Tag Archives: NJ Roadrunners

One on one with Kyrie Irving – “It’s an honor to have Coach K watching me”

Kyrie Irving - copyright BDN Photo
Kyrie Irving - copyright BDN Photo

One of the bigger stars in Orlando during the Showcase and AAU Nationals was Duke prospect Kyrie Irving.  People are still talking about his play on the New Jersey Celtics and Roadrunners teams where he dropped thirty points almost every time out.  In leading his team with upset wins over the two best AAU teams all summer long, Irving ended the AAU season in style.  BDN caught up with Kyrie for a one on one interview where he was obviously happy to see Coach K and the Duke staff at all of his games.  Kyrie talks of friendships with other prospects, Coach K, the recruiting process and Jason Williams and his Jersey roots in yet another in depth interview from BDN Premium –

This is Mark Watson of Sports Nation Network standing here with Kyrie Irving who just had yet another 30 point game in this tournament.  Your scoring average has to be around 31 ppg, but you’ve also been a giant killer in that your New Jersey Celtics team beat All Ohio Red and Team Final in back to back games.  That’s quite an accomplishment!  They of course, have been the two best teams on the AAU circuit all season long.  Talk about your personal and team success in Orlando.

(Kyrie smiled as I was asking the question and his face showed pride from his teams play) This tournament has been great.  We had two impressive wins over All Ohio Team Red and Team Final.  Those were great victories especially winning them with my teammates from high school.  Our chemistry on that team is far beyond any others and playing in the AAU circuit with them on the Celtics is fun and playing with the Roadrunners makes it even more enjoyable.  In these tournaments I just try to go out, get my team involved and help my team to victory. [private]

I guess on the outside looking in a lot of people would see all these points you score and would think maybe Kyrie Irving Irving just throws the ball up a lot, but that’s not the case, you’re a team players that plays within the chemistry of the system.

Uh hum (acknowledged my statement)

ki dunkOne of the things that I have noticed and find admirable is that when your teammates make a mistake you overlook that take it in stride getting back on defense and or just keep going.

You have to keep going and look to the next play.  That’s me working on my leadership skills for next season.  People tend to get a little frustrated, especially with all of these college coaches watching and they’ll make mistakes and get down on themselves. So, I just try to take the leadership role and encourage them.

Everybody is coming out to see you play, several of the venues have been packed during your games.  Be it fans, coaches or guys going to other schools they all seem to be turning out.  Let’s talk about that.  I’m looking down in the end zone right now and there is the entire Indiana staff watching and hanging around after your game.   What is it like to have all the coaches out in force?

It’s great, I enjoy seeing them.  Seeing all these great colleges is a blessing with them here watching and I enjoy them more playing with my friends and teammates on the AAU circuit.

Some have said in the past that Indiana was the leader.  There was talk on message boards that IU was named a leader.  Can I just clarify that?  Is there a leader and is it Indiana or were they just in there early on?

They were in there early.  To name Indiana my favorite was kind of premature.  All the schools are still balanced  and I am still going through the process at full force right now.  I don’t have a favorite right now so I am just taking it day by day.

Rivers, Irving and Dawkins share a moment between games
Rivers, Irving and Dawkins share a moment between games

You have had Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) the Olympic coach  following your every move this weekend catching your every move (KI smiling in acknowledgement).   What was it like to play in front of a guy like him?

Aw, it was great I enjoyed it!  I put on a show and it was just great to have him here.  He’s coached so many great guys like LeBron and Kobe and seeing him here … he’s like a celebrity there watching me so it was great.  Just to know that he took time out and came in from Vegas to see me … it’s an honor.  I mean, he didn’t have to come in here with everything he had going on, but he did.

Is it a plus on his side that he has been able to coach and interact with such talented players?

Yeah (nodding).

Do you find that an attractive situation?

Yeah.  He has a lot of connections … one of the great point guards, I think if he didn’t get in that motor cycle accident he would have been a ten time all star to this day in Jason Williams.  That really attracts me because he is from Jersey and that just really attracts me.

Yeah, he talked with all the teams and was really straight forward with some personal issues in his talks to all the teams.  So, you can relate to that being a Jersey guy …

Yeah.

… did he have good things to say about Duke or did he even go there?

No, he didn’t go there.

