Tag Archives: Noah Vonleh

The Last Honest Man In The Gym: Tom Konchalski

Tom Konchalski of the HSBI Report, Photo by Kevin Armstrong

Tom Konchalski has been evaluating high school basketball players for nearly forty years. In a business filled with fly-by-night operations, charlatans, non-athletes, and simpletons, he’s the exception. Mr. Konchalski is a disciplined, compassionate, learned man of faith who keeps his eyes open and his ears to the ground.

In an age of social media, where a seventeen year-old with a Twitter account can call himself a recruiting analyst, the 6’5″ Queens native still utilizes a typewriter for his HSBI Report and sends it via mail to more than two hundred college programs. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote of the veteran scout that he was the “only honest man in the gym.”  Unfortunately, it’s a fairly apt description of the AAU circuit on many summer nights.

Recently, I spoke with my mentor, consigliere, and friend about twelve players who have, at least, received interest from Duke  in the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Never prone to hyperbole, the McDonald’s All-American voter graciously gave his candid assessments.

 

 

 

6'4" Rasheed Sulaimon, Photo by Andrew Slater

Rasheed Sulaimon: “He’s a very good player. He’s athletic and has good size. He has skill. He plays a team game and lets the game normally come to him. He’s a guy who I think is going to be a good team player at Duke.[private] I think he’ll be a good system player at Duke and Duke’s system fits him quite well. He should become a very good player for them and I don’t think he’s going to be a player who will be a one or a two years and done for them. He’s going to be around for three or four years. You need those kind of players because those are the types of players that Duke has had most success with. Defensively, he has the body, the strength, and the quickness to be a very good defensive player.”

 

 

 

6'8" Amile Jefferson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Amile Jefferson: “He’s a young colt who’s waiting for his body to blossom, but he has a really good feel for the game. Right now, he’s probably more of a 4/3 and, obviously, he’s going to have get stronger, but, in the ACC, it’s not as if he’s going to the Big Ten or the Big East, which is even more of a physical conference. In terms of style of play, if he were to go to Duke, that would be a good pick, but he’s still got to get stronger in order to be able to play both sides of the court. He’s a guy who has some perimeter skills..not an explosive athlete, but, when he starts to working to improve himself physically, his legs will get stronger. He will get quicker and he’ll get more lift off the ground. He’s a guy who has a good feel for the lane and the baseline. He’s almost like an old-time player around the lane. He knows how to finish without going above the rim or jumping over people. He knows how to use his body to get between the defender and the ball. He knows how to shield the ball and reverse it. He has a really good feel for the game and he’s a really good kid. He’s also a good student.”

 

6'6" Shabazz Muhammad, Photo by Andrew Slater

Shabazz Muhammad: “Shabazz Muhammad is a guy who may be the best senior in the country right now. I don’t think he has the potential to be a superstar. I think there are other people who may have a  higher ceiling, such as guys like Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Randle. Right now, he just plays so hard. He’s high energy, but he has some holes in his game. For example, he never beats you going right. When Mater Dei, for example, beat them in the fifth place game at the City of Palms, Stanley Johnson did a really good job of defending him because he overplayed him to his left. He ended up with thirty anyhow, but most of those came in the second half after they were already down twenty. He’s an extraterrestrial athlete and he has great work habits on the floor. He gives you great second effort. He’s left-handed, which is an advantage. He can hit some threes off of the catch. He’s got to work at getting the ball on the floor and being able to change direction. He’s got to build up his right hand, but he’s a terrific athlete. He’s a guy that when he goes to college, I don’t know if he’s going to be ready to go to the NBA after one year because he does have these areas of his game that he needs to develop. He’s a guy that you’d love to coach. He’s a classic coaches’ player because he plays so hard, especially for a guy like Coach Krzyzewski that sees in him the kind of effort that he was used to as a player and a coach for Army and in his earlier, lesser talented teams at Duke, where they just showed so much toughness and great effort. I think that was the attraction there.”

 

6'8" Tony Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

Tony Parker: “Tony Parker is a good player. He’s a really good kid. He has good hands. He has good skills. The key thing for him is conditioning. He’s lost some weight and he’s got to lose some more weight. He’s actually in better shape now than he was over the summer, but he’s got to lose even more weight and improve his conditioning. I don’t think he’ll ever be a star, but I think he’ll be a very good, solid player and kid who’s a good student and I think he probably sees himself as staying around a while and not leaving. He’s a four or a five, depending on where he ends up. He can step out and hit a mid-range shot, but he’s never going to be a perimeter scorer. God didn’t give him that body to shoot jump-shots and play on the perimeter. That body has got to be used inside. What he’s got to do is sculpt that body, change his body somewhat, and ultimately use it as a weapon.”

