HAMPTON, VA — The Nike EYBL tour continued this past weekend as session 2 took place in Hampton, Virginia, and BDN was once again there to cover the grassroots event. One of the players who continues to impress with his hustle and great footwork is Devin Booker, a 6’5″ WG from Mississippi.
Many have wondered aloud if Grayson Allen’s recent commitment to the Blue Devils would affect Booker’s recruitment. We sought out the answer to that in our chat with Booker.
Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski [private] watched him play in his last game yesterday and Booker showed well. Before that, Steve Wojciechowski took in one of his games.
Booker told Blue Devil Nation that Duke is still in contact with him and that the Blue Devils are still on his list. But he also admitted that the verbal from Grayson Allen does have some effect. At the same time, though, he followed up quickly by saying he is not afraid of competition and having to earn a spot wherever he decides to go to school. The most important factor in choosing a school will be the trust he feels with his eventual coach.
Booker said this his recruitment would slow in the summer while he just concentrates on getting better. Michigan State, Michigan, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and some others have continued to show interest. He is set to cut his list by the end of summer but at this point he doesn’t know how many teams would make the list.
As for camps, it looks as if he will attend one of the Nike Skills Academies, but he was undecided on which one. He also mentioned a desire to compete with USA Basketball.
It remains to be seen what the future holds with concern to Duke recruiting him, but sources close to the situation indicated he was still on their list. [/private]
LOS ANGELES – Over the years Texas has mostly been known as a football state. High school football runs rampant in small and big towns all over the state. It’s become a ritual for cities to flock to their local high school games on Friday nights and watch the stars of the future. However, there’s been a change over recent years in Texas. What once was a football state has now brought out some of the top basketball talent in the country. One only needs to look at the team listings for the Nike EYBL and see that the state of Texas alone has four AAU teams in the league, more than any other state.
Next year Duke will sport two players from the state of Texas in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon and incoming freshman Matt Jones. Duke will hope to continue the Texas pipeline by adding 2014 wing Justise Winslow. Winslow, who attends St. Johns School, a very strict academic institution, has been on Duke’s radar for quite some time now. The 6’6 wing has a chiseled frame that would allow him to step onto a NCAA court right now. Recently he was awarded the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the state of Texas, an honor that was won by Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart last year.
Winslow, who hails from Houston, credits his excellent academics to his brothers, specifically his older brother, Joshua Winslow, who plays defensive back for Dartmouth. Being an excellent student, Winslow says that academics will be a factor in his decision. His brother Joshua is pushing him to [private] choose the best academic school possible when Justise makes his final decision.
In the first session of the EYBL in Los Angeles Winslow’s Houston Hoops team went 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 24.5 points. His team is filled with athletic Division 1 prospects which include future North Carolina Tar Heel Justin Jackson, Khadeem Lattin and Kelly Oubre. On a team filled with talent Winslow still shines through. Winslow ran point-forward for Houston Hoops and looked very natural doing it. Perhaps his best attribute is his passing skills which allow an offense to be run through him. His strong frame allows him to get to the basket and finish through contact. Winslow also has a knack for not taking bad shots, a quality lost on many young basketball talents. In 4 games of the first session Winslow averaged 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, 6.8 rebounds, and 52 percent shooting from the field.
BlueDevilNation caught up with the top priority prospect and discussed his recruiting, his high school, why he likes to read the Wall Street Journal and other topics.
BlueDevilNation: What do you feel like you’ve most improved on over this past year?
JW: I think really just being a leader out there. Someone who my teammates can respect. Also my shooting and ball handling, reading pick and rolls and things like that.
BDN: What do you feel you still need to improve on?
JW: Well everything. You never can be satisfied, but, you know, especially my shooting and ball handling.
BDN: I don’t believe I’ve seen one yet but have you made a final list?
JW: No, not a final list. I’m down to 10 right now.
BDN: Who are those final 10?
JW: North Carolina, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, University of Houston, Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford.
BDN: Do you have a timeframe for when you’d like to make your decision?
JW: I’m going to narrow it down pretty soon, probably going into June. Hopefully I can sign and be committed by November.
BDN: So the early period then.
JW: Yea, hopefully.
BDN: You had a few in-home visits recently. Take me through the Arizona one if you could.
JW: Well they were my first one. It was Thursday at noon. They came over and it went pretty well. Coach Miller thinks I’m the key to him getting to his first Final Four. But, you know, over the years I’ve built a good relationship with Coach Miller so it was really a comfortable visit.
BDN: You also had one with Duke as well. Could you take me through that visit?
JW: You know, Coach K, I had an unofficial visit with them this past spring also. Coach K thinks I can come in and step in and be that elite wing that they’ll be missing in the next couple of years with probably Jabari leaving and Hood leaving also. They just think I can come in and have an instant impact. And just the Duke brand and education.
BDN: What’s your relationship like with Coach K?
JW: Great. He was the USA basketball coach and I made the USA 17U team so I got to meet him there and talk to him there. He’s a great guy.
BDN: Speaking about your USA experience. Do you think that has translated over to your high school and AAU playing?
JW: I think with the USA experience, you know, no one’s really playing selfishly so it kind of helps you identify your role on whatever team you’re playing with. I think that’s something I carried into school and into AAU just to know my role and try to play to the best of my abilities.
BDN: Have the Duke coaches compared you to anyone by any chance?
JW: Well they compared me to Gerald Henderson and Grant Hill, things like that. But they also say that I’m special and unique in my own way.
BDN: You ran a lot of point for Houston Hoops, does that differ from your role in high school?
JW: Ah not really. I would just say in school ball I have the ball in my hand a lot and I run the floor. But out here, I do whatever the coach wants me to do and it goes back to just knowing my role and playing my role.
BDN: Are you taking any official visits soon?
