Tag Archives: New England

A Blue Devil Nation Update With New Hampton’s Noah Vonleh

New Hampton's Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

Noah Vonleh, who has developed a reputation as a tireless worker, enrolled as a student at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire last month as a 2014 student. Vonlehwas looking to challenge himself in arguably the toughest high school league in the country, the NEPSAC, and in the smaller classrooms, while enjoying the accessibility of his new coaches, teachers, and facilities. As a result of his success during the AAU season with the Mass Rivals, he caught the eyes of college coaches and evaluators. This fall, they’ve traveled en masse to observe the Haverhill, Massachusetts native in “open gyms” alongside his New Hampton teammates. Vonleh added that this was a marked change from the open gyms held last year at his local public high school.

Noah noted the hard work that he and Coach Pete Hutchins put in to refine the mechanics of his perimeter shot. They’ve tried to improve his accuracy by working to shoot straight up off of his right hand, as opposed to gaining leverage by crossing the body on the long-distance jumper. With three years to fine-tune it, it’s a worthwhile “work in progress” that will enable him to gain more consistency and a quicker shot release, enabling the 6’8″ sophomore forward to enjoy the versatility of being able to play the small forward position on the next level or be a potent face-up four. He also has embraced the classroom attention and increased workload that the smaller teacher-to-student ratio provides at New Hampton.

This past weekend, Vonleh spent the Columbus Day weekend in New London, CT on the campus of Connecticut College. He was teamed with his high school teammate and close friend Zach Auguste, a Notre Dame commitment, on the Mass Rivals, as they competed in the BasketBull Columbus Day Challenge.

Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

On the opening night, Vonleh was hit with an unusually high amount of foul calls ( three in less than five minutes of playing time) against the smaller frontline of the Raritan Roundballers and Coach Vin Pastore was forced to sit his sophomore star more than he would have liked. Noah came out more focused in the second half. He scored all eight of his points from close range, rebounded the ball with ferocity (11 rebounds), and tied up the shorter, opposing three. In the nightcap (literally beginning at 10 PM), Vonleh used his combination of soft hands, tenacity, and 7’2″+ wingspan to dominate the glass and cause hesitation in low-post shooters. He finished with six blocked shots, four steals, and fourteen rebounds.

Between the games, Noah mentioned that he has been working consistently with Coach Hutchins on improving his ball-handling. Three times during the final game, Vonleh was able to grab a defensive rebound, navigate traffic and ultimately go coast-to-coast for a finger roll, twice getting fouled as he made the transition basket.

The following is a quick update from Noah Vonleh, New Hampton forward and Duke recruit:

How has the transition to New Hampton gone for you so far?

The transition’s been pretty good. It’s way different from high school. The classes are harder. You’ve got less kids in the classes. The teachers are very close to the students.
You live with some of them.
Yeah, exactly, dorm parents.

Right, what are the facilities like? Maybe touch on that.
Yeah, the gym is open. The area for lifting is open and the coaches are always there to help you.
[private]

That’s great for you, I remember that you said you worked out like crazy and now you have access all of the time.
Yeah, it’s great. We get to work out and work on lifting all of the time.

Has you body changed at all or not really?
Not yet, but it will be by the time I’m done.
I guarantee it will be.
Yeah, we’re lifting all the time.

How has your training changed? Have you done things differently in terms of things you want to work on?
In terms of training, I’ve been doing different ball-handling drills.
Yeah, I saw you working on that before this game.
Yeah.
Is that so you can play more on the perimeter?
Yeah.

Can you talk about the open gym experience? I’m sure plenty of coaches came to see you. What was that like?
It was great. We had Roy Williams, we had all types of coaches, we had Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, other schools. A lot of different schools.

Was that a major difference in terms of the open gym this year versus last year or, rather, last year to this year?
Yeah, last year, we didn’t really have any.
So, that’s great for you.
Yeah, it was a great experience.

What were some of the schools that came?
Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Syracuse, and Georgetown.