Kyrie, when will you get down to business in the recruiting process?

Nothing is set in stone right now.  I am just going through the camps right now.  I have the Elite 24 and the Nike Global games and after that just a break.

Well, you deserve that break.  It’s been a pleasure to have followed you balling on the AAU circuit this season.  In the past, I hadn’t really been able to see the Roadrunners a lot but this year I have.

Thanks.

Let me ask you this, have you set up any unofficial visits with other schools or are you working on that?

No not really, I am just playing these games and resting up.  We play so many games a lot.

You have mentioned your Dad in past conversations and obviously he’ll play a big role in your decision.  Have you talked to him about some of the schools?  Is he here this weekend?

Now, he’s not here.  Usually he doesn’t travel to these kinds of tournaments, he likes me to figure it out so he gives me some space to let me figure out the process.  I will call him every night and let him know how I played, but most of the time it is about my weaknesses and what I didn’t do or can do better in a game.  He’s is not just my biggest fan but a critic as well and yeah, I call him every night.

So, you get to call him and say hey Dad, I went off in front of Coach K today and all of the other coaches?

(laughed and smiled) Yeah, yeah I do.  He enjoys it with me so ..

Is that where you learned most of your basketball skills growing up, Kyrie?

Yes.  My father went to BU (Boston) and they retired his number there and went overseas to Australia and played there.  Actually, that’s where I was born.  So basketball runs in my family, my mom plays basketball …

Would you like to play for Team USA one day?  Have you ever thought about that or is it something you would like to do.

As of right now, a decision that I have made is that I am not going to play with the USA team.  I am going to play with Australia.

That’ll be a lot of fun.

Yeah.

Are other teams trying to squeeze in now or make a run at you?

(paused to think) Uh, I’m not sure, they probably call my father but I won;t know until I call him.

So, what will you say tonight?  Just another thirty point game Dad?

I’m going to tell him my shot wasn’t really falling in the first half because they were in a zone.  But once they went man I started getting my points.  Other than that we don’t really speak about the recruiting unless we are face to face.

You have a tough game tomorrow with Boo Williams – Dawkins going to Duke, Marshall to UNC, McKie to Wake Forest.  What are your thoughts going into that game?

I love it.  I want to play the best.  We played them before the (NJ Celtics) and beat them in a great game.  Me and Michael Gilchrist had a great game against them.  I didn’t even know we were playing them, but now that I do, I am looking forward to it.

Now, with Michael Gilchrist you guys are tight in that you hang in the circuit and play together in high school, right?

Yeah, we keep in touch.  We are relatively close in just a friend like relationship.

I have seen you talking to a lot of guys around here.  Is that just from growing up with them in the circuit?  I saw you with Austin Rivers and Andre Dawkins the other day.  Is that a common thing, do you just go around talking to the guys?

When I started going to the top camps that is when I started getting to know them.  Going to those camps again, this is the first season I have gone to the top camps – I met the top players.

Kyrie, you have had a fantastic week of play.  Thanks for your time and good luck.

Thanks a lot. [/private]

Blue Devil Nation Premium – One on One with Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving - BDN Photo c/r
Kyrie Irving - BDN Photo c/r

BDN’s Andrew Slater has his second in depth interview up from his coverage at the Rumble in the Bronx.  This time he gets the latest from a major Duke recruiting target Kyrie Irving.  To read this entire interview and to be set for coverage from the NBAPA Top 100 Camp starting tomorrow, join Blue Devil Nation Premium.  Also, take advantage of our trial offer for first time members and see for yourself what the talk is about.

In a game characterized by its physicality, which culminated in the New Jersey Roadrunner star getting upended and crashing on his head, Kyrie Irving kept his cool in defeat against Team Florida. While the nearly 6’2” rising senior guard from West Orange, NJ had come off one of his toughest shooting games in a while, notably connecting on two of nine after the fall, the Duke recruit was still gracious, albeit woozy, enough to go through with the Blue Devil Nation interview less than twenty minutes after the crash.

Blue Devil Nation – Can you give an update on your recruitment? Are there any major changes in your recruitment in the last month?


Kyrie Irving - Well, I visited UConn.

As I recall from the last time we spoke, you were going to make visits to Texas A&M, Indiana, and Notre Dame.