JW: Official? No. I think I’m going to try and take an unofficial to UCLA soon because I haven’t been out there with Coach Alford there. So that’s something I’m looking to do.
BDN: Have you spoken with Coach Alford recently?
JW: Yea I had an in-home with him.
BDN: How do you like him?
JW: Oh he’s cool. He’s young, energetic. I like his style of play.
BDN: Other than a school championship next year, what are your personal goals?
JW: To win the Gatorade Player of the Year again for Texas.
BDN: You won it this year. Congratulations.
JW: Thank you. You know, to make those McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand game.
BDN: Did you get a chance to watch those games this year?
JW: I watched the McDonald’s game but I didn’t get a chance to watch the Jordan Brand game. You know that’s just one of my goals since growing up.
BDN: Oh absolutely. I wanted to ask you about your fantastic competitive drive. Where does that come from? Was it natural or did you learn it over the years?
JW: I think that just, being the youngest in my family, never winning, I just tried so hard to win. I used to get, not picked on, but, my older siblings would bug me and pick on me a little bit. Toughen me up. So I think that’s really what makes me a tough competitor.
BDN: You have an older brother at Dartmouth, correct?
JW: Yes sir.
BDN: What’s his influence on you like?
JW: He’s a great influence on me. He wants me to be the best player, but, in this recruiting process he wants me to go to the best academic school possible.
BDN: Well he’s at a great school. I saw you recently tweeted a picture of you reading the Wall Street Journal. Do you read that often?
JW: (laughs) Kinda, not really. But I think it’s good to be up to date with the current events, with the things going on in Boston and Korea. It’s good to know about those things.
BDN: Do you have a favorite subject in school at all?
JW: Math and physics.
BDN: You also said you recently saw the movie 42 (Jackie Robinson Story). How was that?
JW: Oh it was great. In school ball I actually wear 42 kind of for that reason. So that’s just a big role model in my life because he did so much for baseball and for other sports.
BDN: Oh I had no idea. You go to a fantastic academic school in St. Johns. How did that decision come about?
JW: Just, you know, my siblings, my brother, the one at Dartmouth went there. He was a big role model in my life. Going back to the academic thing he just wants me to go to the best academic school possible. So going there provided me with a chance because if basketball doesn’t work out..
BDN: You’d have something to fall back on..
JW: Exactly. Exactly.
BDN: Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck the rest of the weekend.
LOS ANGELES – As Duke’s search for wing players continues it has brought them to Jalen Lindsey, a 6’6 swingman from Nashville Tennessee. Lindsey, who currently sports a 4.0 GPA, says that Duke has recently expressed interest in him. The swingman possesses solid athleticism which he thinks is one of his strengths. Lindsey, who plays for Christ Presbyterian Academy, is coming off of back to back Class AA state championships and many believe his team is in line for a threepeat next year. This past year he won the state championship tournament MVP as well as the Mr. Basketball award for the state of Tennessee.
BlueDevilNation was able to catch up with the Nashville product and discuss the new interest from Duke.
BlueDevilNation: For someone who hasn’t seen you before could you give us a scouting report?
Jalen Lindsey: I’m definitely, I’m really athletic. I use my athleticism a lot. You know, I can knock down the three too. It’s kind of an all around game so you gotta be prepared for anything.
BDN: What would you consider a strength of yours then? [private]
JL: Athleticism definitely.
BDN: What do you feel you have to work on?
JL: Oh definitely ball handling. That’s something I’ve been working on for months and months lately, years actually.
BDN: Is there any player you try and model your game after?
JL: Uh not really, not really.
BDN: You’re just kind of your own guy?
JL: (laughs) Yes sir.
BDN: Does your role differ from AAU to high school ball?
JL: Yea it’s completely different cause I’m like the tallest guy on my high school team so I’m kind of a post man, post-forward. And in here (AAU) I’m a 3 so I have to go back and forth between those two.
BDN (Andrew Slater): You won a state title this past year…
JL: Yes, yes. Second year in a row.
BDN: Do you view yourself as a 3 or a 2?
JL: I do, I view myself as a 3 and every college coach and a lot of my friends tell my I’m going to play the 3 in college and hopefully if I go to the NBA I’ll play the same position.
BDN: What’s your current height and weight?
JL: I’m 6’6 195lbs.
BDN (Andrew Slater): What kind of student are you?
JL: I have a 4.0GPA
BDN (Andrew Slater): Wow..you’re articulate so..
JL: (laughs) My dad, my mom and dad are on me about grades so I definitely work hard in class.
BDN: Do you have any recent offers?
JL: Not any recent offers. I have 20 total offers, I couldn’t name them all right now but not any recent offers.
BDN: Any schools that have recently come into play?
JL: Yea, uh, Duke has been coming onto me pretty hard. Duke’s been coming in pretty hard lately.
BDN: Have you spoken with them recently?
JL: I have. I spoke to Coach James like 2 days ago.
BDN: Did they say they’d be here to watch?
JL: Yes, definitely.
BDN: What do you know about Duke?
JL: You know, I know Duke’s a great school. Great coach and they got a lot of background and I really like Duke.
BDN: So you would be open to them?
JL: Yea, definitely.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Have you taken any recent visits?
JL: I haven’t. I haven’t.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Do you have any planned?
JL: I plan on taking some visits during the summer but I’m not sure which ones.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Are you going to cut down on your list?
JL: Yea, sooner or later I will. Sooner or later I’m going to cut down on it to where there’s less schools.
BDN (Andrew Slater): More manageable?
JL: Yea exactly. I’m just taking my time right now.
BDN (Andrew Slater): What are some factors that are going to be in your decision?
JL: Academics for sure. And then you got the facility and the relationship between the coaches is a big thing for me too.
BDN (Andrew Slater): Just out of curiosity how did you select your high school?
JL: My coach I’ve been playing with him since I was young..