 

6'8" Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

Jabari Parker: “Now, he’s a guy, who, since the end of his sophomore season, really did change his body type. He shed a lot of that baby fat. He’s gotten quicker. He got a lot more lift off of the ground and he’s also improved his perimeter skills. He’s become a pretty good three-point shooter. The one thing that I haven’t seen with him… and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him this summer.. is that I’m not sure if he has the disposition to dominate a game, although, maybe… when he was younger, he was looking to simply defer to his upperclassmen. He’s got to become a little bit more assertive. In big games, he’s got to learn to take over games, which I think is a learning process for him. That said, if you want to talk about guy that has athleticism, a good feel for the game, plays the game the right way, and has a really good skill set for his size, he certainly is one of the best players in the country, regardless of class. When I saw him at the Peach Jam, for example, he showed certain things, but I think a lot of it has to do with his personality. He wants to defer to the older players somewhat. He doesn’t want to try to take over completely. He hasn’t become a prolific scorer in the Chicago Public League just yet, but there are a lot of weapons on his Simeon team so I don’t think you’re going to see him average twenty-five or thirty points. He does, however, need to come up big for them in their biggest games. With his size, athleticism, and skill set, he’s got to be even more of a factor for them. Right now, I don’t know that he quite realizes how good he is and can be. Everybody says that he’s a very humble, grounded kid, but he may not realize just how good he is.”

 

6'9" Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

Julius Randle: “I’ll tell you what… he was spectacular down at the City of Palms. Against Riverside (Riverside Academy of Louisiana), I thought he was bothered by the size and I thought he tried to initiate too much of his offense, after he was bothered by the size of Riverside in the first half. In the second half, I think he played too much on the perimeter to try to counter them. Now, here is a guy that has a Wayman Tisdale body, he’s left-handed, and he can shoot the ball. He’s actually strong with his dribble. He can take the dribble through traffic. He has a tremendously high ceiling. He could be a great, great player. I really like him.”

 

 

 

 

6'8" BeeJay Anya, Photo by Andrew Slater

BeeJay Anya: “BeeJay Anya, as Coach Jones mentioned, is in so much better shape. He said that when he got cut from the USA basketball team that it really was a wakeup call to him. He took it to heart and became dedicated to improving himself physically. He trimmed down, lost weight, improved his conditioning, and just got in better overall shape. Right now, he’s so much more active. He runs the floor more consistently. He can stay in the game for longer stretches. He has more range rebounding-wise. Before, his rebounding range was his arm length, which is considerable  (astonishing 7’9″ wingspan), but now he can really go out of his area and grab some rebounds for his team. His offense has gotten better too, but I think he’s just so strong. As you know, he’s retained his strength and he knows how to use his body and you saw the difference. He’s a man-child. He improves and he keeps on working. The thing that you notice about the DeMatha kids, you know, Morgan Wooten isn’t the coach there, but one of his disciples is and they’ve retained the same work ethic. Also, it’s the same character that you’re finding with their kids. They have good kids. They have talented players, but, if they’re not good kids, they’re going to get them out of there.

 

6'5" Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Theo Pinson: “Long, 6’5″ to 6’6,” he played with CP3. He’s very thin, but a skilled player. He’s a young guy, who was 6’5″ to 6’6,” who can handle the ball and shoot the ball with range. He looks like a fine prospect, but I want to see more of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6'11" Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

Jahlil Okafor: “He’s a big, strong post player inside. Because Thomas Hamilton tore his meniscus, there was more responsibility put on him. He’s a terrific kid, very friendly, very smart. That’s a good school. That’s probably the best public high school in the Chicago system academically. He’s a big, strong kid inside who doesn’t try to be something he’s not. He doesn’t try to be a perimeter wannabe. He recognizes and utilizes his strengths. That’s a valuable thing. He’s not a 6’10″ kid who wants to go outside, loft up threes, and show that he can dribble the ball or change direction with the ball. He knows what he is. He’s a power player inside. Ben Franklin said that there are three things hard in life: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self. I guess he’s read Ben Franklin.”