Texas A&M?

Yeah, the last time you said you were going to Texas A&M.

Oh, okay. Yeah, I never made it down there. But, yeah, I only made it to UConn and Indiana. They were great. The schools had tremendous facilities and the planning staff was good also.

What sort of things did you do on the visits?

Well, just the coaches took me around, you know. They showed me the basics.

Sure, sure. Do you have any visits planned?

Yeah, Texas A&M and Notre Dame over the next few weeks.

I was looking at your Twitter account the other day. You’ve got a lot of positive affirmations up there. Let’s start with “Back to the lab.”

(laughs)

I like the imagery. Talk about the mindset that you bring when you go to the gym and work on your game. Expound upon that a little bit.

Well, what got me to the point or, rather, got me to the player that I am today is just working hard. You know, staying hungry.

“Humble and hungry?”

(laughing) Yeah, humble and hungry. Just every time I go out there just proving myself.[private]

With the “back to the lab,” you’re working on things. It’s a mindset, right?

Yeah, exactly, just trying to get better each time.

Your handle has gotten tighter over the past few months. Do you think that’s just a natural progression or do you credit the additional work?

Yeah, well, it’s natural, but it’s also going hard every drill in every practice.

Do you work out at various gyms? Alone or with others?

I workout at one gym. It’s actually a Jewish YMCA with Sandy.

Now, does he help you out alone. Or does your father help too.

My father and he do…my father and him. It’s mainly Sandy in the summers, but I work out with my father in the winters. Talk about your work ethic and how you feel it differentiates you from other talented players that are your age.

There are some guys with talent, but no work ethic. Then, there are guys with a great work ethic, but not much talent . When you find guys that share those rare guys that combine those two positive traits, you get a Kobe Bryant, a Tiger Woods of the world, or a LeBron James. There are so many guys that have a lot of talent, but they get lazy or satisfied when they first receive some accolades and don’t maintain that drive. How do you guard against getting self-satisfied?

When you go against guys that are just as talented as you, you know, has your skill set, what’s going to determine the difference is your motor…your endurance…and just…when the crunch comes at the end of games, what are you going to do? I put myself in those kind of situations all the time. I practice those situations.

End of game situations?

Yeah, you know, just try to maintain and be consistent from game to game. Don’t lose your focus.

The one player you’ve mentioned has been Kobe Bryant. There’s one move that you do off of a high screen that looks like an imitation of Kobe Bryant. What have you learned off of watching Kobe because it looks like you’ve gotten a couple of moves?

Yeah, you know, just stay consistent and…


That killer attitude?

Yeah, “seek and destroy.”


How do you feel you’ve played in the AAU season so far?

I think I’ve played well, but this one wasn’t one of the better ones.

Yeah, this was about as much as I’ve seen you, well, it wasn’t your best game. They were doubling you when you got the ball and then they also decided to get very physical with you.

Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know lately. Just lately… I took a break. I just took a break from school. Wait, not from school. I finished school. I took a break for about a week and so I’m still rusty…a little bit.

Yeah, well, this was an unusual game for you.

Yeah, Yeah, don’t worry, this isn’t going to happen consistently…at all

Another one of your themes has been “making it to the League.” Are you looking to get there as fast as possible? Or do you want to be in a good position, possibly a lottery pick, by the time you‘re looking to leave?

Nah, nah, I’m not looking to go one and done. Yeah, I want to be in a good spot, like a lottery pick.

Different players have different philosophies. Some guys are looking to get out as fast as possible.

No, I’m not one of those. Whenever I’m ready, I’m ready.

How do you feel about the NBA’s one year law? What do you feel the rule should be? What would be your answer or solution, if they made you NBA Commissioner for a day?Kyrie Irving:

I feel as though, if you’re ready, you’re ready. You should be able to hold your own fate in your hands.

So Commissioner Irving would say …

I would just move it back to eighteen. You know, if you’re ready, you’re ready.

Do you wish the college coaches could get more of a look at your work the past few months or are you glad that they’re now limited to mostly July?

I wish they could be out here, but I don’t think that it would’ve made much of a difference. Yeah, I wish they could come out, though.

What are you going to try to show at two of the more visible events before the coaches get a chance to observe you, in the NBA camp and at the LeBron James camp?