BDN (Andrew Slater): I remember he played college ball at Vanderbilt?
JL: Vanderbilt, yea. So I’ve played with him since I was little, I was on his AAU team so I joined them and that was it.
BDN: And just one last question. You have a new teammate in Grayson Allen can you give me a scouting report on him?
JL: Grayson’s a great player. He’s athletic, he can dribble, he can shoot, he’s got the whole package. Grayson’s a great guy too so he’s fun to play with. [/private]
Tom Konchalski is a 6’6″ sexagenarian who can walk into a basketball gym from South Side of Chicago to Harlem and South Florida to Maine and be enthusiastically greeted by coaches at all levels, anxious players, and grateful parents. Modest, focused, loyal, industrious, pious, honest, and generous, Mr. Konchalski embodies all of the qualities that his heroes, Mother Theresa and C.S. Lewis, championed.
For the better part of five decades, the Queens, NY native has analyzed recruits, coached players, and advised coaches, parents, Athletic Directors, and players. A devout Catholic, Mr. Konchalski has prayed on the behalf of everyone from the ’69 Mets to Coach Jack Curran, his high school gym teacher and future Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who passed away last month at the age of 82.
A consummate workaholic, Mr. Konchalski travels via public transportation and the generosity of his legions of friends to observe recruits on an almost daily basis with the ferocity of a hungry lion eying cheetahs. His omnipresent yellow legal pads and Bic Cristal pens have been the tools of choice to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of everyone from LeBron James as a freshman to seniors looking to catch on at a Division-III college. In a world of three-minute YouTube highlight videos misconstrued as scouting tapes and fly-by-night internet recruiting charlatans looking to broker players, Mr. Konchalski is refreshingly anachronistic.
Three days ago, a pair of his friends, Bernard King, who invited Mr. Konchalski to join him on his official trip to the University of Tennessee, and Rick Pitino, who worked closely with Mr. Konchalski as a counselor at the Five Star Basketball Camps, were announced as inductees to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote that Konchalski, the publisher and editor of the HSBI Report, was “the last honest man in the gym,” but the statement doesn’t quite convey all that he has done for this game and the people involved in it at all levels.
Recently, Mr. Konchalski, a friend and mentor, gave his assessment of the 2013 Duke commitments and some Blue Devil recruits.
Jabari Parker: Well, obviously he has a great combination of size, skills, athleticism, and savvy. To proclaim him the best player since LeBron as Sports Illustrated did last year is that it raises the one question about him that I have which is whether or not he can be an assassin. LeBron was an assassin. Kobe was an assassin. I think he was better as a junior than Kobe was. I saw Kobe a lot. Kobe was always an assassin. Obviously, he has great skill, size, and athleticism. He’s productive and has a very mature understanding of the game. He’s also got very good character and he’s coachable. He’s thinking about staying two or three years. It would be a wonderful thing if he did. It would be a breath of fresh air. It would be a tremendous thing for college basketball if he did. I would say the closest player to him at Duke would be Grant Hill because they’re forwards, they’re both big forwards. Eventually, he’s going to be a three-man. He’s a hybrid forward right now. He’s closer to being a three-men offensively than he is being a three-man defensively. He’s just a forward right now, a hybrid forward, that’s got to tighten his body.
I’ll tell you what he did. Between his freshman and sophomore year, he really tightened his body. He lowered his percentage of body fat. He became much more athletic and much more explosive. He’s got to continue to streamline his body, maybe see a nutritionist, and get on an exercise regimen. I guess the closest comparison would be Grant Hill although Grant Hill was a different physical type, but overall, Grant Hill is the closest comparison in terms of Duke players.
The one reservation I have about Jabari…here’s a guy who has an obviously high basketball IQ. When he’s in shape, he has good athletic ability. He had improved his athletic ability towards the end of his sophomore year and towards the beginning of his junior year and he has skill. The one reservation that I had was whether he had a killer’s instinct. I didn’t know if he’s an assassin. He’s developed more of a disposition to take over games and to be assertive in the last year. Now, that’s something that I think runs contrary to his nature. He’s got to overcome his off-the-court temperament. He’s got to be bipolar or sort of a schizophrenic to be a good basketball player. You have to be a lot meaner on the court than you are off, but I think he’s making strides in terms of his aggressiveness and assertiveness and willingness to take over games, not to defer to other teammates and whatever..to be the go-to guy..and that’s what he’s got to do because I think Kobe always had it and LeBron always had it, but, for the most part, it’s something that you’re born with..that kind of toughness and aggressiveness and wanting to really take over games. Crush the opponent and when they’re down to sort of put your foot on the neck and that sort of thing. And I think he’s made strides in that regard. I hope he gives serious thought when he goes there not to be an automatic one-and-done. Not that it may not happen, but he should have an open mind in that respect.
Semi Ojeleye: Semi Ojeleye..his win or strength is his versatility. He can defend multiple positions. Now, I think he’s going to be even more valuable to them on the defensive end of the court. He’s an inside-outside player who I really liked. He plays a lot much more for result rather than effect. He’s not a guy who goes out there to showcase his different skill sets. He’ll step out and hit the three, he’ll handle the ball, he’ll play a little bit on the perimeter, and he can go inside and bang a little bit too and generate some points inside. He’s really..I’ll tell you what he does..he plays quick. I really think he’s going to be a terrific Duke player because I think it’s more likely that he’s going to be a three or four year player. He’ll really stay around and help them on the defensive end and he can guard the four-man, he can guard the three-man, even at times be able to guard a two. I really think he’s a major recruit for them. I hadn’t really paid attention to him at the Boo Williams, but you had mentioned him and I didn’t really remember him, but when I saw him down at the Peach Jam, I really, really liked him.