How has role and position changed from last year to this year ?
It was different last year because I was the tallest guy and they were focused on trying to stop me and so you had to fight for position. That’s why I did most of the ball-handling, too. I’d be at the top of the key and teams would be able to set up their defense and they could focus on me, but now they can’t do that.
With Zach (Auguste)
Yeah, there are so many guys that they can’t key on me or any one of us.
Oh, that’s gotta be great and it’ll be a good experience for in college.

What’s it like living with Zach?
Oh, it’s been cool. He’s been showing me around. We go everywhere together.
Have you guys been driving each other in practice?
Yeah, we’ve been pushing each other.

Have you taken any visits since August? Do you have any plans?

No, I haven’t, but I think I’m going to go out to Arizona in a few weeks with Coach Hutchins.

Oh, okay. Are you going to any midnight madness? I know some people go to those.

I think I’m going to go to UConn for theirs.

What would you say you’ve tried to work on most since the summer?
My jumper. I’ve been trying to work on that.

Well, I saw you, before the game, working on your three-point shot. Are you trying to work on your three-pointer or are you trying to concentrate on your mid-range and beyond?
Yeah, my three-point shot and my pull-up.

How’s it going? Are you seeing an improvement?
I am trying. I’ve been working with Coach Hutchins trying to change my shot. (motioning) He’s trying to work with me on taking my shot from this side (pointing to the left) and instead on going straight up.

Is it sort of a work in progress?
Yeah, it’s coming.

That’s good to hear and I’m sure it will. When does your season begin for fans that want to catch you play?
We start practicing on November 1st and then our first tournament will probably be around Thanksgiving.

Right, I thought I was going to catch you next month at one of the tournaments that they’re having in New Haven.

Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely.

What does your coach expect out of you in terms of production and your role on the team?

AAU or high school?
Both, actually, is probably best.

In AAU, to be a better leader on the team, be our primary rebounder.
You did a pretty good job at rebounding in very limited time in this game.

Yeah, it was frustrating with all of the early foul calls. It was kind of frustrating.
Yeah, tell me about it.
(laughs)

Okay, and now, what about the prep school level?
In prep school, I’m just trying to get into the system or the things that Coach Hutchins asks. Coach wants me to be able to knock down shots.
I didn’t know if they expected more scoring out of you on one team or the other.
Yeah, now I’ve got to step up and try to do it on both teams.

Thanks, Noah, and good luck to you.
Thanks a lot and good to see you again.
[/private]

Chris McCullough: New York’s Future On A Connecticut Court

Forward Chris McCullough, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

If deployed properly, basketball can be used as a passport to take one beyond the station that one is born into. It can open up doors to a young person unlike few things in life. Adults will fly you around the country, give you meals in restaurants, help you with your school work, and offer you advice, among other things. At a lot of camps and clinics, a speaker will say the aphorism, “Use basketball. Don’t let basketball use you.”

Chris McCullough is a nearly 6’9″ driven young man from the Bronx, who played for Team Scan 15 U this AAU season. He’s currently using basketball to attend Salisbury School, a $47,000 boarding school in Southwestern Connecticut that seeks to educate three hundred well-rounded young men. Salisbury, which is located in a bucolic town of the same name that is roughly a little over two hours away from the Bronx, offers state-of-the-art facilities and a very competitive basketball league, NEPSAC. Chris has used this opportunity to develop his game (erupted onto the national scene after an ever improving freshman season), his mind (currently taking Latin as a foreign language), and his body (hitting the expansive weight room and playing WR/FS on the school’s 2-0 football team). This upcoming season, they will return a good portion of the talent from last year’s squad [McCullough, 6'1" Ryan Frazier (Bucknell) and 6'6" Samuel Dingba] and add in several solid players, including Myles Jones, a three-sport athlete and an All-American lacrosse player from New York who’s completing a postgraduate year at Salisbury before heading to Duke, Glenn Baral from Northern California, and a 2013 transfer from Proctor, Michael Geanellis.

