Monday, March 31, 2008

Who is the Best?

For those of you interested, feel free to comment on this article with your reasoning for selecting the player that you chose as the best in the class of 2008. Those of you who selected "other," I am especially interested to see who it is that you feel is the best in America. Thanks!

Update on . . . Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans of American Christian Academy (PA) has been one of the most highly touted and sought after players in the class of 2008 throughout his high school career. I chatted with the 6'6 senior guard last night. Evans is widely considered the nation's best uncommitted player, and his outstanding MVP performance at the McDonald's All-American Game, supported this idea. Evans informed me that he is considering "[Villanova], Texas, Memphis, and UConn." Evans would not identify a school to beat of the four, saying "no, I have no leader." I asked Evans if the Texas/Memphis NCAA Tournament Regional Final (Elite Eight) game had any added impact on his decision, but he told me it did not: "It's just a game. . . . Just because they win it doesn't mean they are moving up on my list." For those of you that do not know, the Tigers defeated the Longhorns. I inquired as to whether or not Tyreke has a relationship with any recruits headed to any of the four schools, and I mentioned a few players. He let me know that he "[knows Memphis-commit] Matt Simpkins. . . . [He] doesn't really talk to [any recruits]. [He] just talks to [his] friends and [his] family. . . [He has] to make the decision [himself]." For a player who has been bombarded with attention throughout his teenage years, Evans has seemingly handled all of the attention quite well, and he said that the pressure is "not too much. I think I handle it [perfectly and] . . . don't worry about any one the hype." He will certainly have to ignore the hype of the next few weeks as he prepares to select a college. He told me that he "[wants] it to have a . . . good coach. [The school should] not [be about] just basketball, but education-wise [should be strong too]. [He wants] to learn something new [in school]. [As well, he wants to] just go out there and have fun," also adding that he is watching the NCAA Tournament to see is any of his possible future schools "do anything new," during the Big Dance. Evans said "hopefully [the school he picks] will be the right place for me."
I brought up the McD's game to Evans, and he told me that it "was a great experience. . . . Wayne Ellington, Kevin Durant, LeBron [James], [and] Carmelo [Anthony have all played in the event]. . . . It was a dream come true, . . . especially [to win] . . . MVP." Evans, who had a double-double on the biggest stage in high school hoops, said he was "playing [his] game, . . . but [he] was also pumped up." His East squad came into the game considered the underdog, and I asked him if that perception affected him and his team: "Definitely. Everybody wanted the West to win. . . . We had a lot to prove, and we showed them that we have as much talent as they do." Tyreke's team completely shut down Greg Monroe, yet he informed me that they "didn't have a strategy on [anybody]. . . [The team] went out there and played hard."
I brought up the NBA age limit to Tyreke to get an opinion from someone who was actually affected by the rule, and his view was "it is what it is. I'm going to go to college [and] do what I got to do." Evans did tell me that "if [he] could have went [to the NBA] straight out of high school, [he] would have." Although he may have the skills to take his game right to the League, it's nice to see that Evans is accepting the rule, and not complaining, as some members of the class of 2007 did.
I asked Evans a few interesting questions, just to wrap things up. I started by inquiring whether AAU or high school ball is more fun. "AAU is more fun because you travel a lot. [It's a] fun time," responded Tyreke. By the way, he told me that he played his AAU hoops with "Team Final." Evans has played with a number of great players at American Christian, so I asked the star who he felt was the best of all, and he told me it was "Nasir [Robinson]." Although Robinson is currently at Chester (PA), he did spend some time at ACA with Evans. I asked Evans if he knew why Nasir left the school, and he simply said "no." Now to the important stuff: I wanted Evans' guess on the NCAA national championship. He first said "North Carolina," though after I mentioned something else, he said "North Carolina or Memphis." We'll just have to wait and see about who does come away with the title. We will also have to wait for Tyreke Evans' college decision, but the wait won't be too long, as Evans confirmed that he plans to choose a school on April 16. Get ready!

Update on . . . Chris Braswell

Yesterday I spoke with Georgetown-commit Chris Braswell of Hargrave Military Academy (VA). Braswell, a 6'8 senior power forward, has yet to officially sign with the Hoyas. Lately, he has been "talking to [his] mom and Georgetown," and is planning to "probably [sign on] . . . the 16th [of April]." Chris' reasoning for not signing his Letter of Intent earlier, was becasue he "wanted to keep [his] options open, [and although he] . . . wanted to sign when everyone else did, [he wanted to] . . . keep [his] options open." The big man told me that he has "a good friendship with Austin Freeman . . . and Henry Sims, . . . and Jason Clark." Freeman is already a member of the Georgetown team, while Sims and Clark are Georgetown commits. Chris "went to DeMatha [Catholic High School in Maryland for his] . . . junior and sophomore year." His opinion regarding the well-renowned basketball factory was that it "was [in] a competition league," while at "Hargrave, it was playing for colleges. . . . It was more competition." Braswell informed me that he has been selected to the "Capital Classic." As a Hoya, Braswell feels that he can help the squad by "rebounding [and] playing [his] role." I'd just like to add that Chris Braswell is an awfully nice young man, with a lot of class, and great manners. He is the epitome of what an athlete should be like. If you happen to get the chance to meet Chris, I'm sure you'll feel the same way.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Update on . . . Omar Smith

