Just outside the glitz, glamour, tangible heat, and pulsating excitement of Las Vegas is Henderson, Nevada, where thousands of young men have gathered to showcase their wares in front of hundreds of college coaches. In the second half of the July live period, many are anxious to impress the coaches in the stands in order to earn at least one more scholarship offer than they already have, but one young man who doesn’t have that concern is Josh Hairston of Spotsylvania, Virginia. Hairston has verbally committed to join the Duke Blue Devils in the class of 2010. In the Adidas Super 64 Tournament, the Virginian is playing for DC Assault, an AAU program founded by Curtis Malone, the stepfather of Duke point guard Nolan Smith. This Assault team has won both the Adidas Super 64 fifteen year old and sixteen year old age groups in the prior years, respectively.
Winning is something that Hairston has become accustomed to on the AAU circuit, but, during this past high school season, he led his Spotsylvania team to their first state title in school history. Recently, he decided to transfer for his senior season to Rockville, Maryland’s Montrose Christian, where he will be instructed by venerable high school coach Stu Vetter and be a teammate of Justin Anderson, one of the top rising sophomores in the country and a fellow Spotsylvanian.
If the handicappers in the nearby casinos were able to offer wagers on the 2009 Adidas Super 64 tournament, the DC Assault would be the odds-on favorites, with Hairston, Notre Dame commit Eric Atkins, and Duke commit Tyler Thornton, the reigning MVP, leading the way. After a game against the KC Pump ’N Run, 6’8” Josh Hairston sat down with Blue Devil Nation to discuss, amongst other things, his recent transfer to Montrose Christian, what the Duke coaches are looking for him to work on, winning the first state title in his hometown school’s history, his chemistry with Tyler Thornton, and how he dealt with an idiot in the middle of nowhere.
Can you talk about your decision to transfer to Montrose from your hometown high school?
Montrose? Sure. The decision was finalized really in mid to late June. I talked to my parents about it. The school that I was at was in Spotsylvania, Virginia. You know it was nothing against them. For the three years that I’d been there, I had been the man, you know, and, if I had continued to be there, there really would be no competition for me there in my senior year. You know I wanted to get better and, you know, further my development so that, you know, when I get down to Duke, I’ll be able to come in and play. Montrose was just it. I’ve seen their facilities and I mean you look at Coach Vetter‘s resume. He’s put guys in the NBA and he prepares them for college. So that’s what I wanted. They play a national schedule. They play powerhouse programs and I’m looking forward to it.
That’s a good attitude. I was talking with Justin Anderson a couple of weeks ago and he was telling me that you were a role model of his. Did he help at all with your decision or with the transition?
Oh, me and Justin, you know, he, um, with the transition part, he did. The decision, you know, was made by myself and my family, but, yeah, we grew up playing basketball together.
Well, I remember from the interview that he said, when he was the eighth grader on the varsity, that the older guys on the team were all giving him a really hard time and that you were the one that stood up for him and (2000 word interview awaits you) [private] sort of protected him and treated him well.
Yeah, Justin was one of those young, exceptionally talented kids and everybody in our area knew that he was going to be big and I think a lot of the seniors and older guys didn’t like seeing a younger guy getting all of the attention. He’s definitely helped me with the transition. You know introducing me to everybody and helping me make the transition a little smoother.
Sure, he was saying you guys are going to be living in the same house right near the school. It was, for lack of a better term, a “basketball house” that was filled with players that live a good distance from the school.
Yeah, exactly, the house is like forty-five seconds to a minute from the school. We’re both going to live there because otherwise we both live, like, an hour and a half from the school.
So the commute both ways would be three hours of your day.
Yeah, it would’ve been crazy that way.
Have you felt a target on your back this summer since committing to Duke or is that something you embrace?
Yeah, you know, it’s crazy.
Do you find there are guys trying to make their name off of you?
