Tag Archives: Jahlil Okafor

Duke Basketball Team And Recruiting Update

While football season is set to kick off this weekend, echo’s can be heard from dribbling of basketballs in Cameron and the practice facility.  In about another week, pre seasons hoops magazines will hit the newsstands and there will always be talk around one of the most storied programs in America.  With that said, here is our latest Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members and there is plenty to read about.  First, we have Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel sharing his thoughts on every player including the freshman.  I then give my analysis and add some nuggets.  This update also addresses recruiting and we even take a look into what to expect this coming season with concern to style of play.  So, here we go with a 3700 plus word update on the latest on the Duke Hoops front –

This is the first year due to NCAA rule changes that Duke has been able to work out more with their team over the summer. That means they had two one hour practice just about each week. “They’ve been some of the toughest practices I’ve been a part of since I’ve been back at Duke,” said Capel. These one hour practices were very intense and fast paced were at a high level. There has been intensity and greater fighting for positions.

The pace that the players have been exposed to this off season has been different than anything any of them had done at Duke in the past per Capel and word is that some tongues have been dragging after some tough conditioning.

Duke is now looking for separation. The staff is trying to figure out who guys are right now and once an assessment is made, they will use that to talk to them and define roles for the coming season.  “We tell them here is what you need to do to get to where we want you to be by the time we kick off the season,” said Capel.

The Blue Devils staff sits down each season to adjust their strategy for the coming season and it’s supposedly quite the skull session.  When roles are defined, it is important to success that each player buys into their assignment for if not there could be a fracture in team chemistry.  Coach Krzyzewski will map a strategy and or plan and [private] the work will begin and this has likely already happened but only just recently.  What Krzyzewski does is allow his teams strength to dictate the strategy.  A year ago, Duke was a big team and they played a controlled game taking break opportunities when they became available but not necessarily pushing the ball at all times.  This season, he has a team that can press more and move and he will likely master spacing his guys properly creating some serious match up problems for some opponents.  Without the depth at the big man spots a season ago, it will be rebounding by committee and there will be times when a power player may go off on Duke but a three pointer is greater than a dunk, so the Blue Devils can get past that issue.  Many of you may not remember the great Len Bias formerly of Maryland who died an untimely death after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.  When he played his last game in Cameron, he was dominant, dropping 33 points and having his way inside, but Krzyzewski allowed that to happen while shutting down everybody else on the Terps team and Duke coasted to a comfortable win.  I can see that happening this season in some manner, the point being, the teams strengths will almost certainly be better than their weaknesses.

Here is a long look at the players, followed by a recruiting update for members –

Amile Jefferson

“He went home this summer and we have allowed him to showcase his talent. It is important for us that his role can be significantly more this year and that is something I think he wants so he has worked hard to prepare for that. His ability to guard different positions and his ability to be unique on offense is intriguing for our team. He’s a basketball player. he can handle the ball, score around the rim, a good passer, he just has a good feel,” said Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel in a recent conversation.

Jefferson is like any Philly kid, he loves his home, so he returned there this summer but he balled with some good talent while there.  Duke likes his versatility and that likely means he could start, but we’ll see.  I personally think Duke will rotate the 5th position in the line up according to match ups this season.  Amile  brings that old school cerebral play

Marshall Plumlee

“The big thing with Marshall is to just get healthy. Last year, until the time that school started, he was playing very, very well and would have made our rotation. He was never healthy when he came back and had surgery after the season, so we have just wanted him to get healthy. He’s worked hard this off season and worked with Will Stephens, with strength and conditioning The key is to maintain the weight as he gets ready to start running and burning calories. Marshall is going to be important for us in that he’s our biggest guy this season and if he embraces his role with rebounding, screening and running, then he can contribute all season long,” per Capel

Plumlee just started running a week or so ago but he has not progressed where he can make sharp cuts yet, so there is a way to go here.  The hope is for the added weight to stick or at least half of it once he starts to run with the team.  A season ago, many felt Coach K saying he would have been in the rotation coach speak, but Plumlee seems to be set for a role provided his legs return and there is no set backs.  Dude drank a ton of muscles shakes per Will Stephenson orders and did a lot of under water work during rehab.

ad gbAndre Dawkins

“He has a special skill with the three ball and he can impact a game instantly. It’s been great to have him back and he’s worked hard to get into shape and develop skills. He’s been through a lot on and off the court and has the ability to share those things with our younger guys. He’s been a part of a national championship but he’s also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The main thing is he arms us with a weapon with his ability to shoot the basketball. Whatever role he earns on this team is up to him. He can put up points in a short time,” said Capel

Dawkins has been through a lot off the court with the passing of his sister.  He worked in the off season with a trainer and decided he wanted to return to the team in the season ending exit meetings and a plan was formed.  Dawkins can have a quick effect on the game with his abilities and the key will be for him to bring that consistently and not be a kid just hanging out around the three point line as he got into the habit of when we last saw him.  A mature Dawkins is a good thing and he’s a player who will not shy away from that big shot if it presents itself.