Matt Jones: Matt Jones has a very unorthodox shot. He’s a bit streaky as a three-point shooter. He’s long and lean, he’s got to get a little bit stronger. He’s a big guard who I think has growth potential as he gets stronger and shoots the ball. You know, he doesn’t have good rotation on his shot. He has an awkward shot, but it puts the ball in the basket. For the most part, it’s been effective for him. He’s another guy who’s going to be a three or four year player with them. Hopefully, Jabari will stay for more than one year and if you get a Jabari, you’ve got to take him, but you’ve got to build the program more around guys that are going to be there three or four years. You’ve got to have balance.
Jahlil Okafor: Jahlil is a guy who has terrific skill for a big guy and another guy who is a very intelligent person like Jabari. And, you know, he’s not an explosive athlete, you know he’s not a bad athlete and he runs okay. Obviously, I think he can really streamline his body and, when he gets to college, people are going to get him into the weight room. He’s going to do an awful lot of work. His percentage of body fat with drop dramatically, but he has terrific hands and really good skills for a post player. You know that he can step out, shoot the elbow jumper, he’s a good passer, he can pass out of the post, and he’s not quick-reacting to the ball, he’s not quick moving laterally to the ball in the lane around the basket. That’s what I think he’s got to work on- his body and also his lateral movement. But just in terms of overall, he has a big strong frame, he has a superior basketball IQ for a big man. Usually big, young guys don’t understand the game as well as he does. He’s very intelligent and, you know, another nice guy who can be, you know, because of his size, he can be down the road, you know, I’m not saying he’s more skilled than Jabari Parker, but because he’s 6’10″, 260 or 270 or whatever he is, I think he can be an even greater influence on the game than Jabari Parker. I would say he’s about 6’10″, they list him at 6’11″. I think he’s a legitimate 6’10″ when I stand next to him. He’s a major weapon both on the high-post and the low-box. He can be a major, major factor in college. On the defensive end, I don’t think he’s as much of a shot-blocker. He impacts the game through intelligent positioning.
Quickness is comprised of two components. It has a physical and an extra-physical component. The physical component is just how naturally quick you are. The extra-physical component is, first of all, mental preparation and correct technique. You could be quicker just by being mentally prepared and alert. And the other part using correct technique, but I think he’s a guy, I think any big guy, ought to live with a jump rope. Both those guys, in particular, should live with jump ropes. They both have the kind of bodies where they can put on weight and where, if they’re not careful, but I think both of them should live with it as their daily routine for both of those guys. They’re both guys who are extremely intelligent and have very good skill and they both, I think, can be really dominating players at the college level if they stay around long enough and possibly dominating players at the level beyond that. I think at the college level, Okafor is a center. He’s a center because he’s a force. If a college coach can fill the middle of his lineup with a point guard, a leader, someone who’s going to run the team and with a quality post-man like that, well, then that’s the team. Everyone wants that one position down…Fives want to be fours, fours want to be threes, threes want to be twos, twos want to be ones, and ones probably want to coach the team. But if you look at even a great team, they’re teams that have dominating big men and great guards. The wings fill in around those players, but that’s what you need. You need someone that’s going to run the team and organize the floor, hopefully contain the point guard at the other end of the court. Hopefully contain the ball at the other end of the court. Stop dribble penetration from their point guard and you need a big guy in the post. You need to be able to score easy baskets. And even the thing is, even as 3 point arc-oriented as most teams are and as many college teams are, and how Duke has become increasingly, still, the more post-offense presence you have, forget about even on the defensive end, the more open 3′s that show up. Most 3-point shots are shot off of inside-out action or relocation. Things like that. Just in terms of the half-court, the more you can draw the defense in, the more you can open up the spot-up outside shooters. In the past, Duke sometimes has become too reliant on that and not as much of an interior offensive presence. Both of those guys are going to be terrific players.
Trey Lyles: Trey Lyles is a 6’9″ kid with good skill, good body, and the guy who has a real good feel for the game. He has a high court
IQ. Usually that’s a term that’s more applied to perimeter players. When you talk about guards..especially point guards…in terms of high court IQ, but he plays for result rather than effect and he’s very efficient. You know he can score. He doesn’t need to have the ball on the floor in order to score, although he can put the ball on the floor some from the high post. But the main thing is that he’s very efficient. He does an awful lot offensively without the dribble. And he’s a guy who, you know, can score. Can score from the high post and down in the low box. When he went to Basketball Canada when they had their camp at the end of the summer and they had Steve Nash, who’s the Jerry Colangelo of operations of Basketball Canada right now, they had all of their guys…Jamaal Magloire came in to work with the big guys and everyone was there and they had all very good young players. Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Myck Kabongo, then they had Andrew Wiggins, and Tyler Ennis, and Trey Lyles. Trey Lyles, from what my brother told me, is as impressive as any player that they had in their program. They are really, really high on him. When they played down in South America in FIBA Tournament, you know, he had a very good tournament. When he came back, people in Basketball Canada are as high on him as they are on Andrew Wiggins. He doesn’t have quite the athleticism that Andrew Wiggins has, but what really, I think, makes him different is his understanding of the game and his efficiency for a big guy. Usually, big young guys aren’t as..well, they don’t have the feel for the game that he does and they don’t play with the degree of efficiency with which he plays.
Tyus Jones: He’s a point guard, combination guard, a high scorer. He can handle the ball, control the tempo, he plays at different
speeds. He’s very good. He has a very good tempo to his game. He has a very good sense of ball security with his game. He shoots the ball extremely well.
Kevon Looney: He has size. He was 6’7″, 6’8″ when I saw him in Chicago. He can play on the
perimeter and in the low-post, he can defend. He’s probably a better low-post defender than he is a perimeter defender right now. Well, certain players he can defend on the perimeter. He’s got a nice stroke, he sees the floor well, he’s a good passer. I really think he can be an elite level player. Now, I’ve only seen him once. I can’t think of any more skilled power wing players in the class of 2014. In terms of position, assuming he grows, I think he’s more of a perimeter player..because I think at that size with his skill set, it makes him more valuable.