McCullough came to Salisbury through his play with the Boys Club of New York, when he was a standout in their tryouts. Since then, Chris has blossomed into a 6’8″ hybrid forward with a wingspan of over seven feet. Last season, as a freshman, he earned third-team Class A All-NEPSAC and helped lead Salisbury to the Class A Final, where, on a team with multiple Division I players, he stepped up with a team-high fourteen points against Choate.

This summer, while playing for Team SCAN 15U, McCullough was a force on both ends, using his athleticism and fluidity to attack lumbering bigs, while leveraging his length, size, and improving perimeter shot against smaller wings. His length helped cause havoc in the passing lanes and in blocking shots near the basket. Chris helped SCAN win the Hall of Fame Invitational in Massachusetts and finish as the runner up in both the Providence Jam Fest and the Fab 48 in the desert of Las Vegas.

SCAN, which began in the late 1970s, operates as an outreach program for families in the South Bronx and East Harlem, providing a wide variety of services including after-school help, camps, educational and vocational training, and counseling to nearly four hundred families in order to achieve long-term success and development. Chris’ AAU coach, Coach “Munch” Williams, was part of the SCAN program, eventually attended Wesleyan University, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, and now helps run the Mullaly Academy in the Bronx.

Although he’s got several more years to decide on a college, McCullough has visited several schools including St. John’s, Seton Hall, Arizona, UConn, and Syracuse. The sophomore already holds offers from most of the Big East, Florida, Arizona, Iowa State, and Temple, amongst others.

Chris McCullough Freshman Year Salisbury Highlights

Hoop Group Elite Video

The ambitious young man, Chris McCullough, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation.

Can you touch on your decision to go to Salisbury? What have you gotten out of the experience so far? Also, what are the facilities and competition like?
Salisbury’s been great as far as providing academics and basketball. We’ve got some new players coming in and we should be a really good team. We should be able to win a Championship this year and next year. That needs to be our goal.

How will your role change from last year to this year?
I think it’ll be bigger because I’ve tried to work on my skills a lot since last season ended. I’ve been just trying to grind.

[private]
What do you think that your strengths and weaknesses are right now?
My weakness is my outside shot… a little bit.

And what do you feel is the strength of your game right now?
Oh, I don’t really have one.

Obviously, your versatility is a factor. What position do you think that you’ll end up playing long-term?
I think I’ll play the three.

Will distance be a factor for you, whenever you do decide?
Oh, no. Not at all.

What are some things that you’re ideally looking for in a program?
In college?
Yeah, I’m sorry. I know it’s so far away.
No, no, that’s alright. It’s a gotta be a good school with a feeling that we’re gonna be a part of something bigger and I’d like a chance to start.
So playing time will be a factor?
Oh, yes.

Can you talk about the rise of New England basketball and some of the competition that you face on a regular basis?
Oh, yeah, I play against good schools and players. The point guard at Hotchkiss is heading to Marquette
Derrick Wilson.
Yeah.

What are your goals for this high school season, collectively and individually?
Just one goal. Win a championship.

In terms of AAU ball this year, how would you assess your play?
I feel I’ve grown a lot and faced a lot of great players.
You feel that you’ve had a good run though?
Oh, yeah, yeah.

How do you feel when you play in front of college coaches? What do you feel inside?
Excited. I feel excited.

What schools are after you and what offers do your have?
My offers are Syracuse, Saint John’s, Providence, Rutgers, Iowa State, Temple, and a few others. Those are the ones that I definitely know of.

Now, in asking around, there was a belief that St. John’s is your “dream school.” Is that accurate?
Oh, no, not at all. I’m wide open.

Is there a player that you try to model your game after?
Just Kevin Durant.

Who will you seek guidance from whenever you do decide on a college?
I’m not sure.

Who’s the toughest player that you’ve gone against so far?
Wayne Selden. The little guard…he’s tough.

You do both, but do you feel more comfortable with your back to the basket or facing up?
Definitely facing up.

What’s your favorite part of the court to catch the ball?
The free throw line.