Jabari Parker

With Jabari his skill set and talent are very unique, so we don’t know the exact spot or a position on the floor he’ll play other than he”ll be a really good player, so you are going to see him all over the floor doing a little bit of everything. It will literally be everything. He can bring the ball up the floor and initiate things and he’s one of those guys on the team we feel he can do those kind of things along with Rodney. We don’t want to limit his abilities or strengths, so he’ll be used in a lot of different ways.

Parker has done everything the staff has asked of him and has a focus which is important for a player of his hype stature and the mere fact he’s a freshman. Coach Krzyzewski used Luol Deng in a similar role, but Parker has much better post skills. I think what we are seeing is that the staff will allow Parker free reign from the word go and they’ll seek to not pigeon hole him into what we’ll call a traditional position. I can see Parker playing pretty much every position on the court on defense, but doubt he will be needed against the point other than on presses. The word is that Parker has showed well in practice and that alone is enough to excite the fan base as if they are not already stoked enough for the coming season.

2Quinn Cook

“Quinn had a great season last year. He was a third team All ACC pick and the MVP in Atlantis. One of the big mistakes that Quinn or anybody can make is thinking it’s going to happen this year because of last year. This year will be different and the way we will play will be very different. Quinn had a great summer and he came back in really good shape as a player. It’s his team or a chance to be his team but he has to still work to make that happen and come to play every day. Quinn should be a very intrical part of the team this season,” Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel.

Quinn spent a lot of time at home in the D.C. region working out with some of the fine talent in that area and he comes back in tip top shape and condition per sources. Cook has a chance to take another leap this season and to do that he needs to learn to control the game and his team. If Cook can blend early on with his teammates, the upside is enormous. Cook has been playing with a lot of confidence this off season and if the maintains his mental focus first and foremost, he will be in the discussion as one of the best point guards in the country by seasons end. Cook knows there is a savvy senior in Tyler Thornton and a sleek sophomore in Rasheed Sulaimon capable of of running the point waiting in the wings, so I expect we’ll get his best effort this season. His ball pressure and his ability to defend has stood out the most about Cook in our eyes.

8Tyler Thornton

Tyler is unquestionably a leader on this team. He is probably the most respected guy on his team and he’s found a way to contribute each year here since he was a freshman. Tyler brings intangibles, Tyler effects winning and he does a lot of things that do not show up in the stat sheet but for people who truly understand basketball they can appreciate what he brings to the team. He’s a guy who you want all your team to look like in that he is totally immersed in winning..

Thornton has always found a way to get on the court in that he is tough as nails mentally and physically.  Thornton is a gentlemen in every sense since I met him as a junior on the recruiting trail, but he’ll talk a little smack out there if it can get under the other teams skin and that kind of thing is needed.  I think he gets a captain spot on this seasons team in that he is respected by all.

Alex Murphy

“I think Alex has had a great off season. It’s probably the first time he has been completely 100% invested in himself and I think he would tell you that. I think this summer he chose to remain here for both summer sessions when in the past he would go home or play with the Finnish National Team. He had a chance to do both of those things again this year but he chose to stay and I think that has helped his level of confidence. Every player and coach knows how much talent Alex has, but the thing for him is to have the confidence to play that way, through mistakes and to have the confidence to play and react without thinking so much. The way we will play this year will help him and that will blend itself for him not thinking as much and just reacting,” said Capel.

Just play, don’t think.  Has to believe in himself.  This is what I hear on Alex and it seems he’s bought into the suggestions.  Did you know that he has been in the starting line up for each of the last two exhibition openers?  Murphy has made off season strides but we’ll only now how much so when we see him play again.

horse2Matt Jones

“Matt is a really good player who has done a good job since he’s been here. One of the things with Matt is he has been coached really hard in high school and his coach did a great job this past season teaching him defense. With the AAU program he played for he was coached really hard, so he’s been held accountable and a lot has been demanded of him. He’s been able to adjust very quickly to the speed of the game. Speed and defense are the two biggest things high school guys must adjust to and most do not play defense in high school. he works really hard and he’s going to fight to be an important guy on his team,” – per Capel.

