a limited time offer.  Help us grow our community!

Thanks again for choosing Blue Devil Nation Premium and the future is looking bright around here, so stay tuned for more on that. [/private]

BDN speaks with Duke prospect Tony Parker

Tony Parker remains at the top of the Blue Devils want list - BDN Photo

Make no mistake that Duke has made it clear that Georgia Stars big man Tony Parker is a top priority.  Coach Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel watched 90% of his games this week at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam.  Parker came up big in that his teammate Alex Poythress sat out one game and he shouldered the load.  He led the Stars to the semi finals before they bowed out.  BDN caught up to Tony for this video [private] chat -

More to come – [/private]