 

6'5" Wayne Selden, Photo by Andrew Slater

Wayne Selden: “First of all, when you look at him, he has a man’s body. He’s a sophomore, but he should be a junior. So, he’s a reclassified kid. When he goes to college, there’s not going to be any physical adjustment that he’s going to have to make when he gets there, which is an advantage. Even when you look at the guys who go from college basketball to the pros, the guys who give you the most instant impact are those that have already prepared their bodies for the next level. The two kids who went straight from high school to the pros who had the most instant impact and who wound up earning Rookie of the Year in their respective years, 2003 and 2004, were Stoudamire and LeBron James. They entered the league with NBA bodies. Well, he’s got a college body, right now. He’s a strong, tough physical kid, who’s also very nice kid. His skill level has really improved. When I first saw him, which was the summer before his freshman year, he was more like a 6’4″ power forward, but he has been able to develop his game and learned how to handle the ball, while keeping that physical mentality. They let him bring the ball up the court and sometimes play a little point guard, but he doesn’t see the court like a point guard and he’s certainly not a point guard. He can, however, handle the ball, get to the basket, and shoot threes. In terms of his shot selection, he can sometimes put up poor shots, but, overall, that’s improved as well. He’s a guy who has great physical ability and he’s a guy who has elevated his skill level. The next thing is for him to further understand the game, but he’ll probably end up as a big two guard or a big combination guard. Once again, he’s a very nice kid. He’s also a terrific prospect.”

 

6'6" Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Stanley Johnson: ” He’s a good basketball player, but a terrific teammate. He plays in a program where there’s a lot of players and there’s a system. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a star, but he knows how to play the game and he plays both ends of the floor. He’s their designated defender and he can defend multiple positions. He’s the guy who defend Shabazz Muhammad very well in the City of Palms and he defended Isaiah Austin, I believe, for several stretches in their prior game against Grace Prep. He’s a strong, physical kid, who’s about 6’6,” who’s not a great athlete, but he knows how to use his strength and his shot discipline is very impressive. He takes shots that he knows he can hit. He’ll take an occasional three. He’s not going to create off of the dribble or anything like that, but he’s also not going to try to. He generally lets the game come to him. He’s a very good team player and system player. They play a lot of people. They’re like the Noah’s Ark of basketball programs. They’ve got two of everything, (laughs) but he stays on the floor most of the time because he offers them a lot on both ends. He can handle the ball, defend the opposition’s best player, and just really seems like a good teammate and a terrific kid.”

 

6'8" Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater

Noah Vonleh: “He’s a big, 6’8″ kid with good skill. He can guard pretty well and he’s also a versatile defender. He gets down in his stance pretty well. I think he wants to be a perimeter player. I think he needs to use his strength and size a little more than he tens to do right now. He seems very coachable. He’s very athletic and has a good body. He has good skill for his size. Right now, he’s not a small forward and I think he’s got to realize that. His game has probably got to start a little more inside. He’s got to get a little more developed. He’s a guy that eventually with his size and, if he can develop his skill set, might become a three, but he’s got to develop his game. He’s another kid who should be a junior, but he’d, at least, be a young junior. He’ll graduate at eighteen, whereas, before he would’ve graduated at seventeen. He’s certainly one of the best players in that class.”

 

Overall thoughts on the 2013 class: “Well, before, there were those three big three and there were the Harrison twins who are very close behind. Those twins will be very good. You like Andrew (Harrison) more, which is appropriate and fits in with today’s Gospel (laughs). I think those three have more upside than anyone that was in this class. The seniors in this class…I’m just, well, I think that Shabazz and Kyle Anderson were probably the two best seniors in this class. They’re very good players. Kyle, from the neck on up, is the best high school player in his class, but, from the neck on down, he just is not. Those three, however, can be really stars at the college level and they can be stars at the pro level. They have so much physical ability and they have skill.”

 

On whether Jabari Parker and Julius Randle could play together: “Jabari can play with him. Randle is a four/five, with, for example, more perimeter skill than Nerlens. They could be interchangeable. The thing that I don’t know is that, with the transcendent talents that they are, I don’t know if any of them would want to share the spotlight, with the way kids think right now. That said, if two of them went to the same college and stayed for more than one year, that’s a national championship team. If they stay together for one year, that still may be a national championship caliber team. Who knows?”

 

Best long-term potential of Parker, Randle, and Noel: “I couldn’t say. I’ve seen Julius and Nerlens play four times this high school season and I just haven’t seen Jabari play as often, but let’s just say that they all have Brobdingnagian potential. The sky is the limit for each of them. They can be as good as they want to be. They can each be truly impact players not only at the next level, but on the level beyond that.”[/private]

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]

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]