Great family, solid kid.  Doesn’t cut up a lot or act out.  Kind of what any parent or coach would want, right?  Remember when I said he could be the odd man out this coming season due to depth.  Well, I take that back for by all accounts he is playing better than a freshman should, meaning he has worked hard knowing that’s what it will take to crack the line up with this seasons wing loaded roster.  The word is that he has thrived in the weight room and gotten stronger and he’s becoming the X-Factor freshman in my eyes.

Semi Ojeleye

I think all the freshman will have to adjust to the speed of the game but Semi is probably the strongest kid who has walked through the doors here as a freshman. He’s the kind of guy who if he tested at the NFL combine he would do well and probably be a first round pick just based on his body and athleticism. He prepares and carries himself well and he is confident, add to that he can really shoot the basketball. He fits the mold of versatility that will be prevalent on this team. He can be asked to guard many guys and he can use his size and strength.

When you first see Ojeleye, you quickly notice his chiseled body which is akin to a juniors physique.  The key for Ojeleye is to adjust to the speed of the game.  He didn’t have bad coaching in high school or the AAU circuit, but it could have been better, so there will be the usual freshman learning curve.  Still, he is capable of guarding multiple type players and that will be of immediate value if grasps system basics.

Duke vs Georgia State 12 005Rasheed Sulaimon

“A very talented young guy and a great kid. This will be a really big year for him. When you have a freshman year like he did, you come back but do you make the jump or do you just rest and think going to happen. He was an important part of the Team USA squad that won the Gold Medal, so he’s had a good summer. He jumped right in when he came back with what we were doing . A talented kid who can play off the bounce and he’s a guy wee want to move around a lot this year and he progresses as a player.” Jeff Capel

As a sports reporter when I talk with Sulaimon, he’s the kind of kid I would want as a parent.  Humble, yet confident in his abilities, Sulaimon can be a go to guy on this seasons team with his ability to break down his opponent off the dribble.  Sulaimon has realized it takes hard work to succeed and with a year behind him, the lessons learned from a season ago will pay dividends.

Rodney Hood

“Well, he’s really talented and he’s gotten a lot better since he’s been here because he’s worked and he’s been touched by this culture. He’s gotten stronger, more athletic, he’s shooting and handling the ball better. At Mississippi State he was sort of a catch and shoot guy, so we were a little surprised as we went through practice at how good he is off the bounce. He’s a guy who can play multiple positions and guard multiple positions, so he will be asked to do that in our system. When you come to Duke the expectations are different than most other places, so you have to learn to deal with expectations. But Hood has had three really good seniors to watch a season ago, so he’s learned how to conduct his business from how they handled things,” states Capel.

Rodney is a completely different player than he was at Mississippi State where he did not get the best coaching.  Duke has tried to instill confidence in Hood, who will finally be seen by fans.  What I worry about to a degree is that he has been saddled with a lot of expectations and hype, more-so than any other player on the roster.  However, this will be a hungry player and a mature one and a sure starter.  In fact, I still say Hood, Sulaimon and Parker will be the main three options on offense.  Hood has a nice mid range game, so do not expect a dominating rebounder despite his height in that he is more wing than power.

Josh Hairston

“Josh is a player who has started games for us, so he’s had an important role. As a senior, he’s been through early exits in the tournaments, part of big wins and has simply been through a lot. He can play a lot but we don’t know for sure. He will have a role on this team,” said Capel.

When Hairston and Thornton were recruited to play for Duke, it was during a time when the Blue Devils were experiencing a bit of a drought in recruiting.  They were dubbed “program kids,” which means they embody what one would want out of a young man with concern to character.  Hairston will be in a position to offer leadership this coming season but how he accepts his role will be the key.

Recruiting

We all know that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will visit the Duke Campus together during the last weekend of October.  I still have mad confidence that Tyus Jones will be a Blue Devil and Okafor as well, just not at the level of Jones.   Before you reads into that too much and start a worry-fest, I feel good about both players and predict fans will be happy when the dust clears.  There is a reason the last visit is scheduled for Durham, that being I think both kids know Duke is their leader whether they say so in public or not.  At this point it would be a major upset of Jones went elsewhere and I do not buy into the worry about Kentucky one bit, even though traditional wisdom may be to never count them out.

Kavon Looney will visit the weekend when Duke is at Memphis in football and the Blue Devils seem to feel quite good about their chances here but this one still has a few things which need to fall into place.  Duke has been the highest riser of any team on his list and the staff will have Looney all to themselves and will be able to spend some serious time with his family.  The stars could be aligning themselves nicely here, so stay tuned.