Just show them I am a complete player. Shooting, passing, playing point guard…just being a complete guard

Now, you’re going to be going against some of the best players in the country.

Oh, I’m ready for it. I’m excited about it.

You’re asked to carry a heavy burden on this team. Do you try to pace yourself consciously or give max effort and take your rest on the bench and after the game?

That’s interesting. I try to go all out, but I also try to take my breaks here and there.

With the amount of playing time you’re getting and being the absolute focal point of the offense, you simply can’t go all out both ways.

Yeah, I try to pace myself as the game goes on. You know, pick your spots. I’m sorry, you know, as soon as I took that fall, I didn’t know what was going on. That fall…it really…

Absolutely, it looked like you cut open the back of your head.

That fall really took me back. It was a real wake-up call.

But generally, you try to pace yourself?

Yeah, I have to… here.

Do you feel good about St. Patrick’s chances of winning back-to back at the Tournament of Champions? You lose Dexter Strickland and Paris Bennett, but the program returns you and Mike Gilchrist. Also, who are some top teams that people should watch you against next year? Patterson Catholic?

Yeah, we definitely should win again. I’ve been hearing good things about some of my teammates and how they‘re playing already over the summer. In terms of the teams in Jersey that should be tough, yeah, Patterson Catholic and Trenton Catholic too.

Lastly, you’ve gone from being a one-man gang where you could score at will at MKA to playing on an elite team where you play more of a role on the team that‘s winning big? Do you think that gives you an advantage in terms of having a better understanding of the plus and minuses of both sides for when you decide upon a college, as opposed to some kids who will only see one side of the fence?

Oh, um, well I’m looking for a college that’s going to surround me with other good players… so that we can go far in the Tournament.

Since you’ve seen both sides of the coin..

Yeah, I mean I love having the ball in my hands, but I can also play off the ball.

I was just curious.

Oh, no, I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

Thank you very much.

No problem.

In the two games following the interview, Kyrie Irving came back with strong showings, netting 28 and 32 points, respectively. [/private]

Scouting Report – Kyrie Irving impresses all weekend long

The New Jersey Roadrunners coach, Sandy Pyonin has coached some terrific players over the years and Duke

Kyrie Irving - copyright BDN Photo
Kyrie Irving - copyright BDN Photo

prospect Kyrie Irving is the latest.  Pyonin, one of the best AAU coaches in America, worked with former Duke players Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams.

Irving is a 6-2 guard prospect who plays his high school basketball for traditional power St. Patrick’s in New Jersey.  The young star has been climbing every recruiting guru’s list for the past several months.  Irving clearly established himself as a top tier player with his body of work during the Tournament of Champions this past weekend.

Irving put on a show in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, where he scored 40 points, going 12 of 17 from the field while hitting 4 of 4 from the three point stripe.  He was coming off a 23 point, 7 assist performance the night before at the Dean Dome.

Most of the recruiting types missed his Cameron performance that I was fortunate enough to catch.  By the time I traveled back to Chapel Hill during this marathon AAU event, the buzz was apparent.  Everybody was talking about Irving and many bemoaning the fact they missed his best game.

Irving has become one of the Blue Devils’ most important recruiting targets, but they will have some company for his services along the way. One fan held up a sign encouraging Irving to come to Duke, while another yelled “Kyrie Irving come to Duke.”

BDN talked to Irving a couple of times this weekend, but it was the chat in Cameron where he opened up about the

Kyrie Irving on Coach K Court in Cameron - copyright BDNP
Kyrie Irving on Coach K Court in Cameron - copyright BDNP

recruiting process  even more.  During that interview, I couldn’t help but notice the retired jerseys of #11 Bobby Hurley and #22 Jason Williams in the backdrop, wondering if his would one day hang there, too.

BDN Premium members will hear or read both interviews and comments from his coach this week.  BDNP has several interviews, pictures, scouting reports and tidbits from the weekend coming.

