Tag Archives: Duke

Wake Forest travels to Duke on October 22 in a tough in-state battle.

Duke will try to snap Wake Forest’s series win streak on October 22

Wake Forest travels to Duke on October 22 in a tough in-state battle.

The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons played a shootout last September in Winston-Salem. Sean Renfree and the Duke offense piled on 48 points, but fell to Wake Forest 55-48 on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Wake Forest has had the Blue Devils’ number in recent years, winning the last 11 contests in the rivalry that dates back to 1889; in fact, Head Coach Jim Grobe has never lost to Duke during his tenure. The in-state rivals will clash again this fall, as the Blue Devils will play host to the Demon Deacons on October 22.

BDN is fortunate to have the help of Blogger So Dear to give us an excellent inside look at the 2011 Demon Deacons.

BDN: After finding themselves on top of the ACC in 2006, Wake Forest is now coming off back-to-back losing seasons in 2009 and 2010. What do the Demon Deacons need to do to return to bowl eligibility in 2011? With Wake Forest picked to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division again, is it conceivable that Head Coach Jim Grobe could be on the hot seat?

BSD: For Wake to get back to a bowl game this year we will need to make sure that we establish a solid running game and that quarterback Tanner Price stays healthy. Last season the Deacs were caught up in formation changes half way through the year on defense as we moved from a conventional 4-3 to a more exotic 3-4, which provides a different look at the line of scrimmage. Since this change was made half way through the year, and implemented for the first time at the Maryland game (a 5+ touchdown loss), Wake had some struggles on the defensive side of the ball that were hopefully a one season issue. Numbers-wise for Wake to make a bowl our best chances come by beating Syracuse, N.C. State, Gardner-Webb, Maryland, Duke, and Vandy. Of those games, only the Syracuse and Duke games are on the road. It will be difficult to get to six wins simply because of the strength of our schedule. Aside from Gardner-Webb our three OOC games are Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and Notre Dame. We also are unfortunate that we have Virginia Tech and Florida State at home in back to back weeks which are almost assuredly losses as strong as those teams look this year. If those teams were both on the road or even one of them were on the road perhaps we would have an easier game to get a W in from the confines of BB&T Field.

I don’t really think Grobe would be on the hot seat after this year unless we see the same type season as we did last year. While 3-9 is not desirable it’s realistic that Wake Forest is going to have years which are akin to last year. The major criticism that came from the fan base was the way in which we were completely non-competitive in a majority of games. After the Duke game and a 2-0 start, we lost 9 games in a row, most of which were by double digits. If we go something like 1-11 and only beat Gardner-Webb I certainly think his seat would be at least luke warm.

Tanner Price led the Demon Deacons to a shootout victory over Duke last season- Blogger So Dear Photo

BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons both finished at the bottom of the ACC in defense in 2010, and the teams’ defensive struggles were exemplified in their September 11th 55-48 shootout. Duke is hopeful that a group of young redshirt-freshmen will improve their defensive depth and effectiveness in 2011. With 9 starters returning, what improvements are expected for the Wake Forest defense? What questions remain heading into training camp?

BSD: Like I alluded to earlier, Wake struggled last year on the defensive side of the ball because of the jump we made to the 3-4 halfway through the season. So far this season the defense has looked better in preseason practices, and has really made some strides to get to a competitive level. The 3-4 provides a completely different look up front than the 4-3, an advantage against teams from the get go. A large number of teams in college run the 4-3 look and offenses are used to lining up against it. The 3-4 provides an additional linebacker to the front level and really varies the different ways the blitz can be brought. From the offense’s perspective it can be daunting as there are always seven guys in the box and you never know which side the blitz is coming from or how many guys are coming in on the rush. I’m not expecting Wake to shut everyone out, but I wouldn’t expect Wake and Duke to have a 55-48 shootout when we meet this year in Durham either.

BDN: While the two programs had similar struggles defensively in 2010, Duke and Wake Forest were mirror images of each other on offense. While the Blue Devils were able to move the ball through the air, the Demon Deacons stuck to the ground, led by Josh Harris and Tanner Price. What are the expectations for Harris and Price in their second season of ACC football? What are the keys for the offense to be more consistent in 2011?