The two prospects Duke is working hardest on for a visit are Myles Turner and Diamond Stone, two bigs.  Duke faces a tough battle for the service of Turner but the two like each other a lot and that could lead to a possible visit during Countdown to Craziness.  In fact, both Stone and Turner could make the event if all goes well but recruiting is liquid as are the prospects schedules, so this one needs to play out more.  Duke Assistant Nate James has been the lead on these two guys.

It’s that time of year when fans hang on every little thing said, be it rumors or just speculation with recruiting and no player has had more worry connected to him more than Justise Winslow who plays his hand carefully at the game we all love to follow.  Winslow has been recently linked to a late UCLA run and even a package deal at Arizona.  The Wildcats worry me, UCLA does not.  The Bruins are late to this party while Zona has been on Winslow longer than Duke.  Still, Duke has a legitimate shot here and are very much in the race until his announcement.  Word is Winslow is feeling a little pressure about making a decision and will have a had time telling a coach no, but that too is not unusual.  No additional visits are set in stone at this time with Winslow and while I felt he was ready to pop at one time, it seems his decision could come later than anyone might like.  Still, there is reason to believe he is close and has an idea where he wants to go.  Expect another cut down on his list and his family and or Justise seems to really be concerned about making the right choice here, thus the stretch.  It’s Duke or Arizona if my sources are right and they usually are.

Want a possible new name on the radar?  Henry Ellison, a 2015 corn fed prospect got a call from a Duke Assistant recently and was told they would keep an eye on him.  Some say he could really grow into a force and he can stretch the court with his ability to hit the three. [/private]

Jahlil Okafor talks recruiting, package deals and more

Semi others PEach 12 003One of the nations top post prospects is nearing his decision on where he will be playing his college basketball and Blue Devil Nation brings you some exclusive video interview footage from the Nike EYBL Peach Jam.  In the following two video chats Okafor updates you on the very latest in his recruitment and addresses the package deal he will be a part of with Tyus Jones and more. [private]

More to come on Blue Devil Nation Premium! [/private]

Jahlil Okafor updates his status with BDN

Jahlil Okafor USABBCOLORADO SPRINGS, CO—Traditional, back-to-the-basket big men of elite caliber are becoming synonymous with rare across the basketball landscape. And that’s precisely why Jahlil Okafor—the top-ranked player in the class of 2014 according to ESPN—is one of the more unique prospects to come through the prep ranks in recent years.

The Chicago product has been a known commodity for years, garnering high-major offers as an underclassman. The Duke coaching staff pulled the trigger abnormally early by extending him a scholarship during the fall of his sophomore year.

Increasing hype and media attention has been the norm since then, but for good reason. The Whitney Young High School superstar is a throwback center with a wide body, soft touch, impeccable footwork and a diverse arsenal of scoring moves on the low block. He possesses legitimate NBA size and power for the center position at 6-foot-11 and 270-pounds. To top it all off, he’s an intelligent player who predicates his game on winning rather than individual achievement.

The Blue Devil coaching staff has swung and missed on a handful of its priority big men on the recruiting trail these past few years, which makes its chase for Okafor all that more important, as well as [private] compelling. Fair or unfair, there is a widespread stigma of Duke’s inability to utilize and produce quality post players circulating around the college basketball landscape. For years, Blue Devil fans have pegged Okafor—who has unofficially visited Duke twice in his high school career—as the player to change that perception in Durham. To up the stakes even more in the recruitment, Okafor has strongly contended that he will attend the same school as his close friend Tyus Jones—the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2014.

Eight schools occupy Okafor’s list of prospective college programs: Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Due to a recurring ankle sprain, Okafor has been forced to miss much of the action of this spring on Nike EYBL circuit with his AAU team the Mac Irvin Fire.

Along with fellow prepster Justise Winslow, the almost fully healthy Okafor is one of just two high schoolers vying for a spot on the U.S. U-19 National Team, which is headlined by mostly rising sophomores in college. During practices, it was evident that Okafor was one of the best players on the floor and will likely centerpiece of the team hungry to claim the gold medal.

Following Monday morning’s practice, Okafor sat down to update Blue Devil Nation on his experiences with the U.S. U-19 National Team and with where things stand in his recruitment.

Question: We’ll start with the U.S. U-19 team experience. You are one of the youngest guys in the gym here. How has playing up help enhanced your game this week?

Answer: “It’s been great. You know I have improved so much this week going against these top college players. The coaches in Billy Donavan and Shaka Smart are really helping me develop. I have improved a lot over these last four or five days.”

Q: Who are some of the tougher matchups you faced one-on-one here at the training camp?

A: “All these big men are tough. Jarnell Stokes [of Tenneessee], [Mike] Tobey [of Virginia], Montrezel Harrrell [of Louisville]. You know everybody here is tough. They are really strong, but it’s a lot of fun. And it’s very competitive.”

