Each year, there is, at least, one fresh face that demands attention be paid to him through unexpectedly good play in the AAU season. A player will seemingly come out of nowhere and vault to the front of his class. Some attribute this novelty to being a “late bloomer,” an improved work ethic, coming from an underreported community, fruits finally being born from the labor of hard work, or a late growth spurt. Two years ago, the player was Kyrie Irving. Anthony Davis was last year’s primary example. This year, Mitch McGary of Brewster Academy is on the short list of everybody’s favorite player in 2012. The Chesterton, Indiana native has transformed his body, his low-post game, and his commitment to academics to such a degree that he’s now capable of being recruited by all of the major college basketball powers.
McGary has become the poster child for the benefits of New England prep school basketball. It’s rustic locations, small college-quality facilities, low teacher-to-student ratios, high-caliber coaching, and the most talent-rich leagues in the country have caused players to gravitate to these New England powers from around the country.
These past four months, the social big man has enjoyed both individual success, including at the NBA 100 Camp and LeBron James Skills Academy, and, while playing for SYF AAU program, team success, including winning the recent NY2LA Summer Jam in suburban Milwaukee.
Recently, Mitch received new offers, including one from Duke University. He spoke again with Blue Devil Nation about a variety of topics, including the influence of sneaker companies, his metamorphosis at Brewster from vocally supportive sixth man to being one of the most sought after recruits in the country, and whether he’s looking for more of a buddy or an adult figure in his college head coach.
How do you feel your summer’s going?
It’s going good. I’m honored to be here and all of the other camps, like the Amar’e camp. I feel like I’m going against the best of the best between here and the NBA Top 100 camp, so it’s been good so far.
Can you talk about going from being a Big Ten prospect…highly regarded, but maybe not on this level…to being considered arguably the most dominant big guy in your class? You’re sort of in the middle of it, but what’s going through your mind about that right now
It’s been pretty cool. I mean, my overall improvement on and off the court, making me more mature and responsible, I think the transition to Brewster. It’s been 100% percent improvement.
You’re like the poster child for the Brewster program.
(laughs) Yeah, just moving out there really helped me a lot. I mean, that’s all I’ve got to say, pretty much. Coach Jason Smith does a great job with us out there. From an academic standpoint, the teachers do a great job out there, too.
(Mike “Peegs” Pegram) Have you been home for a while?
I’ve been home for a month on-and-off, between the camps and stuff.
(Mike “Peegs” Pegram) Have your old high school buddies noticed any changes?
Um, yeah, but I haven’t really played with them yet. When I come home, I usually play, but this time they noticed I was a little bit taller, a little bit more cut, a little more defined, they noticed my body. They said it’s incredible, the transition. (laughs)
(Mike “Peegs” Pegram) Are you talking about guys or girls?
Both (laughs). I love it when we’re playing together and they say I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. Girls like it, I guess, too.
Has this been a fun process or stressful?
Yeah, it’s been fun overall. I mean I’m honored that I went to Brewster and, even though I had to leave my hometown high school, which was tragic for me and stuff… You know growing up there and giving up all of my friends and family. I thought it was something I had to do. I had to make a choice. I had some consequences before that and I just had to turn my life around, I guess, start being mature.
How did your trip to Michigan go the other day?
Oh, it went great. I liked the coaches. I see Coach Meyer over there with that yellow and blue jumpsuit. It’s cool. I like him. He’s a great big man coach. I talked to all of the coaches there and they really want me. There’s a rumor that it’s between me and Gary Harris, whoever commits first, but we may have to wait and see and see how everything plays out.
In terms of a timeline, if this were a baseball game, how far along do you think you are in your recruitment?
You mean before I commit? I mean I’ll probably commit before the season starts.. so whatever that is (laughs)
Whatever that is.. It seems like you’re tied in with Gary Harris for some schools. Have you guys talked about that?
Yeah, I mean, a little bit. I mean, he knows what’s up. How’s it going, G? (shakes hands with Gary Harris)
(Mike “Peegs” Pegram) Purdue and Indiana, where do they stand?
I mean, a little bit, right now. I mean, everyone wants to go hometown state, but I mean, I won’t say they’re out of the picture, but they’re kind of on the bottom part of my list. I’m wide open to everybody, but they’re just kind of on the bottom of it. Just because they haven’t been talking to me lately and stuff. I mean, they’re still in contact. I just don’t think that they’re going to be right there.
Can you talk about that list that you’re going to be coming out with?
Yeah, I’m coming out with a list next month with my AAU coach.
How big will this list be? 5 schools? 10?
It’ll probably be about 10.
How has this camp gone and what have you learned about yourself?
It’s gone good. Pretty much every top player from every AAU team is here. It helps you measure out your strengths and weaknesses and how well you’re matching up against the other big-time players.
What kind of guy is toughest for you to defend?
Jarnell Stokes. He’s like a Coke machine with legs. (laughs)
You did well against him tonight, you got him on a few plays.
Yeah, I felt happy with it. I mean I probably have a little weight on him. I may not look it cause I’m a little leaner, but I’m about 260 and he’s probably about 250.
Yeah, he only had that one fadeaway over you.
Yeah, he only had that one, but he’s tough. I mean, overall, I think Julius Randle would’ve been the hardest guy for me to defend here, but he’s on my team, fortunately.
(Mike “Peegs” Pegram) What’s going on for you in July after this?
The Super Showcase in Kansas City.
Did you talk to any of the college guys at all?
