COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — The pursuit for five-star wing Justise Winslow has been one of the more popular storylines in the class of 2014. A 6-foot-6 lefty with a well rounded game and top flight athleticism, the Houston native was just one of two rising high school seniors to receive an invite to the U.S. U19 National Team tryouts, a team comprised predominately of rising sophomores in college.
Onlookers would not be able to tell that Winslow is one of the youngest players on the hardwood based in his play. Winslow and fellow prep standout Jahlil Okafor both made the cut from the 24-man roster to the 16-man roster, which will soon be cut to 12 before the team departs for Washington, D.C. and the final leg of preparation before the games overseas.
Since turning up the heat immensely on Winslow earlier this year, Duke has made up serious ground in an ultra competitive recruitment. Winslow unofficially visited Duke for the Blue Devils’ thrilling victory over Miami at Cameron Indoor Stadium back in early March. To help the courtship’s cause, rising Duke someone Rasheed Sulaimon — a fellow Houstonian who plays alongside Winslow on the 19U team — is a close friend of Winslow’s.
During the April live evaluation periods, the Duke coaches’ watched the high flying Texan like a hawk. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski attended every single one of his games in Hampton, Va during the second session of the Nike EYBL. That recruiting aggression helped the staff receive another unofficial visit from Winslow just weeks ago for the K Academy.
Arizona, which has been on Winslow harder and longer than almost anyone else, is among Winslow’s favorite programs. Wildcat head coach Sean Miller has hosted him a handful of times for unofficial visits, the most recent of which took place a few weeks ago. Recruiting pundits across the nation are pegging Duke along with Arizona as the frontrunners to secure commitment from one of the most sought after players in the class of 2014.
Despite the positive hoopla surrounding the Wildcats and Blue Devils, Winslow [private] is keeping things tight to the vest. And, contrary to what some have speculated recently, a college announcement does not appear to be imminent according to Winslow. Meanwhile, teaming up with fellow 2014 superstars Tyus Jones and Okafor at the next level remains a legitimate possibility.
Sunday evening following a defensive-emphasized practice in Colorado, Winslow took time to discuss his experience on the U.S. squad, his summer and the current state of his closely tracked recruitment.
Question: With you being one of the youngest guys here, can you discuss how valuable this experience at the U.S. U19 training camp and squaring off against college kids has been for you? And how has it benefitted your game?
Answer: “It has definitely benefitted my game being one of the younger guys here and playing against older guys, who are stronger, faster. It’s definitely helped me speed up my game, and it’s something that’s really going to help me as I get ready for the next level.”
Q: Who are some of the more difficult matchups you have had this week?
A: “Marcus Smart. You know he was a potential lottery pick this year and decided to come back. Guarding him is a great opportunity for me everyday. Other guys like Aaron Gordon, Rasheed [Sulaimon], and guards who are quicker than me are a challenge as well.”
Q: It looks like the style of play that this team will utilize will be a fast paced, relentless, full-court trapping style of play. Do you feel like that style is conducive to your game?
A: “Yeah. That’s probably best for me being an athletic wing. Getting up and down is something that I think will benefit the team like Coach Donavan was saying. I definitely like that.”
Q: I understand that you are rooming with Sulaimon, another Houston guy, and Jahlil Okafor here in Colorado Springs. How was that experience been?
A: “It’s been great. Jahlil and I have been friends since 4th or 5th grade playing AAU Nationals against each other. And Rasheed is just from Houston, so I’ve known both of them for a while now. The three of us having a good time. I think they are going to split us up tonight, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Q: Let’s switch gears here and talk about your recruitment. You visited Duke pretty recently during the K Academy. What all did you do in Durham that weekend?
A: “Well basically I just hung out with the guys, watched them coached during the K Academy and just got to know some of the coaching staff. We had some open gym runs. You know of course the coaches couldn’t watch, but it was fun with all the guys on and off the court.”
Q: Did you get some one-on-one time with Coach K? If so, what did you convey to you then in his salespitch?
A: “We sat down and talked a couple of times just face to face, which is good. It’s a lot better than talking on the phone. He nailed home some of his recruiting points and it was a good talk.”
Q: What were some of those points that Coach K stressed to you?
A: “Just how he looks forward to using me if I come to Duke, just the benefits of the Duke brand and things like that.”
Q: Shortly after the Duke visit, you visited Arizona. How was that visit? Can you compare it to the Duke visit?
A: “The visit was short, but it was pretty good. I have a pretty good relationship with those guys, but you know the visits are all pretty much the same right now. Everyone is pretty much equal. I’ll probably look to narrow my list down sometime soon, but right now I don’t have any leaders or anything like that.”
Q: In light of these visits, there’s been some speculation that you potentially are getting closer to announcing your college decision. Is there any truth to that? Or do you feel like you have a long ways to go before that point?
A: “I really can’t tell at this point. Like I said, everyone is equal, but when I know I’ll know. And I’ll try to decide as soon as I know so I can let some of these coaches know and move on to recruit other players. I don’t know when I’m going to commit right now. I don’t know how close I am. Everyone is equal, but I should probably narrow my list down sometime soon.”
Q: Do you have any sort of idea as to which schools you want to officially visit?
A: “No idea.”
Q: What does your list of schools look like right now?
A: “Right now it’s at Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Houston, Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford.”
Q: What does your schedule look like for the rest of the summer?
A: “Hopefully make this team and then Peach Jam, Vegas, Showcase in Orlando, Adidas Nations and Elite 24. Pretty busy.”
Q: How often do you talk to Okafor and Tyus Jones about attending the same school? That potential trio at the next level together gets a lot of press as you know. How much merit is there to the rumblings of you three attending the same school?
A: “It’s pretty true. Jahlil and Tyus are great friends and they’ve always talked about going to the same school together. And that’s something we have discussed. We talk about it but not too much. We might text each other about it every two weeks saying, ‘What schools do you like?’ or ‘How’s recruiting going?’ At the end of the day, though, we have to all do what’s best for each of us.”
Q: Between the three of you, is there anyone who is driving the bus for this push to play together at the next level? Is there one guy that is more gun-ho about the idea?
A: “I would say no. Like I said, no one is really forcing the issue and we’ll do what’s best for ourselves. If someone wants to visit a certain school, and the other two like that school then yeah we’ll try to do it together. But no one is really pushing any schools too hard.”
Q: In Hampton, you alluded to the fact that Duke has made up some ground in your recruitment. How much progress has Duke made since your visit in March to the most recent visit to now?
A: “They have definitely made progress because at the time they were a school I hadn’t visited. Everyone is equal, but they did make up ground and started recruiting me harder.”
Q: Duke will have two high quality wings in Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker next year? How much do you plan on watching them operate and how does that play into your recruitment?
A: “Like I said, it just depends on what my family and I decide to do because you know if I decide to commit in November I won’t get much of a chance to watch them. That’s some of the pros and cons of committing early. Teams use those wing guys that I can kinda compare myself to. I have to decide if I want to wait it out and do that or not.” [/private]