Academically, I assume you’re totally fine. Is that correct?
Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s been no problem.

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?
That I’m a good kid.

Are any ACC schools recruiting you at this time?
Virginia. Virginia’s the only one so far.

Just out of curiosity, what do you know about the Duke program or university?
Not much, I just know they’re a great program and I like to watch them play when they’re on TV.

Alright, Chris and Coach, thank you very much for your time and good luck in the future.
Definitely, thanks. Any time.[/private]

Noah Vonleh: A New England Warrior

Noah Vonleh BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

After a one-point loss in triple overtime of an end-of-the-summer AAU event, 6’7″ Noah Vonleh, an amiable gym rat from Haverhill, Massachusetts comes over and tries to collect his thoughts. The son of a nurse who escaped war-ravaged Western Africa in the mid-90s is preparing for his own move in the coming weeks. The fifteen year-old decided to leave the comfort of his local public high school, Haverhill, where he dominated the competition, averaging eighteen points, seventeen rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks.

From his home in the formerly thriving industrial city, Haverhill, on the outskirts of Boston, he’s heading an hour north to a New England prep school, New Hampton, the chief rival of Brewster Academy (where Duke recruit Mitch McGary attends) that has produced ex-NBA players Lawrence Moten, Darius Songalia, and Rashad McCants as well as former Duke Blue Devil, J.D. Simpson. The versatile forward has also decided to reclassify to the 2014 class, in order to acclimate himself to his new school and the NEPSAC AAA league, the most challenging high school league in the country. New Hampton, located in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is coming off of a very good year, where they made a run to the NEPSAC Finals.

Vonleh, who enjoys a 7’4″ reach, anticipates that he will have to deal with bigger, stronger, and older players than in his prior Merrimack Valley league. The hard-working forward is eager to utilize the valuable facilities that New Hampton enjoys and the easy access that he’ll have to them. One person who will help in his adjustment is his Massachusetts Rivals AAU teammate and fellow high-major recruit, 6’9″ Zach Auguste, who played for the New Hampton Huskies last season. This AAU season, the duo has helped Coach Vincent Pastore, Vonleh’s longtime AAU coach and mentor to former McDonald’s All-American Scott Hazelton, enjoy a few successful runs over the past few months, including recently at the Super 64 in Las Vegas and the Best of Summer Showcase in Southern California. Vonleh, who was one of only seven 2014 prospects to attend the LeBron James Skills Academy, has generated interest from both of the “Tobacco Road” schools and offers from several big-time programs, including Kansas, Syracuse, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Florida.

Always respectful, but understandably exhausted, Noah gave Blue Devil Nation a quick update on his future and a recap of his summer.

I’m sorry to have to talk to you after a terrible loss like this, but what went into your decision to transfer to New Hampton and reclassify to the 2014 class? Why did you choose to do it and what are you hoping to get out of it?
Yeah, I’m going to New Hampton and I’m going to be in the class of 2014. The reason why I left is that the prep school competition is a lot better than the high school competition that I’ve faced so far. I really think it’ll help make me a lot better. I’m really looking forward to it.

[private]
Staying with that theme, tell the audience both a little bit more about both the level of competition that you’ll see in the New England prep school leagues and the recent rise of New England overall on a national stage. Both have gotten a lot better in recent years.
Yeah, there’s a real rush of great players coming out right now. Andre Drummond, Ricky Ledo, Nerlens and a lot of players have helped to show what we’re capable of this summer. I’m not really sure why, but it’s great to see.

Not that it’s extremely uncommon anymore, but what went into your decision to reclassify?
Yeah, well, I’m still only fifteen years old so I felt that it wouldn’t be a big deal and hopefully would help me when I went to my new school and got used to their facilities and competition. I think it’ll help me get bigger and better in my time in high school. I’m going to be playing against a lot stronger players and competition, you know. I mean some of these guys’ll be a lot older.