BSD: Yeah, both the Deacons and the Devils were able to have at least some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest question for Wake this year is going to be just that: how consistently will we be able to move the ball downfield? Price and Harris are both sophomores. Harris has the additional experience of a redshirt year, but Price came onto campus late last July and was the starter a month and a half later. Experience is always going to be an issue for quarterbacks where studying tape and just playing the game counts for so much. The key for Wake though aside from these guys is going to have to be the offensive line. While it’s anchored by an experienced group it has really struggled to open up holes for the running game and to adequately protect Tanner. If Price has time to drop back, set his feet, and throw he is deadly accurate, but he simply didn’t have that opportunity much last year. The receiving corps is set up well with senior Danny Dembry as the most likely go to target as a possession guy, junior Chris Givens and sophomore Michael Campanaro as the flankers, and then freshmen Matt James and Brandon Terry as compliments to Dembry as bigger, possession-type receivers. If the line can get some leverage up front, our offense has the potential to be a real threat this year.

BDN: At this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, OG Joe Looney declared the Blue Devils as the Demon Deacons’ biggest rival. From the Duke perspective, the Blue Devils need to start beating their in-state ACC rivals to take the next step forward as a program. Can you describe this rivalry from Wake Forest’s perspective? With all of their recent success against the Blue devils, why do you think the Wake Forest fans and players consider Duke to be their top rival over other ACC programs?

BSD: Since Grobe got to Wake, we have had a ton of success against in-state opponents and it really was one of the keys to Wake’s bowl run a couple of years ago. When I was growing up my view of the Wake-Duke game was that it was a futility battle. No offense to either programs, but I remember a handful of games where the teams combined didn’t have more than 2 or 3 wins so it was always a question mark as to what would happen. The 2006 game with you guys is generally viewed as the most pivotal moment of the season. Had Vaughn not blocked that field goal as time expired to preserve Wake’s 14-13 win, we certainly would not have gone to the Orange Bowl or won the ACC that year. To be blunt though, it is a game that right now I always expect to win. Obviously the 11 game winning streak (dating back throughout Grobe’s entire tenure) will have to end sometime and this year is just as likely as any of them. Wake typically handles Duke fairly well at Wallace Wade though, and a struggle at BB&T. Looney probably considers Duke to be Wake’s biggest rival from a recruiting vantage point, as well as the fact that we have had so much recent success. Both Wake and Duke are battling the same problems in football: small school, lack of a football history, and being in a state where UNC, NC State, and App State, are the first schools thought of when football fans think of North Carolina. For Wake or Duke to be successful on the ACC level I believe they must be successful within the state first and foremost since at least two of the eight conference games every year are against a team from North Carolina.

BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons are one of the oldest rivalries within the ACC, with the two programs having first met in 1889, with Duke holding a 53-36-2 all-time record, despite Wake Forest’s current 11-game winning streak in the series. In the last few years, it seems that every game between the two schools has come down to the final possession. What do you expect to see from this year’s matchup on October 22nd in Durham?

BSD: I always love watching Wake play Duke, as I said anything can happen and the games are typically exciting (if not nerve-wracking). While it’s pretty early to make a prediction, I honestly believe that Wake will win this one and stretch the winning streak to 12. I’ll certainly be there on October 22nd to watch the game as it’s just a short drive down 40 and tickets are easy to come by. I think that it will probably be another high scoring game as it always is when the teams meet, and that it will probably once again come down to the final possession. Wake needs to force some turnovers, run some zone blitzes to keep Renfree from being able to set his feet and throw deep, and establish a running game to get the victory. I’ll make my way-too-early guess though: 38-34 Wake on a late touchdown run by Harris.

BDN: Thanks so much for answering our questions. Good luck this season!

Previous game: Florida State at Duke, October 15

Next game: Virginia Tech at Duke, October 29

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

BDN checks in with two second year players ready to make an impact in 2011 for Duke Football

DURHAM – The Blue Devils closed out the first week of training camp with a full contact session on Friday morning. Duke is looking for two second-year players to step up in 2011 to help the Blue Devils improve upon their win total from a year ago. Ross Cockrell is expected to become the team’s top cornerback this fall, and Brandon Braxton will bring his playmaking skills to the potent Duke offense.

Ross Cockrell

Brandon Braxton

Nate The Great

Nate Britt Adidas Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nate Britt BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nate Britt BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Four: A Perry Ellis Update

Perry Ellis BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facing up around the wings?
Wings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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