Scouting Report on Kyrie Irving – Irving has that rare inside and out game already established going into his senior season.  He has a sweet stroke from the three point stripe and hits the shot with consistency.  He rarely takes bad shots and almost always has his feet planted.  When the ball leaves his fingers he expects it to go in and one cannot help but notice how smooth he looks when releasing the ball.  It almost looks effortless for Iriving at times.  He has been called a tweener guard but, make no mistake, he can run the point with ease.  He gives that role up a lot on a team with little inside depth, but he threads the needle when going past the defense or into the lane.  His quickness allows him to get to the basket most any time he wants to.  He knows he is the man, so he baits the defense into double teams which frees up his teammates where he hits them on cuts.  He is an adept passer, especially when on a break.  He plays good on ball defense and stripped the ball four times in one game, scoring on the other end three of those times.  There were games where he got off balance from a bump or a slip on the slick floor, but he still made the play, recovering quickly.  Irving is not afraid to hit the floor and rises and flushes down dunks with ease.  Irving loves to find seams in the defense where he will take the ball to the rack.  Irvng is also an extension of the coach on the floor where he tells teammates how to space properly.  There are times when he looks unassuming, but he is always in the play and doesn’t take a lot of breaks from being in the play at both ends of the court.

Part II on Kyrie Irving – His AAU coach Sandy Pyonin and Clark Francis discuss his game

This photo is courtesy and property of the NJ Star
This photo is courtesy and property of the NJ Star

Here is the second part of BDN’s coverage of the Pitt Jam Fest and Duke prospect Kyrie Irving by Andrew Slater.  Sandy Pyonin is the energetic head of the New Jersey Roadrunners, has taught and coached at the high school level, and trained thirty-one former and current NBA players. Some of his former players include Randy Foye and Al Harrington, as well as two former Duke players that have had their jerseys retired, Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. One of Coach Pyonin’s current players is Kyrie Irving, the 6’2” St. Patrick’s guard and Duke recruit. He spoke with Blue Devil Nation about his star pupil and how Kyrie Irving compares to some of his former greats.

Clark Francis began publishing Hoop Scoop magazine in 1983. He has watched his scouting service grow and morph into one of the largest and most well-known in the country. Francis also chimed in with his thoughts on Duke recruit Kyrie Irving.

Blue Devil Nation:
Can you talk briefly about Kyrie Irving as player and as a person?

Sandy Pyonin: First of all, he’s a great person. He comes from a great family. His family is super nice…a very bright family. His father went to BU…Boston University. He played basketball there. His father taught him most everything that he has learned. He’s played for me for the last two summers. I’ve had thirty-one NBA players. Kyrie has a great work ethic. It would be on par with an Al Harrington, who I trained. He couldn’t make lay-ups as a sophomore, but went from high school directly to the NBA. Kyrie loves to play basketball. He works at the game continuously to get better at different facets of the game. He’s going to Saint Patrick’s and so he’s getting ongoing training from Kevin Boyle. He’s still growing and so he’s 6’2” now and he could very well wind up at 6’4” or 6’5.” [private]

BDN:
His father is 6’4”

SP: Yes, his father is 6’4” and Kyrie is only sixteen. Oh, wait, he just turned seventeen

Blue Devil Nation: Can you compare him to some of the great players you’ve ever had?

Sandy Pyonin: I mean I’ve had 31 NBA players. I had Randy Foye. He’s probably the best guard I ever had. I’ve had Bobby Hurley. I had David Rivers if you want to go back. I had Brevin Knight. Just trying to think of other point guards. I had Shaheen Holloway.

BDN: Now at Iona

SP: I don’t want to leave anyone else out. Each of those players brought something to different to the table. He still has to improve on leadership and improve on defense. Well, improve on every aspect of his game, but.. the sky is the limit for him. The sky is his limit. He could be as good as any of them…at least as good.

Blue Devil Nation:
Do you view him as a point guard or a combo guard?


Sandy Pyonin:
I think he’ll be a great point guard, but because he can shoot the ball so well he can play combo…so he can do both. I want him to play point guard for us and work on his leadership ability because I think that’s where his future is for us…at point…specially if he has the intention of going into the NBA someday.

Blue Devil Nation: From when he last played for you, how has he improved and changed in the current school year?

Sandy Pyonin: At first, I think he was really just trying to find his way. He was at a new school and with a new situation and he came on strong at the end of the season, but, to be honest with you, he was at that level last summer towards the end and he will pick up from there now and probably be three times better now that he’s been through that. He’s back with us and you see he has more of a role with us. He takes much more of a leadership role with us. There he had those guys that were in place. Now he will have that role for them next year at St. Pat’s, but he has that role for us right now.