Theo Pinson: Pinson is a big kid with a lot of quickness. He’s got good skill level, he can shoot the ball, he handles the ball well, he uses his great athleticism to defend multiple positions. I don’t think he’s a knock-down shooter, but he’s pretty good.
Justice Winslow: He’s a lefty from Houston Hoops. He’s an intense competitor. He’s versatile. His versatility is one of his greatest strengths. He’s strong enough and athletic enough to post and score inside. He can rebound. I don’t think he’s much of a three-point threat right now, but he has a good mid-range game. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s a kid that’s very strong, great body, and he really uses his strength to post-up in match-ups against others. He’s really a very difficult matchup because of his versatility and his range. He’s also very skilled with the ball. He can get to the basket. He’s a very difficult matchup because of his strength, his quickness, and his ability to get the ball to the basket. He really plays hard. He’s a very intense competitor.
Malachi Richardson: People talk about him being a second guard, but I don’t really think that he quite is now. He can shoot the three and he’s a very good three-point shooter, but he’s, you know, a big wing who’s probably more of a 3/2 than a 2/3 right now. He’s a guy who has a great touch, who has a lot of athletic ability, and has a good body. You know he’s grown an inch since his freshman year at Trenton Catholic Academy and he’s got a lot of potential. If he wants to be a two guard, he’s got to be a little better playing off of the dribble, a little better playing with the ball, and he’s got to work awfully hard at guarding a two guard because, right now, his better defensive nature is as a three man. What he is right now is a skilled wing with good size and a lot of athleticism..and at an early age, in terms of only being a sophomore, so he has an awful lot of potential.
Isaiah Briscoe: Well, I mean, he played terrific against St. Anthony’s and didn’t play like a sophomore. He was very assertive, he was very aggressive, looking to take the ball to the basket, and really forced the issue. Here’s a guy who has size, can shoot the ball, he has aggressiveness, he is not intimidated at all. The one thing here, I think, about him is that he’s got to be very careful about his body. It’s going to be very imperative for him to get on a good diet and to stay in as good a condition as he possibly can because he has the kind of body type where he can put weight on. He’s a decent athlete, but he’s not a great athlete. He’s not a tapered athlete. He’s not someone that when you look at him you think “athlete”. When you look at him, you see someone who is a scorer and a guy who scores primarily on his aggressiveness, which is based on his temperament. He has a scorer’s temperament. He doesn’t defer to anyone. He’s ready to play against the best teams in the country right now. He won’t be intimidated. He won’t back down.
He’s about 6’3″. I don’t think he’s really a lead guard. I think he’s a combination guard right now, but he can handle the ball. You know what they try to do. They try to take anyone who can dribble the ball three times without kicking it into the seventh row, they try to call him a point guard or a lead guard. That’s not it at all because, first of all, not only do you have skill with the ball, but it’s more of an attitude. It’s more of a temperament, it’s more of a disposition to try to make other people better, and really, you know, a real good leader. A real point guard or a real lead guard is someone who thinks, he probably thinks pass before he thinks shot and I think that’s not the case with Isaiah. You know, he’s a guy who can handle the ball and will make plays for some other people, but his first instinct is to look to score himself. Almost by definition, there are more piano carriers than there are piano players, so I mean, anyone that can score like him, you don’t want to take that away from them. You don’t want to domesticate him too much and it’s easier to find someone to set the table than to find someone that will put the ball in the basket. Coach Taylor is probably going to give him the opportunity to display with the ball in his hands next year, but I don’t think there are many synthetic point guards or lead guards. I think it’s more something that you’re born with. Leadership and temperament are what makes a true point guard. [/private]
Named after the prophet who wrote the last Book of the Old Testament, 6’5″ 195 lb wing Malachi Richardson is one of the top wing prospects in the class of 2015. Noted for his three-point shooting prowess, the sophomore guard, given the nickname “Shoota,” has expanded his game by scoring more off of the dribble, rebounding better, and an improved commitment to defense.
After a solid freshman campaign at Trenton Catholic, the Hamilton, NJ native decided to join a talented Roselle Catholic squad (19-5) with, at least, four high-major players, including 6’8″ Syracuse-bound Tyler Roberson, Richardson has more than carved out his niche, averaging more than fourteen points, five rebounds, and four assists per game. Although affectionately given the nickname “Country” because of his slightly less urban, Central Jersey roots, Richardson has assimilated well into his new school and lives an hour’s drive north in nearby East Orange, NJ. This past October, he and his 5’11 Roselle Catholic teammate Asante Gist, a freshman, were among the forty-six players selected nationally to head to Colorado Springs, CO to participate in USA Basketball’s Men’s Developmental National Team Mini-Camp.
Malachi, which translates loosely as “My messenger” in Hebrew, credits his mother, who was a point guard at Virginia State, and grandparents for instilling in him the importance of doing well in school. As a result, he’s been an honor roll student throughout high school.
The self-professed Kobe Bryant fan has already accumulated eight formal scholarship offers, including Ohio State, Indiana, Miami, Rutgers, and most recently Southern Methodist, and generated interested from Syracuse, North Carolina and recently Duke University. Coach Chris Collins of Duke, who has successfully recruited New Jersey for more than a decade, called Coach Dave Boff of Roselle Catholic to speak with him about the Blue Devils’ interest in the sophomore wing.
Recently, Richardson felt some lingering discomfort in his legs and was sidelined for what was feared to be, at best, shin splints, but an MRI has cleared him to play as the Roselle Catholic Lions are poised to make a playoff run in the New Jersey state tournament and eventually for Nike’s Team Final on the AAU circuit.