Yeah, I talked to Thomas Robinson, T-Rob, he’s kind of like a big brother to me. He went to Brewster. I talk to him a lot, not just about Kansas, but about the whole recruiting process. He wants me to go to Kansas and stuff, and that worked for him, but it’s just like he taught me a lot about the recruiting process..who to trust and stuff like that. And so he’s been good to me, I like him.
Can you talk about keeping the passionate mentality and always being supportive of your teammates, as you were on the bench at Brewster, while now being the team’s resident star? Staying vocal out here…I frankly wondered if you’d change.
Yeah, I mean once you make it to the collegiate level… let alone whoever makes it to the NBA, you’re going to have to talk. Like we were watching LeBron play and he was non-stop talking. I mean, if you want to be the best that you can be for you and your team, being vocal out there is a key.
Touch on the importance of being vocal, in terms of leadership.
Yeah, absolutely, it is. It’s really good for leadership. I guess I wasn’t really like the talkative kid growing up. I was just the goofy kid, but I had a loud mouth so, you know, it just stayed with me I guess.
Well, I mean you’ve got a lot of energy..
Yeah, yeah, absolutely
Not just here… At Brewster and with SYF too
Yeah, yeah..I mean also wear the arm sleeve and the headband too. I mean I could probably break it out (laughs) next weekend or something
No, no, that’s all right. (laughs)
I can do it next week if that’s something that you want (laughs)
No, no, that’s okay.
No, but I think it really just rolled over. I like being the real leader, even if I’m probably the biggest dude on the court. I mean I guess I’ve always grown up as the biggest kid and being the real leader among all of my friends and family.
Beats having to learn how to fight because you’re not 6’10”
(laughs) Yeah, well, My parents wanted me to be a good leader and I guess it just carried over. I mean, we just beat the number one team, so that was great. I guess that means it’s a good day.
Talk about being a good teammate. I had talked to some of your teammates both at Brewster and SYF. They both really raved about you, but what do you hope your teammates say about you when you walk away?
I hope that they think that I play really hard and with a lot of heart and passion. I hope they like playing with me and that I have a lot of heart, like I said. Overall, that I’m just a worker and that I’m just the hardest worker on the floor.
Some of them have said that, you don’t have to worry.
What are you looking for on your visits?
Mostly, first of all, I want to find a great head coach that’ll take me in like his own son.
That was one thing I wanted to touch on. Are you looking for more of a buddy-coach or an adult figure? Because some guys are looking for one or the other...
Oh, definitely an adult.
Because some guys were just looking for a friend or something.
Oh, yeah, I know, but I just want someone who’s going to encourage me and teach me. I’m willing to learn, so… The greatest players are always going to need a coach and be able and willing to learn.
Back to the visits, what else are you looking for?
Basically, some colleges most guys that are there like the names and stuff. And the schools I’ve already been to, I already knew the players there. I’m always interested in speaking to the players because the coaches don’t necessarily always speak the truth, but the players are going to speak the truth to you. They’ll tell you things that you wouldn’t otherwise find out til you get there. There are things that the coaches might not tell you before you get there. I want to actually know some of the players that go there. You know, like with Michigan, one of my good friends Zack Novak..
He’s from your hometown.
Yeah, he is. I’m really good friends with him and he speaks the truth about coaches at Michigan and like truthfully, how the coaches are to deal with.
In terms of that list that you were mentioning before, who’s going to help you make it more manageable? Your dad?
Yeah, my AAU coach and my dad.
This is a sort of Kyrie Irving type question, but you’ve sort of come out of nowhere and you sort of moved up the rankings steadily and ultimately came up very high. Do you think you were always this good and nobody noticed or do you think you’ve gotten considerably better in an extremely short period of time or a mixture?
(laughs) It might have been a mixture, I mean, everybody on my AAU team is one of the best players on their high school team, but at Brewster I wasn’t the best player. I guess that encouraged me to get a lot better.
I mean, you guys were stacked though.
Yeah, I know. I just had to transform my body and stuff and work on my skills. I guess everything turned good. That’s a good question.
This is one I’ve never asked a player on the record before, but I’ve always been curious about– what kind of impact do the sneaker companies have over you and do you honestly care what sneaker of the program that you ultimately choose is?
I mean I don’t care. I’ve always worn Nike growing up, but, at Brewster, I’m Adidas and my AAU team just got signed with Under Armor. I don’t really care.
That’s exactly why I was asking because you’re with all three of the major sneaker companies.
Yeah, I don’t really care, as long as the shoe fits and supports me, I’ll run with it. I don’t care how it looks.
Who are some of the assistants or head coaches that you’ve enjoyed talking to?
Rick Pitino, when he was at Florida… I should say Richard Pitino. Now that he’s at Louisville, I’ve lost touch with him. I like him a lot. And I like Coach Book.
Yeah, he’s from my area. He used to be with the Gauchos and now he’s at Arizona.
Yeah, exactly. And I also like Coach Ogden of Texas. Those three are probably my favorite and Coach Meyer from Michigan too.
Have you seen any ACC schools? Do you have any visits planned?
Hopefully, Duke and North Carolina. I’m not really sure when, though.
Will that come after July probably?
Yeah, probably. Yeah, after the AAU thing. North Carolina offered me so I probably have to go down for an unofficial.
Has Duke offered you?
I’m not sure quite yet, Coach K called.
They’re clearly watching you.
Oh, yeah, I noticed.
Thank you very much, Mitch.
Oh, no problem.