Blue Devil Nation:
As a professional trainer, what are some things that you’d like Kyrie to work on physically over the coming months?

Sandy Pyonin: Obviously, he’s got great agility, as you will see tonight, when he plays. I think his jumping will improve and he can really jump. He’s dunking more consistently than he did last summer. That’s for sure. As far as other improvements, yeah, he’s got to get stronger. He’s got to consistently hit the weight room. We’ve already discussed that, when I spoke with his father the other day.

BDN: Where would he work on his strength specifically?

SP: Locally. I mean we have great people around that can work with him on that aspect.

Blue Devil Nation: I wasn’t sure if you’d work with him on that aspect.

Sandy Pyonin: No, I don’t really work with him on that. My thing…I mean I lift myself, but I don’t. I’m aware of the importance of lifting and strength, but I pretty much restrict myself to the other aspects. I try to lift the kids to a higher level in terms of skill wise as a basketball player and talent, but I try to work with them on the mental aspect game as well. Get them to concentrate on the mental aspect of the game. I’m really big on that, where other…well, most other coaches don’t emphasize that enough.

Blue Devil Nation: You mentioned before that you really wanted him to work on his leadership ability.
Sandy Pyonin: Yes, all through this summer. You know just guys like Randy Foye will spend some time with him…and Al Harrington will be around the program. Although Al isn’t a guard, he has guard skills. He also has great knowledge.

BDN: He’s also the sponsor of the team.
SP: Yes, Al helps sponsor the team for the most part and he‘s around the team, which is great. Now that he’s with the Knicks, he’ll be around our program even more. He may even sit in on the bench. Al’s just been great.

Blue Devil Nation: Can you talk about Kyrie Irving, including his potential as well, as his strengths and weaknesses?

Clark Francis: Kyrie Irving has unbelievable potential. I don’t think he’s a pure point guard at this point. He scores so well and he can be a top five player in this class. I don’t know that he’s a top ten or fifteen or even twenty player at this point. I think he’s really more of a two than a one right now because he has such a scorer’s mentality and again, when I saw him, it may not be fair to judge him. When I saw him, he had only just come back for a couple of weeks. When he was playing for St. Pat’s in early February…when he was playing on the thirteenth and fourteenth of February in those two tournaments…so, you know, that’s why we’re here.

You know… to see what happens. I hear he plays better playing with Sandy, but, you know, we’ll see. I mean talent wise, athleticism-wise, etc. his potential is off the hook. I mean if he grows another inch or two then that’s scary too. I mean he could very well wind up being 6’4” to 6’5” and maybe not be a pure point guard, but a scoring point guard, where he could make a lot of money in the NBA. I mean he could step right in and run my team. I mean let’s say if I have four super players at somebody like Kentucky and I can get him,  he’d be great at point guard. If I’ve got a couple of weaknesses or height problems and I need him to do a few things in order to make the people around him better, than he may not be the answer, but we’ll see.

He’s got to be careful to pick the right spot. To be the best player that he can be…to highlight what he does…to get drafted as high as possible… his college decision on who he plays for…I mean being in a wide-open system where he has other great players around him, that’s going to be most important for him. If he goes to some place where they play half-court and just throw the ball down and not utilize what he does best, well, they’re going to have problems. I mean he still will be one of the better players the country in college basketball, but will he be as…um

Blue Devil Nation:
Able to maximize his potential?

Clark Francis: Yes, and that’s a good question. I mean you watch a guy play one, two, maybe three or four games and you can make a mistake. If you see a guy thirty or forty times, as I hope to see him over the next year or so, well than I’ll probably have a lot better feel for him. Right now, I’ve only seen him maybe a couple of times at the Bob Gibbons tournament and a couple of times in January and February. Optimally, it’ll be a lot more than that, but well see

Blue Devil Nation:
How do you feel about his defense, as an on-the-ball defender?

Clark Francis: Okay, not great, but could be a great defender if he wants to be. I mean, with his athleticism and good core attitude, he can be great at as well.