Q: Have you learned anything new about your game having gone up against these more mature players this week?

A: “Just that I play better when I play with other great players. It helps me elevate my game. So the better the players are around me, the better I play.”

Q: Looks like you have lost a little bit of weight since I last saw you in Hampton, Va?

A: “Yeah, I have lost a little.”

Q: How has that helped benefit your game especially since it appears that this U-19 team will use a fast-paced, full-court pressure style of play as much as possible? And is that style a little bit different that what you are accustomed to in high school?

A: “Yeah, definitely. I like it. It’s something new. My AAU team, we get up and down. I have been getting in shape to get ready for this experience, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Q: And what is your official height and weight at nowadays?

A: “I’m 6-foot-11, 270 [pounds].”

Q: I understand that you have been rooming with Justise Winslow and Rasheed Sulaimon. What has that experience been like with those guys?

A: “It’s fun. We just talk a lot, crack jokes. It’s a lot of fun.”

Q: Is ‘Sheed doing any recruiting?

A: “No. ‘Sheed doesn’t do that. He pretty much knows that he can’t really affect our decisions. We’ll ask him questions about Duke, and he’ll answer them. But he doesn’t try to recruit us. If we ever have any questions, he’ll always give us a truthful answer.”

Q: Do you know who you’ll be rooming with going forward on this U.S. team?

A: “I’m not sure at this point. They decide our roommates.”

Q: You’ve had an ankle injury that has sidelined you for a good amount of this spring. How is your ankle doing right now?

A: “It’s doing pretty good. I missed a lot of the Nike EYBL sessions just because it was a high ankle sprain, but it’s doing really good now. I have a lot of great trainers here who are really helping me with it and getting it stronger.”

Q: After this stint with the U-19 team is over with, what are your basketball plans the rest of the summer?

A: “Win Peach Jam. I’m very confident that we can, so after we win a gold medal with this U.S.A. team I want to win the Peach Jam.”

Q: Let’s get to your recruitment. Baylor is one school that is scheduled to receive an official visit from both you and Tyus Jones. What all went behind choosing Baylor as a school that gets one of those five official visits?

A: “I just really like Baylor and what they have to offer. Coach Drew is a very energetic coach and I really like that. Baylor is a Christian school, so you that’s what my family loves so much about it. And the campus is just amazing. I’ve seen pictures and they’ve sent me a little video. I just want to experience Baylor and see what it is like.”

Q: So, have you ever visited Baylor before?

A: “No, I haven’t. Tyus has visited there before, and he just told me that we should definitely go see it because he thought it was really great.”

Q: And does Tyus have a cousin or some sort of relative that is connected to Baylor in some way?

A: “His cousin [Jared Nuness] is a [basketball] coach at Baylor.”

Q: Do you have any other official visits set up? Or do you have any idea as to what other schools you want to take official visits to?

A: “Not really, no. I have been busy and haven’t been able to set any more up yet.”

Q: What sort of criteria will you use to decide which schools get those last four official visits?

A: “I haven’t been able to really focus on that a whole lot on it lately, but it’ll probably be a combination of things: the coaching staffs I’m most comfortable with, seeing what Tyus and my parents are thinking, things like that. We’ll see.”

Q: What’s the communication between you and coaches been like these past several weeks? Has it been pretty busy with coaches blowing up your phone?

A: “It’s been pretty busy. Some more than others I guess. I hear from the coaches about the same as far as frequency. I’ve talked to Coach Capel. Coach K was here [in Colorado Springs] and he spoke with me a lot—not about Duke—just about improving out here and what I should do to get better. I’ve talked to Kansas, Kentucky, Baylor, Michigan State, Ohio State and Arizona here lately too.”

Q: What has Duke and Coach Capel been communicating to you about here lately?

A: “Just seeing how I’m doing, catching up. He was telling me that Coach K told him that I was playing well here. [Capel] was just telling me to keep it up, keep working, keep improving, and don’t have an attitude out here that I’m a young guy. Act just like I’m another player out here.”

Q: Kansas just hired Jerrance Howard, who obviously has a lot of ties to the state of Illinois. Do you have any sort of relationship with him? And if so, how does that affect your recruitment?

A: “You know it doesn’t hurt having him over there. You know he was one of the first coaches to recruit me. When he was at Illinois he offered me a scholarship. I’ve known him since like eighth grade, freshman year. I’m really close with Jerrance and him at Kansas doesn’t hurt at all. I’m happy that he’s there.”

Q: And why wasn’t Tyus able to participate in this Team U.S.A. function?