Even today, you know, a lot of people say that Duke recruits have it the worst and it may be true because you have guys all of a sudden trying to go hard and get in your face all of the time. You know they may play terrible one game, but, when they see that they’ve got you, they play their hardest game ever (chuckles). That’s how teams are with us. With the Assault, a team could lose by thirty and then they give us their hardest game ever.
It’s probably something you embrace or at least I would.
It is. We love it. We love competition. We go after it and that’s how we make our name.
Sure. What are some things, be it drills, workout routine, etc, that the Duke coaches have recommended that you can work on or should work on over the summer before you reach the campus?
Definitely consistency with my jump shot and my ball-handling because they see me playing that three and four position so I need to
Play more outside?
Yeah, I need to play more outside, but also be able to play inside. They see my playing the role that Kyle Singler is playing now.
Yeah, but I’ve definitely been working on my ball-handling with my dad. He’s got me outside all of the time. We’re shooting a lot of jump shots and we’re working on ball-handling and stuff.
Now, at Montrose, do you know where you will definitely be playing?
The three and the four. The same thing and so that’ll be helpful. I’m going to playing inside and outside.
Montrose lost a very talented frontline so I wasn’t sure where exactly they’d play you, but I figured you’d get some assurances. At a school, like Spotsylvania, where they have no height inside, there isn’t much of a choice. They’re going to stick you inside for the majority of the game.
Yeah, at my old school, I was always the five.
But now going onto a national school, with more of a pool to draw from, you’re going to be playing more of your natural college position, which should help with the transition. I thought it was good move on your part.
Yeah, it’ll allow me to learn more about the three and four positions.
Are you excited about the opportunity?
I am. I absolutely cannot wait. Coach Vetter said we’re going to have a couple of TV games so…
Actually, that hits on another question I was going to ask you. Do you know of some events or tournaments that fans can come and watch you this upcoming season?
Off the top of my head, I can’t, but I know there are going to be some TV games that they can catch me and hopefully support me.
Okay, they’ll have to check their TV schedules. I never asked you , but is there anyone that you try to model your game after?
Yeah, it’s actually a little weird. (chuckles) Well, a lot of people say it’s weird, but I actually model my game after Carmelo Anthony. He’s my favorite player in the NBA and I mean I just love to watch him play.
Well, I guess you guys are the same height.
Yeah, we are. If he’s on TV, I just have to watch his game.
Can you talk about the chemistry that you have with Tyler Thornton? I was talking with him after a high school game about the fact that you’re going to be entering Duke with a teammate that already knows where you like to catch the ball, how you play, etc. and what an advantage that is over the normal freshmen.
Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve known him for three years and our chemistry has just grown and grown. This was actually my first tournament with them.
I remember that you said that.
Yeah, it was my first tournament.
You guys won it and then won five big tournaments in a row.
Yeah, we did. Even this year, it’s gotten nothing, but better. I can cut to the basket and without even looking he knows where I’m going.
In this game, you had a backdoor cut where
Exactly, we had that play off of the inbounds play where he and I just knew what was going to happen. It’s just something that we have with each other.
Can you give a scouting report on Tyler Thornton?
He’s a floor general. He’s one of the hardest competitors that you will ever come across . If you are on offense, you have to account for him because he will guard your best player and he will lock him up. He gets into it and defense is his specialty.
Can you give the audience a current scouting report on yourself? How are teams trying to defend you now? What do they say are your strengths and weaknesses?
Sure, well, I don’t know if you saw, but my first couple of shots were jump shots.
They played off of you initially.
Yeah, exactly, they did and so then I shot some open jumpers and then they came out and tried to guard my jump shots. That’s how teams usually are right now. They usually play off of me, at first, and then, once they see I can shoot, they
Yeah, they step up with their defenders and then I just try to go right by them because they usually run at me hard.
How about winning the state title? That’s got to be one of the best feelings or crowning achievements of your life.
Yeah, it was probably one of the best feelings in the world we were real senior heavy.
Now, wasn’t that the first state title in school history?