After a recent game, Coach Dave Boff spoke about Malachi Richardson, the person and player. “Malachi is one of the best players in the country in his grade for a reason. He does a lot of things well: fantastic shooter, great passer, makes his teammates better, and, you know, as a person, he’s a fantastic kid. He’s an honor roll student and very excited about his grades and works hard on his grades. He’s a very good teammate and really just does all of the things that we ask of our players. He’s very coachable and, like all young kids, he has his moments where you wish he would be a little bit more focused, but overall he’s really just a pleasure to coach and a fantastic teammate.”
On things that Coach Boff would like to work with Malachi on in the coming years: “The things that I’m going to talk to him about in the offseason are continuing to improve his on-the-ball and off-the-ball defense, which I think all kids can do that. That’s a staple for us. Then, in terms of his offensive game, I think he needs to be able to break people down off of the dribble a little bit more. We’re going to work with him over the summer on getting his shots against different types of people. As far as his overall game, I think he does a lot more now, but I also think he’s only scratched the surface of the things that he can do offensively. You know, right now, I’d even like to see him get in the post and use his strength and his size. That’s something that he doesn’t do as often as I’d like to see. So, as talented as he is and as good as he is, there are some things that I think we can do to take him to the next level.”
“I think he’s a two, a straight two, no matter how tall he gets. I think he’s hopefully going to grow a couple of more inches. I think he’s a straight two man no matter what because he shoots it so well. Like I said, he can make plays off of the bounce and those are some things that we’ll work on in the offseason.”
“He’s also working on his strength and conditioning, which all of our kids do. You know there are some that work on it harder than others, but being stronger and quicker makes guys not only player better, but have more confidence. When you know that you’re stronger than the guy that you’re playing against, you take to the court with a lot more confidence on both ends of the court.”
Roselle Catholic Coach Dave Boff on his conversation with Coach Chris Collins about Duke University: “We kind of thought that he was a kid that might be able to fit in to the type of style that they play and, you know, Coach Collins seems to agree with us. He’s going to come and watch him play a couple of times and hopefully Coach Krzyzewski will come up and watch him play, but I think everyone looks at him and thinks he can play in a Duke style of system. He’s unselfish, he shoots it, he’s got good length, he’s got good strength. He does a lot of things that it seems, you know, watching them on TV that those kids do well. He can shoot the three, plays well in transition. He also now, you know, he’s a part of USA Basketball, as is Asante Gist, another player on our team. I think that with how hard Coach Krzyzewski has worked to take USA Basketball with the types of kids I think it says a lot. I think it also says a lot about our program that a couple of our kids are able to be in the USA Basketball program. I think that they are trying to get kids into USA Basketball that are not only great players, but good people and good students. With Malachi, he certainly fits that mode.”
Legendary scout Tom Konchalski of HSBI Report on 6’5″ Malachi Richardson:“People talk about him being a second guard, but I don’t really think that he quite is now. He can shoot the three and he’s a very good three-point shooter, but he’s, you know, a big wing who’s probably more of a 3/2 than a 2/3 right now. He’s a guy who has a great touch, who has a lot of athletic ability, and has a good body. You know he’s grown an inch since his freshman year at Trenton Catholic Academy and he’s got a lot of potential. If he wants to be a two guard, he’s got to be a little better playing off of the dribble, a little better playing with the ball, and he’s got to work awfully hard at guarding a two guard because, right now, his better defensive nature is as a three man. What he is right now is a skilled wing with good size and a lot of athleticism..and at an early age, in terms of only being a sophomore, so he has an awful lot of potential.”
After a pair of recent games, I spoke with Malachi Richardson.
BDN:Duke has recently expressed interest in you.
Malachi Richardson: I haven’t really talked to them yet, but my coaches have gotten in touch with them recently. So, I really can’t say too much yet about how interested they are in me. I’m sorry.
What do you know about their program and about Coach K?
Coach K, I mean, he’s the Man! (laughs) I know Kyrie. He’s one of the best players. He’s just tremendous. I mean they’ve got a great program and have been good for a long time. They’ve also had a lot of great players that have made it to the NBA.
You’re still just a sophomore, but recruitments tend to vary a lot. You’ve already earned some scholarship offers, but what’s the latest in your recruitment and how do you feel about the process overall?
Well, I’ve been receiving a lot of interest from a lot of schools, but I had seven offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Miami, Rutgers, Seton Hall, James Madison, and Cincinnati. Then, recently, I just got an offer from SMU.
That’s an impressive list of offers. In terms of your overall timeline, where do you feel that you are in the process? Is it still early?
Yeah, it’s still early.
When you played in that tournament in Columbus, I believe that you visited Ohio State, but which schools have you visited so far and do you have any plans to visit any in the near future?
Oh, I’ve visited Ohio State, Rutgers, and Seton Hall so far.
What have you seen, so far, as they benefit of coming to Roselle Catholic from Trenton?
Oh, it’s been big. It’s very different…living in North Jersey. They call me “Country” because it’s so different and I’m from down there.
Oh, really, I thought “Shoota” was your nickname. These guys want to come up with new ones.
(laughs) No, these guys want to call me “Country” up here.
There goes my research. What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses right now?
I’d say that rebounding is one of my weaknesses. Also, my defense. My strength is definitely my jump shot, but I just want to become a total player though so.
Do you feel like you’ve gotten better off of the bounce, so to speak?
Yeah, definitely, a lot better.
What are you working on most right now?
Everything. I’m just trying to improve across the board.
Is there a player that you try to model your game after?
A little bit after Paul Pierce and a little bit after Ray Allen
I’ve heard the Ray Allen comparison a couple of times.
(laughs) Yeah, well..
I was actually looking at some of the basketball diaries that you had written for a site when you were younger and you always signed off as Malachi “Shoota” Richardson. Did that name stick?
(laughs) Yeah, a little bit.