A: “He had some family issues going on, so he couldn’t make it.”

Q: Are you and Tyus any closer to determining a timetable for a college announcement?

A: “No, we aren’t really.” [/private]

USA U-19 Preliminary roster has a Duke flavor

duke-wf rick c 001The USA U-19 Basketball Team hopefuls were released today and the list has a Duke flavor to it. On a day when Duke Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski was named the coach of Team USA Basketball activity within the program begins.

As most of you know already, rising sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon is one of the kids on the preliminary roster and he is joined by two key Duke prospects.

Those two prospects are Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. Okafor is the nations consensus top rated prospect. Okafor is a key Blue Devil target and a player the coaches will follow up until his decision.

Winslow is one of the top wing prospects in the country and he too is a vital recruit for the Blue Devils in that they backed off some other big time prospects to go somewhat all in with the Texan native.

The chosen few will begin practice on June 14th and this means they’ll be off the AAU circuit for a good while in the case of Okafor and Winslow. The team will face Ivory Coast on June 27th.

Stay tuned to Blue Devil Nation who has followed Team USA Basketball for a decade, for more coverage and updates as they happen.

Roster Hopefuls

Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
Bryce Alford, UCLA
Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
Damyean Dotson, Oregon
Kris Dunn, Providence
Javan Felix, Texas
Michael Frazier, Florida
Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech
Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
Jahlil Okafor, undecided
Rodney Purvis, UConn
James Robinson, Pitt
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Devin Thomas, Wake Forest
Mike Tobey, Virginia
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Justise Winslow, undecided

T.O.A.O. : The One And Only Tyus Jones

Duke Recruit 6'2" Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater
6’2″ Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater

In a state that is historically more known for their contributions to the game of hockey, a trio of rising seniors, Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn, and Reid Travis, have caused coaches to flock to the hardwoods of Minnesota. The standout, so far, has been the smallest of the three, 6’2″ Tyus Jones, a highly skilled and cerebral point guard from the city of Apple Valley.

In late March, Tyus Jones capped off a brilliant year by scoring twenty-six points, grabbing eleven rebounds, and dishing out eight assists in front of more than thirteen thousand people at the Target Center. That performance against Park Center HS helped Apple Valley HS (30-1), located just outside of the Twin Cities, capture it’s first state title in basketball and avenge its only regular season loss. With Tyus, throughout the journey, was his older brother, trainer, and best friend, Jadee, an assistant coach for the Apple Valley Eagles.

The coveted point guard credits his brother, Jadee, who puts him through intense basketball-specific training sessions, with developing his game and providing support through the years. Jones, who embodies the expression “Minnesota nice,” is quick to add that his critical support system extends to his parents, Debbie and Rob, who also both played college basketball, cousins, aunt, and grandparents.

As a reward for his season (averaging twenty-one points and nearly eight assists per game for the state champion) and work off of the court (B+ student and community involvement), Gatorade named the junior as their Minnesota Player of the Year for a second straight season.

Last July, Tyus Jones lead a very talented and deep USA Basketball squad to a gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania. Jones felt that he was able to carry over the leadership and level of preparation that was a regular part of USA Basketball into his success in Apple Valley. Beyond the patriotic pride and handsome medal, Jones gained a close bond with the players, sharing the collective experience of training and playing for a communal goal.  In particular, he became tight with his 6’11” Chicagoland roommate, Jahlil Okafor. Tyus felt that Jahlil shared many of the same core values that he had been raised with. They laughed and enjoyed playing with each other. By the end of their time in Lithuania, they decided that they wanted to continue playing together in college. They both independently reconfirmed that desire this weekend. Despite a four hundred mile separation, the duo communicate on a regular basis.

The young point guard with an old soul cut his list of suitors in March to seven: Minnesota, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Baylor. A few months after Tyus Jones and his family visited Duke for their Countdown To Craziness, the first in-home visit for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski this year was to Tyus Jones’ living room. This weekend in Garden Grove, California, the four-time NCAA Championship coach was omnipresent for each of Jones’ four EYBL games, including his final game where Jones scored thirty-eight points and dished out six assists against a good CP3 squad. The ten pounds of muscle, mostly in his upper body, that Jones added to his lean 6’2″ frame enabled him to withstand the physicality of constantly penetrating into the heart of the defense.

After an EYBL game, Tyus spoke with me about a variety of topics, including his relationship with Jahlil, sharing an accomplishment with his family, the possibility of doing a one-and-done, his motto of T.O.A.O. (The One And Only), and his last time going through the AAU circuit.