Yeah, exactly, it was the first title in school history and it was big because we had a lot of seniors on the team and that’s who I came in with. Just to see those guys finish their, you know, high school careers out with a state title was big. It was really important to me.
It’s probably one of the highlights of your life so far.
It definitely may be number one. If not, it’s definitely in the top five of my basketball career.
Well, hopefully, you’ll have a lot more to choose from in the future.
Yeah, I hope so too. That was a great feeling and a great game. Just a great game.
How have you done this AAU season? You know I wanted to be sure to touch on this subject because you guys won big at fifteen level and then you won a lot again at the sixteen level. Have you found the transition to the seventeen-and-under to be much more difficult than you anticipated? Have you found the last step on this particular ladder to be the most challenging?
Yeah, definitely. We had a lot of struggles early. Now, we’ve won our last two and we just want to keep on going. I, myself, struggled a little bit in the springtime. Not only myself, but Tyler and Eric as well. We struggled and fell in the rankings.
Was it an injury or something physical?
No, it wasn’t anything physical. I can’t figure out what happened, but for a period of time we struggled wither mentally or with our chemistry or something. We didn’t seem to have the same chemistry that we had the first two years, but we’ve gotten it back and we’re starting to beat team like we did when we were in our fifteens and sixteens. People are starting to realize that and we’ve just got to keep it up.
By the way, Tyler had said you were a mix between KG and Tim Duncan, that you had a nice little hook, but you could step out, face up, and take your man off of the dribble or shoot the jumper. Also, that you were becoming great on defense, with blocking shots and defensive rebounding.
Really, hmmm. That’s interesting.
Of all the kids you’ve faced, who have you found to be the most difficult to guard?
Jared Sullinger. I’ve got to go with Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger? He’s a beast inside.
Yeah, Sullinger. If you look at him and you look at me, he outweighs me by a whole lot. It’s probably about fifty pounds. He’s very tough to stay in front of.
That’s another thing. Are you trying to get bigger and what’s your progress like in that department?
I’m trying to. Yeah, I’m definitely trying to. I’ve been lifting and I start to go up to Montrose in August and Coach Stein had me up there lifting. Me and my dad have been hitting the weight room hard.
How much do you weigh now and how big do you want to get?
I weigh about 215 now and I’d like to weigh around 220 by the time school starts. I just want to add solid muscle and so I‘ve been working on that and I‘ll continue to.
How are the facilities like up there?
Oh, they’re nice. They’re very nice.
Who’s been your role model? Your dad?
My dad is definitely the one. He’s been the one to tell that no matter what to keep working hard. Whether we’re down or up by thirty, just keep working hard and never give up.
I was reading another interview you had done with a local Virginia paper and it was talking about how he was having to deal with some idiots in the crowd. (laughs)
(laughs) Oh, yeah, we were.
It was somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Yeah, believe me. It was literally out in the middle of nowhere We were beating a team by thirty and there was this guy who was just ragging on me for the whole entire game. I was killing them too. I think I had like twenty-seven or twenty-eight points so far and this was at, like, the start of the fourth quarter. The dude is ragging me and ragging me and I finally got fed up with him and I said something to him. Then, my dad said, you know, calm down, relax, and don’t even get into it. There’s people in this world that are like that. We wound up winning by thirty, but, yeah, he was just obsessed with me. He was obsessed for some reason. There’s people like that, but that was probably the worst experience that I’ve had. Usually, if people are going to say anything, they’ll say something at the beginning and realize that it’s not working on me, but this guy was out there.
Do you think he was crazy?
I don’t know what the dude’s problem was, but usually people aren’t like that to me for very long.
Don’t ever let them get to you. That’s it for me today. I see the team is leaving. Thank you very much, Josh.
Oh, no problem. Thanks for talking with me.
Sure, I’ll be watching you throughout the tournament. Good luck to you and the Assault.
Oh, thanks a lot. I appreciate that. [/private]