Talk about this article on the Blue Devil Nation Premium message board.  There you will find much more information on John Wall and the latest recruiting happenings which cannot be found on the main board.  Having trouble getting on the message board?  Contact Mark at watzonebdp@gmail.com[/private]

Blue Devil Nation Premium – In depth interview with Duke prospect Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving, Perlman, Star Ledger
Kyrie Irving, Perlman, Star Ledger

During the past year, Kyrie Irving has become one of the most coveted recruits in the country through his play at Saint Patrick’s of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Irving cut down his list of  suitors from over thirty-five programs to a more workable ten, including the Duke Blue Devils. Over the weekend, the 6’2” guard played in his first major AAU tournament since winning the state title and did nothing but enhance his stock through his deft shooting, improved athleticism, and the opportunity to take the reins as a point guard in leading his New Jersey Roadrunners to a 3-1 mark, while averaging nearly 26 points per game. During the tournament, Blue Devil Nation caught up with Kyrie again to cover a variety of topics.

Blue Devil Nation: You made first team all-state and the Celtics won the state title. Was it about as smooth a transition as you could have hoped for?

Kyrie Irving: The transition to St. Patrick’s?

BDN: Yes

KI: It was a learning experience, you know, as a player and as a person. Looking up to Dexter (Strickland) and Paris (Bennett) everyday. Going out there in practice and just working very hard.

BDN: Well, you went 19-1 with you out there. It couldn’t have gone much better on the court.

KI: I definitely went through some ups and downs during this season, but it was a learning experience. I love it.

Blue Devil Nation: You cut your suitors down to ten programs. How did you come to the decision and what’s your current timeline? To read the rest of this in depth interview, join Blue Devil Nation Premium -[private]

Kyrie Irving: I just sat there and thought about the coaching staffs and how I felt about them and whether or not I could see myself playing there…and if I felt I wanted to visit there and stuff like that.

BDN: You felt you needed to cut it down to something more manageable.

KI: I definitely needed to cut it down.

BDN: So you thought thirty-five was a little too much..

KI: (laughing) Yeah, I just needed to think about the coaching staffs and handle it from there.

Blue Devil Nation: What aspects of your game can you work on during the AAU season that you cannot work on at St. Patrick’s? How does it differ? You seemed a lot more aggressive tonight than you have during the high school season, but they needed you to be tonight.

Kyrie Irving: Well, I mean the rumor is that I’m more of a combo guard, which people list me as, but my primary position is as  a one. I’m a point guard first.

BDN: I was trying to track it amongst other things, but you brought up the ball roughly seventy percent of the time you were on the court (this would increase significantly as the tournament went along).

KI: Yeah, exactly, I mean Sandy just lets me get ball and start the offense. He lets me work on my game…different aspects that  I want to keep working on…like refining my mid-range game.

Blue Devil Nation: Well, since you brought up shooting, how do you assess your shooting right now in all aspects? Long-range, pull-ups, floaters, driving the lane, and the one you just touched on, your mid-range game… You were hitting your threes consistently tonight.

Kyrie Irving: Well, I shot very well tonight. I’m also trying to work on finishing inside against the best near the basket. I think my range is pretty decent right now, but I mean just my in-between game right now.

BDN: You’re trying to work on it now amidst game situations.

KI: Yeah, the fact is I work on it all the time, but, in the game, it’s just different.

Blue Devil Nation: How did you decide on the Roadrunners and what’s your relationship like with Sandy Pyonin?

Kyrie Irving: Well, like before I started getting recruited and before people started to know me…I was with Sandy since my freshman summer…playing with guys like Corey and Keon Lawrence

BDN: I saw you with Justin Crosgile.

KI: Yeah, that’s like my right-hand man right there so I was just playing with him since the sixteen and under and then it just exploded basically.

BDN: Do you think it was just a matter of exposure combined with some improved play? Or do you feel you were always this good? You don’t have to be humble this time if you feel you were always around this level (laughs).

KI: (laughs) Yeah, I was around this level basically.

Blue Devil Nation: Which camps do you plan on attending this year?

Kyrie Irving: I’m going to the NBA camp.  Then, I’m going to the Deron Williams Camp and the LeBron James camp…and there are a couple of other ones, but I’m not sure just yet.

BDN: What about tournaments?
KI: We’re going to Bob Gibbons and to Vegas that I know of.

BDN: Has Coach Boyle talked to you about how he plans on utilizing you next season? Will you be playing more off the ball next year or on?
KI: I’m going to be doing both.  I’ll be a scoring point guard.