Well, you can still shoot it. Those were actually useful for background material.
In one of the entries, you were writing about how your grandparents would give you a little money if you made the honor roll.
Oh, yeah, yeah. (laughs)
Are you still a good student?
Oh, yeah, I made honor roll. I had five As and two Bs.
Well, that’s good to hear. I know that you were part of USA Basketball’s developmental team this past October?
It was a great experience actually. Just being around a great bunch of players and coaches. Just being able to play against the best competition in the country.
Now that I think about it, how was playing in the altitude in Colorado? I’ve heard other guys talking about having to adjust very quickly and experiencing an almost choking feeling during sprints.
(Laughs) Oh, yeah, that was definitely tough. It was definitely tough. Just walking up to the gym was tiresome.
Right, and how was the competition? Was it the best you’ve faced so far?
Oh, it was great. I really feel like it got me prepared for a lot of things, coming up for the high school season and the AAU season. It was an honor.
I know that your taller than me, but what’s your current size?
(laughs) I’m 6’5″ and around 195 right now.
Did you grow up a fan of any team, either pro or college?
Oh, I’m a Kobe fan. So, yeah, I’m a Lakers fan.
Check out the kicks (Kobe Bryant sneakers).
(laughs) Smart man.
(laughs) Well, they’re definitely comfortable. By the way, what do you like to do in your free time, if you have any?
Oh, I just like to play ball. (laughs) That’s what I do.
Who do you turn to for guidance? I assume that your grandparents are, at least, among the people that you turn to..
Yeah, my grandparents and my mother. Those are the ones that I count on.
This is more of a recruiting question, but what are you looking for in a college and a college program, whenever you do decide?
Being able to graduate early. Instead of having to go for four years, I’d like to try to graduate in three. That’s something that I’ll definitely be looking for.
What about distance, conference, etc.?
Distance isn’t an issue, but I’d like to compete in a good conference. So, I’d probably say the Big East, ACC or the Big Ten. But, yeah, distance..I don’t see that being a factor at all.
What would you like the audience to know about you as a person?
That I like to have fun.
Out of curiosity, how did you get the name Malachi?
Oh, it’s biblical.
Do you have a little update on your shin injury? I heard “shin splints.”
(laughs) Well, I can’t really say too much about the shin yet. I don’t really know yet, but I’m going to have an MRI.
How long have you had it?
It’s been a nagging injury for about a month or so.
I’ve heard people getting or, rather, suffering from them, but thankfully never had one. Will you be out for a while?
No, probably or hopefully just one game and be back.
So, it’s not that bad?
No, it’s not that rough. We’re just being careful.
Is this your first real injury, if you will?
Yeah, you could say that. I mean the first time I’ve ever missed a game or anything like that for school.
I didn’t ask you before, but do you do any strength and conditioning at this point?
Yes, I’ve been working out and training over at Adrenaline Sports. Just trying to build up my upper-body.
Another very talented player, who was part of that USA Basketball mini-camp, Tyus Battle, said he was going to be playing for Team Final this upcoming AAU season, will you be back with them? Have you guys ever played together?
Yes, I’ll be playing with Team Final this year too. Oh, and I have played with Tyus before. He’s a great, young player and he’s just gonna get a lot better than he even is now.
You were mentioning before that they call you “Country” sometimes. Do you still live in the Trenton area and commute?
Oh, no, I’m over in East Orange. It’s not that far.
You were also mentioning the importance of your mother. Did she play basketball as well?
Oh, yeah, she played basketball in college. She went to Virginia State.
Oh, so, she went to Virginia State. Was she a guard?
Blue Devil Nation Premium has learned that Duke has offered a schlorship to Kevon Looney. When you’re a versatile and skilled 6’8″, your highly respected five-time state title winning coach says that — as a rising junior – you’re the best player he’s ever coached, including NBA players Rodney Buford and Carl and Marcus Landry, college programs will take notice. When you add in a 3.6 cumulative GPA and the reputation of being a high character player, schools from around the country from Stanford to Duke will start to pay even closer attention. So it’s no surprise that Kevon Looney, a player who fits such a description, has seen his recruitment and rankings take off over the past few months.
Partially out of necessity, Looney was thrust into a starting role as a freshman for Coach Tom Diener, a thirty year veteran, and the Hamilton Wildcats of Milwaukee. He took like a fish to water, averaging a near double-double and earning second-team All-City honors. Despite being severely undermanned (the starting five played the vast majority of the minutes and included three freshmen), the Wildcats enjoyed a miraculous run to the state semifinals at the Kohl Center in Madison before losing narrowly to Memorial HS of Madison. This past season, as a sophomore, Kevon played more of a point-forward position for Coach Diener, and averaged over twenty points, nearly nine rebounds, and two assists. In the toughest conference in Wisconsin, Looney was named the Milwaukee City Conference Player of the Year. Kevon was also a unanimous First Team All-State selection by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association and a Sophomore All-American by MaxPreps.
This camp season, Looney’s unique skill set, versatility and rebounding on both ends of the court really helped him stand out, first at the Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, California. He followed that up by performing well at the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA. In July, he was invited to compete at Nike’s prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy, where he excelled as a long, face-up wing in his preferred small forward position alongside teammates Austin Nichols and Andrew Wiggins on the Duke camp team. On the AAU circuit, the Wisconsin native played for the Milwaukee Rebels, where he stood out at the Spiece Run N’ Jam in Fort Wayne, the Kansas City Classic, the NY2LA Swish ‘N Dish, and the Under Armour Summer Jam in Wisconsin. Most recently, he played for the Rebels at the FAB 48, where Duke special assistant coach Nate James watched him at courtside.
When the summer drew to a close, Kevon has been recognized as a consensus top ten caliber player in the class of 2014. I spoke with Kevon at multiple events and, off the court, he’s got the same poise, directness, and maturity that belies his age and so impresses on the court.