As you mentioned, you’re still so young, but what is it like playing in front of the college coaches? Does it get you excited or motivated?
Yeah, it kind of gets me nervous and motivated. I want to play my best and perform in front of the college coaches. 

Absolutely, what are your offers and what schools are expressing interest in you?
Providence, Syracuse, BC, Georgia Tech, Kansas… Duke has shown interest and actually so has UNC. That’s all I can think of right now. 

What about a position? What do you view yourself as?
A small forward or a combo forward, I guess. Probably a small forward. 

What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?
I think scoring the ball and my versatility because I’m able to score inside and post up against smaller players or I can take bigger guys off of the dribble from the outside or just shoot over them. 

Speaking of that, do you prefer to play with your back to the basket or face-up? In this game, you played a lot more with your back to the basket, but a lot of other games you stay outside or move around.
Oh, yeah, definitely face-up.

Have you taken any visits and do you have any planned?
I haven’t taken any visits really. I think I’m going to wait. I don’t have any plans. 

What are you looking for, ideally, whenever you do decide?
A school that will make me better, a school that will push me, both on the court and academically, and that will help me in school. I also like to be comfortable with the players and coaches. Just a place that I’d like to be.

Will distance be a factor?
No, it won’t be. 

What are your goals for this high school season?
To help my team become successful and for me to get better.

How do you feel you did in your original sophomore year at Haverhill this year?
Yeah, Haverhill. I thought I did well, but the competition wasn’t really great. I think I played well overall, but we didn’t win as many games as we probably should or could’ve, which was a little frustrating. 

How do you feel you’ve played so far this AAU season?
I thought I’ve been playing really good this year. We’ve done well as a team, which is important and we’ve got some good talent here too. We’ve been able to beat and compete against a lot of good teams, which is also important. I think I’ve done really well. I feel like I’m competing against my rivals. 

Whenever you do decide, who will you turn to for guidance?
My AAU coach, Vincent Pastore, and my mom. 

Speaking of your mom, how does your family feel about you going away to school this year? Are they excited for you? Or are they sorry to see you leave?
They’re very excited for me. They can’t wait for me to go. They think it’s a great opportunity. 

Who do you try to model your game after?
Kevin Durant. We’re around the same size and I guess I just love to watch him play.

How do you feel you shoot the ball? What do you think is your range?
Well, I think I can shoot it all the way to the three point line. I just didn’t shoot it well today. I’m not sure what happened. 

No, no, don’t worry about that. I’ve seen you shoot the ball well before. Who’s the toughest player you’ve ever gone against?
I guess the toughest player I’ve gone against is Nerlens Noel. He blocks everything. 
Yeah, it’s like he’s got a broomstick out there or something.

From what we touched on before, what are you looking forward to gaining from facing the competition you’re going to see next year?
I’m looking for guys to keep pushing me and competing with me and helping me to get better, both on my team and the teams we’ll be facing. I’m looking forward to working with my new coaches, too.

Other than Zach (Auguste), do you know any of your teammates or coaches pretty well at this point?
Yeah, Zach Auguste. Zach helped me and encouraged me to go there. It’s good to know somebody who’s actually there right now. Also, Mike Auger, who’s out here.

Did the coaches there talk to you about what your role will be or what their expectations will be of you?
No, not really. They’re going to tell me when I get there.

How far will it be from your hometown of Haverhill?
It’ll be about an hour, maybe a little bit more. Not too far.

Earlier you mentioned that the two Tobacco Road schools, Duke and North Carolina, had expressed interest in you.
Oh, yeah, they’ve both shown interest so far.

What do you know about the programs?
Two things…they get a lot of players to the NBA and they win National Championships.
(Laughs)

What would like the audience to know about you, on or off the court?
That I work very hard at basketball and take it very seriously. I try to put in a lot of hours…day or night.

Thanks very much.
Yeah, I really appreciate it.[/private]

BDN Photo Mitch McGary

Mitch McGary: Energy and Effort Personified

Mitch McGary, BDN Photo

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.

[private]
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.
(laughs)

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.
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