 

With this being your last AAU season, what sort of thoughts and emotions were going through your head? Does it mean more  to you?It’s kind of a surreal feeling to know that this is going to be my last AAU season. Every year, you just don’t think about it. You’re just go and you play, but it’s a different feeling, you know, knowing that this is going to be your last go-around. You know, with this being your last go-around, you feel like you’ve got to make the most of it.

Has it generally been a fun experience for you through the years?

Definitely, definitely. It’s something where you’re always with the best players, you’re playing against the best players, too, and you get to travel. It’s been a lot of fun through the years.

You’re also coming off of a state championship victory…
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That was just an unbelievable experience.

I was happy for you.

Thank you, I appreciate it. It was the first time for us to be able to make the state and to win it. It was a great feeling to finally get over that hump. 

Did you feel redemption? What were your emotions when you walked off of the court that day?

You can’t even explain it in words.

I wish I could.

Yeah right, so do I. (laughs) You just can’t explain it, but it was great and I enjoyed it and it will stick with me forever. 

How, if at all, did your experience with USA basketball, in terms of leadership, with that championship run?

Oh, it helped me a lot. Yeah, it helped a lot. I think just being out as USA at the training camp and then going overseas teaches you a lot. It’s just an experience to be sort of a different way of basketball at really the highest level. 

You also recently won the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a junior. That’s quite an honor because they take into consideration both basketball and your off-the-court work. 

It really meant a lot to be able to win that award because I really just worked really hard for it. 

Going back to the state title, you were able to share it with your brother and your friends, so it had to have meant more than some of the individual awards..it’s sort of a communal thing.

Yeah, that was great to be able to share it with them and my whole family. And my brother’s my best friend. He’s been with me since I was born. 

I remember he coached you and trained you from a very young age. His name is Jadee.

Yup, Jadee Jones. He trained me and he worked me out. He pushed me from the player that I am today. I really give a lot of the credit to him. 

It must have been really meaningful to him to win the state title with you.

Yeah, it meant a lot to him.

What do you think you’ve improved upon most since last summer?

I think really just leadership in general. I think I’ve tried to be as vocal as possible. I always just try to bring the team in and try to make sure that we’re playing as one. 

It looks like you’re physically more mature than you were last year, at least in your arms and your upper body.

Yeah, a little bit, a little bit. I had an injury at the beginning of the winter season, so I wasn’t able to lift as much as I would have liked to, but during the season, we just got started and I really couldn’t catch up. That set me back a little bit, but I’m really able to go hard now and just improve.

That should help you as a point guard trying to get through the lane. 

Yeah, it should. It’s very important. Good point.

You’ve had some recent in-home visits. Touch on them for the audience, please.

Duke, Baylor, Michigan State, and Ohio State were all in recently. They came and they did their presentations.

What was that experience like? Because as a kid, you never would have…

Yeah, that was crazy. You never think of that being possible growing up. It was such an honor having all of those coaches in your house. You know, sitting in your living room and talking to you. You know, it was just great. We had fun with it. 

What about visits for you? Do you have any upcoming ones? I assume you haven’t been able to take any recently.

No, nothing recently and I don’t have any planned yet, but I’m probably going to be taking my officials in the fall. 

I know you did some unofficials last fall.

Yup, yup. 

Do you have a timeline for when you’d like to decide by and what’s the latest on your recruitment? These are things people are always curious about.

Hopefully, by the fall, but I can’t say for sure, you know. I don’t want to rush it. But, you know, hopefully in the fall. There’s nothing really new with my recruitment. I cut my list to seven. Baylor, Duke, Michigan State, Minnesota, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio State.

That’s an impressive group. Last I heard, you and Jahlil are thinking about doing a pairing. Is that still the case? Are you still very close?

It is and we are. We’re still real close. We talk all of the time. 

What do you like about Jahlil on and off the court?

Well, on the court, I think everybody knows that he’s the most dominant player in the country without a doubt. Everybody knows what he can do. But off the court, we really bonded because he’s a really great young man. 

He’s also a lot smarter than people give him credit for.

Yeah, he’s smart. He’s got a great support system. He was raised the right way and I think that’s why..what we have in common, because I was raised the same way.

T.O.A.O., the one and only, that’s sort of become your motto.

Yes, sir.

How did you come up with it? How did it become your motto?

It did. It is. Some people try to, well, people don’t know what it stands for, but it’s just a saying that you want to be your own person. You got to strive to be the greatest person that you can be, the best of the best.

The best Tyus Jones you can be, not somebody else.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you don’t want to just be the next so-and-so, you want to be the best you.

I get so sick and tired of hearing about the next blank.