Blue Devil Nation: Despite the exposure that playing at a national power like St. Patrick’s, before you arrived, did you ever have any concerns over being overshadowed or overlooked by playing with other quality players, as opposed to staying at MKA, where you would continue to be the main guy and put up massive numbers?  Not necessarily intimidation, but apprehension perhaps?

Kyrie Irving: (pause) At first, I did. I did feel it at first. I looked up to Dexter Strickland before I got there. I was always like wow, but the transition went cool so I mean just playing against the best and

BDN: By the way, I didn’t mean to offend you in any way by the question.

KI: Nah, nah, it’s all right. I can honestly say I was like a fan of Dexter’s and I admired everything about him. Everybody was always taking about ‘Dexter this and Dexter that’ and all of the camps that he was going to that never considered me. After I got to know everybody, everything was fine.

BDN: What was the highlight of the season for you? The title game? Your coming out party against St. Benedict’s?
KI: Winning the state title definitely… That was the best, particularly as a junior

Blue Devil Nation: Winning the state title. Can you talk about that game?

Kyrie Irving: That game…that game I put on a show also. I had twenty-six points and fun out there. The seniors…it was their last game. To top it all off, it was my birthday.
You turned seventeen that day.
Yes.

BDN: In your view, what are some of the benefits of playing AAU basketball?

KI: Playing against the best and the travel. I love to travel.

Blue Devil Nation: Let me ask a few questions that the posters were wondering about. Are you leaning towards any school at this point, specifically Indiana?

Kyrie Irving: No, not at all.

BDN: Another poster was wondering what position you would play in college? Would a “scoring point” be a more apt description than a “combo guard” at this point?

KI: I would say that, yeah, definitely.

Blue Devil Nation: Can you talk about your relationship with Rod Strickland? People have written that he’s a “cousin,” a family friend, and even an “uncle.”

Kyrie Irving: He’s a close friend of my family.

BDN: Can you assess your play so far in the tournament.?

KI: It’s been good. Our team is playing well and we’re just getting our chemistry together.

Blue Devil Nation: I wrote down your ten schools. Can you just briefly go through each of your ten finalists? If you could just briefly go over why you chose the specific program, that’d be helpful.

Kyrie Irving: Oh, okay. Yeah, sure

BDN: Indiana?

KI: Coach Crean and Coach McLeod. I have a great relationship with both of them. Notre Dame is because I have a great relationship with Coach Brey and Coach Solomon, er, Thomas.

BDN: Solomon

KI: Solomon and Coach Brey wants me to visit out there.

BDN: Texas A&M?

KI: They were the first to offer me. It was in the summer of my ninth grade year.

Blue Devil Nation: Florida?

Kyrie Irving: I went down there for Nationals and it was just great and they came to every game. Seton Hall is because their a local school. You know close to home. And Duke. (pause) You know, I…I mean Duke to me is really big. I mean especially where I’m coming from, which was nowhere. They’re great.

BDN: How about Georgia Tech?

KI: Coach Hewitt… he’s been great. He relates…he relates to my dad a lot. They have a good relationship.

Blue Devil Nation: What about Pitt, the home school for this tournament?

Kyrie Irving: I’m really just getting to know them, but I mean Ashton (Gibbs) is one of my boys.

BDN: Do you view this as an unofficial visit to Pitt?

KI: No, no I can’t.

BDN: Maryland?
KI: Maryland was because Coach Williams and Coach Eisen (Ehsen) came to see me during my sophomore summer, but it was brief.

BDN: And Marquette?

KI: I’ve watched them since Tom Crean was there and Coach Williams then. Coach Williams, right?

BDN: Yeah

KI: He became the coach and than I just related from there.

Blue Devil Nation: You talked in the past about making trips to Memphis and Indiana, do you have any unofficial trips planned for the spring or some that you’re hoping to make but haven‘t yet scheduled?

Kyrie Irving: Oh, yeah. On the 28th and 29th, I’m going to Texas A&M on an unofficial and in the future I’m going to Indiana and Notre Dame.

BDN: Okay, and that’s it for the schedule at this time.

KI: That’s it.

BDN: Thank you.

KI: No problem. [/private]