How do you feel about your AAU season overall?
It’s gone pretty well. We played pretty well.
You’ve had a bit of a breakout year.
I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played this spring and summer. (laughs) I’ve been working hard.
How do you account for it? Was it something you did either in the off-season or the high school season? Getting more physically developed?
Yeah, I think it’s a lot of working out and staying in the gym..just putting in the time. Just try to out-work people, working on things that people say I need to improve on.
So it’s a work ethic thing for you?
I would assume this is the case, but do you feel that your recruitment has picked up over the last few months?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve gotten a lot more suitors.
Which ones? Who are some of your suitors?
I’ve got Michigan State, Kansas, Wake Forest, Stanford. All of them offered.
Oh, so you must be a good student.
Yeah, and Kentucky and North Carolina have shown interest as well. There are some others.
How far along are you in your recruitment?
Not very far along. I’m going to try to sit down and put a list together in the middle of August. I’d like to cut it down a little bit.
So if a school wants to get in with you, they’ve got to start pretty soon, would you say?
Probably, but I’m still open.
What do you view as your strengths and weaknesses?
My weaknesses are I need to get stronger. I need to improve my athleticism and work on my handle.
Do you view yourself as like a 3-4?
I really see myself as a pure 3. A 3.
Will distance be a factor in your decision?
No, not really.
What was it like to play with Andrew Wiggins and also Austin Nichols?
They’re both very good. I had never seen them before this summer or played with them.
What would be your scouting report on both of them?
They’re both very athletic and they’re both real good.
Away from the court, what would you like the audience to know about you?
I’m a humble and smart kid. I have a good family and I’m fun to be around.
Although you‘re capable of doing both, do you consider yourself more of a face-up player or back-to-the-basket player?
I like to face-up more. I mean, I’ll post if I have to, but it’s usually only because I have to. I like to face up against my opponent.
You mentioned before that you’re a good student. Academically, you’ll be in good shape?
Yeah, my cumulative right now is about a 3.6.
Well, that’s impressive. That’s better than two of these normal guys combined.
What do you know about Duke and have they called?
Oh, they’re a great program and actually, they have called. I can’t believe I forgot.
And what did they say?
They said that they wanted to come see me play.
Do you know which coach was communicating with you?
And what did he say to you?
Just that he was looking forward to seeing me.
And what do you know about the program?
I know they’ve got a great program. I know they play in the ACC and I know that they have a great coach in Coach K. We saw them practice.
What do you know about Coach K?
I know he’s one of the greatest college coaches.
What is it like for you to play in front of college coaches? Is it helpful for you?
Well, I did it last year and I thought it was a bit stressful, but this year, it’s a lot more fun.
Does it make you excited or nervous before a game? Can you telling anything different about yourself before a game?
I mean, like the first time it did, but now, I can’t say it really does. I get pretty excited every time. After you talk to them awhile, it helps.
What’s the one thing that you hope college coaches walk away thinking about you? “Oh, that kid’s a…?”
That I’m one of the best players out there, that I’m a good person, and stuff like that.
I read in an article that your high school coach, Tom Diener, who had coached two other NBA players in high school, felt that you were the best player that he’s ever coached.
Well, that’s high praise. It’s great to hear stuff like that, but you know, you still have to keep heading to the gym and work hard.
I was wondering what went through your head when you heard that.
I just didn’t pay attention to it. I just tried to work hard. (laughs)
Do you have any visits planned?
I don’t have any plans, but I’ll probably take some visits later in August.
Do you have a favorite at this point?
No, no favorites at this point.
For you, what is the difference between AAU basketball and high school?
In AAU, there’s a higher level of competition than in my high school. We’re playing with better players in AAU. Everyone plays harder. We get to travel a lot more.
This year, in high school, will you be traveling a lot? Going to showcases or tournaments?
Oh, no, we pretty much stay in the same state.
I was hoping that some people could see you play around the country. What are your goals for next season?
In high school, I’d like for us to be state champs.
Do you have a good shot?
We have a shot. We were only like two games away this year and when I was a freshman. The first year we got really close, so I’d really like to be state champs. I think eventually we will.
Well, with you there, I’m sure you’ve got a great chance. Where do you feel comfortable shooting the ball?
I feel pretty much comfortable shooting anywhere middle and in.
Like 15 feet and in?
Yeah, I like to attack. I like to shoot pretty close in. I can shoot three’s a lot, but, you know, I guess I prefer to get a better shot.
Your handle seems to be something you worked a lot on. What has been the key and do you feel a noticeable improvement?
Oh, yeah, I work on my handle a lot. I mean, I don’t have to dribble a lot in AAU because I’ve got two good ball handlers, I just try to give it to them and go to my spot. Like bang bang. But yeah, I work on my handle a lot.
One of your strengths is defensive versatility. Which position do you feel comfortable defending?
I think I can pretty much defend anybody. (laughs) Well, I mean, 2 and up.
Yeah, I think 2, 3, and 4. What would be some people who will be important whenever you do decide?
My parents, my parents are most of the influence. A couple of my AAU coaches. Mostly, my parents.
Did your parents play basketball at all?
My dad played a little bit.
I’m not sure, I think it was like NAIA school. I can’t even think of it.
Does he work with you a lot?
He worked with me when I was smaller, but not right now.
Do you have a trainer?
Actually, I work out with my AAU coaches. I’ve been lifting a lot lately.
Yeah, it looks like that in the upper body. You’re looking a little stronger. What’s your current height and weight?
And what would you like to be?
I’m trying to get to at least 205.
One thing that comes up with you a lot is versatility.
Yeah, I’m pretty versatile. I can play a lot of positions and I can score from a lot of positions. I would say I’m pretty versatile.
Lastly, for an audience who has never seen you play before, how would you describe your game?