Yeah, exactly. You don’t want to hear that you’re the next somebody, you want to hear that you’re the best Tyus Jones. I only want to be the best Tyus Jones. That’s all I’m saying. 

By the way, with Jahlil, are you going to do a joint press conference or who is going to decide first?

I’m not really sure. We’ll have to think about that. We haven’t really talked about that part. I’m not sure how we’ll do that yet. 

What are your goals for this AAU season?

My goals are for all of us to win the Peach Jam. I think that’s what every team on the circuit’s goal is. We’re just trying to improve and get better and really come together as a team. 

How do you feel about the squad?

I feel great about it. I feel like we’ve got a great bunch..great bigs, great wings, great guards. I think we’re all pretty smart. I think we’ve just got to play smart and try to connect.

Play to your strengths?

Yes, sir.

Is there any competition or rivalry between you and Mudiay at all?

No, sir. Eman is a great player. He’s just a great player and no, there’s no.

I was just curious. 

No, he’s a great player and I respect him so much.

What is your relationship like with the various coaches on your list? Coach K, Coach Izzo, Coach Pitino.

No, I have great relationships with every coach on my list. You know, they’ve all done a great job. You know, really, that’s why they’re the coaches remaining. They’re the ones that I was most interested in. 

Are they constantly contacting you or how often is it for you? Take the audience into your world.

It’s somewhat constant, but it’s not as bad as the stories you hear. You know, they’re very respectful. They know I’m a person and a student as well. 

How often would you say?

You know, once or twice a week, maybe a couple of times, but you know, you’ll talk to the assistants even more. 

What do your relatives make of all of your success and the hubbub? 

They’re just going along and enjoying it with me. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am and the person I am today. 

I remember being very impressed when I was in Minnesota and you had all of your relatives lined up right behind me.

Yeah, my family has been really great. I feel like I’ve got a great support back in Minnesota. I couldn’t ask for a better one. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am. 

What are going to be some factors in your decision?

There’s obviously a lot of stuff that goes into it. You’ve got to look at the school, being a part of it, in terms of giving you a good education. And all of the schools on my list have a great education, so that’s one factor. And then you’ve got to look at how the coaches relate to the players. Specifically, or especially, the point guard. You know, that’s the thing that I’m looking for and also what type of players are they bringing in and also the players that they have on the team and how they are off the court.

How important do you think chemistry and fit will be for you?

I think fit is the right word because you want to go somewhere where you’re comfortable. You don’t want to go somewhere where you can’t be yourself and you feel like you’re not a part of it.

Because you’re going to be around those guys more than anyone.

Yeah, exactly. 

What are you working on with your brother? I know he’s a trainer.

Explosion, strength, just basketball specific training. You want to bulk up, you want to be stronger in a way that can help you. I worked with my brother on a lot of explosive stuff trying to get bigger and trying to get stronger with the ball. 

And have you seen it pay off?

I have. Each year, I feel like I keep growing.

You’re dunking now.

It gets easier for sure.

What’s your favorite pass or favorite shot that you’ve ever made? Do you have one?

You know, any pass that I’m able to set up my teammates on, I enjoy. I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing them having so much joy. It helps us score. I threw a couple of nice lobs today.

Yeah, I saw.

(laughs) Those are always great. Those are always fun.

What’s your current size?

About 6’2″ and about 185.

In terms of the mindset, are you thinking on-and-done or staying beyond that and enjoying the college experience?

(pause)

It’s sort of a tougher question 

I think you need to go into it trying to have success. Don’t look past that…at all. If you go into it with the mindset of trying to have success, you’ll be successful. If you leave after one year, then that’d be great. If you stay all four years, then that’s just how it is. There’s really nothing that you can complain about. You’re going to college to play basketball.

For free.

Yeah, exactly.

I really appreciate you taking the time, Tyus.

Oh, no problem.

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The Consigliere: Tom Konchalski on Duke Recruits

Legendary Scout Tom Konchalski
Legendary Scout Tom Konchalski, Photo by Kevin Armstrong

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.

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Duke Incoming Freshman Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Incoming Freshman Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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, Photo by Andrew Slater
Incoming Duke Freshman Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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.

Duke Recruit Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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

Duke Recruit Trey Lyles
Duke Recruit Trey Lyles

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.

Duke Recruit Tyus Jones, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Tyus Jones, Photo by Andrew Slater

 

 

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

Duke Recruit Kevon Looney, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Kevon Looney, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

 

Duke Recruit Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

 

Duke Recruit, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit, Photo by Andrew Slater

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, Photo by Andrew Slater
Malachi Richardson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

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6’3″ Isaiah “Boogie” Briscoe, Photo by Andrew Slater

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]