Omar Smith, a 6'1 senior guard for Piscataway High School (NJ), has seen colleges' interest in him pick up recently. I just spoke with Omar, and he informed me that he has been receiving interest from Felician, Monmouth, Fairfield, Rider, College of Staten Island, Ramapo University, Southeatern Louisiana, and Philadelphia University. Although none of the schools have extended a scholarship offer for basketball to Smith as of now, Philadelphia U has offered him a "[partial] academic scholarship." Smith's GPA is "3.0," which explains the impressive offer he has received from Philadelphia University, which is a Division II program. This is only school which Omar has gone on an official visit to thus far, and he "liked it." Smith told me that over the past month, he has been "getting a lot of interest" from Southeastern Lousiana, which is a DI team. The school found out about Omar because his "AAU coach told them . . . about [him]." The AAU program is "Surprise Athletics, out of Newark, New Jersey." Smith let me know that "next weekend [he will] . . . visit Southeastern Louisiana. . . . [The] is talking about doing some things with an offer." As of now, "Monmouth, Southeastern [Louisiana], and Philadelphia U," are at the top of Smith's list, and "they are all equal . . . now." Smith applied to Southeastern Louisiana, Philadelphia University, Rider, Felician, and Monmouth, though he has "not yet" heard back from anywhere other than Philadelphia U, which is the school that offered him an academic scholarship. Omar will "probably [make his decision] . . . on the 15th." I'll let you know where Smith ends up.

2008 McDonald's All-American Game

As many of you know, the most prestigious game in high school basketball took place earlier this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: the McDonald's All-American Game. The game selected the top 24 players in the country and brought them all together for THE high school all-star competition. This year's group featured three future North Carolina Tar Heels (Larry Drew II, Tyler Zeller, and Ed Davis) and two players who will don UCLA Bruins jerseys next year (Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee). In addition to those two Final Four school, last year's national runner-up, Ohio St. (William Buford and BJ Mullens), also has multiple McDonald's All-Americans headed its way for 2008-2009. Scotty Hopson and Tyreke Evans were the game's only uncommitted participants. Here was the game's roster:

EAST (Name, State of HS, Position, College)
*Al-farouq Aminu, GA, F, Wake Forest
William Buford, OH, G, Ohio St.
Ed Davis, VA, F, North Carolina
*Tyreke Evans, PA, G, Uncommitted
JaMychal Green, AL, F, Alabama
Sylven Landesberg, NY, G, Virginia
Michael Rosario, NJ, G, Rutgers
*Samardo Samuels, NJ, F, Louisville
Chris Singleton, GA, F, Florida St.
*Kemba Walker, NY, G, UConn
Elliot Williams, TN, G, Duke
*Tyler Zeller, IN, C, North Carolina

WEST (Name, State of HS, Position College)
Luke Babbitt, NV, F, Nevada
*Demar DeRozan, CA, F, USC
Larry Drew II, CA, G, North Carolina
Michael Dunigan, IL, C, Oregon
*Jrue Holiday, CA, G, UCLA
Scotty Hopson, KY, G, Uncommitted
*Brandon Jennings, VA, G, Arizona
Malcolm Lee, CA, G, UCLA
*Greg Monroe, LA, F, Georgetown
*BJ Mullens, OH, C, Ohio St.
Iman Shumpert, IL, G, Georgia Tech
Willie Warren, TX, G, Oklahoma

Although the West squad was the more loaded team, the East picked up the win, taking the game by a score of 107-100. A big part of the upset win was having a 54-39 advantage on the boards, including a 19-10 lead on the offensive glass. Tyreke Evans was on the floor more than anyone else, and led his team with 21 points, though Willie Warren was tops amongst both teams, notching 23 points. Evans was the only player to have over seven boards, as he grabbed 10. Brandon Jennings, the leading minute-getter for the West, was the lone player to tally over five assists, picking up nine dimes, with seven coming in the first half. One glaring weakness that many of the players shared was a rough time at the line, as the 15 players to go to the stripe combined to shoot an embarrassing 20/36, or 55.5%. As well, the teams struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 7/41, at 17.1%. As whole, though, the shooting was solid, as each squad was 50%+ from the field, combining for a 90/170 performance, at 52.9%. The game was somewhat sloppy, with the best players in the nation tallying 48 turnovers, to just 32 assists. I'll fill you in on some of my observations of the players:

-Al-farouq Aminu: Was all but non-existent, having a weak performance, though he did display a smooth stroke.
-William Buford: Not much to say here. Buford had a few points, but was quiet from start to finish for the most part.
-Ed Davis: He got to the stripe, but shot just 1/4 once there. Davis had some nice post moves.
-Tyreke Evans: Was the MVP of the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Evans displayed top-notch athleticism and an uncanny ability to get to the rack and finish. Quite simply, Evans' impressive scoring abilities are amazing. At some points he appeared to be playing effortlessly, because he's just that talented. Evans has a wonderful handle, though at times he tried to do too much. Tyreke wore his emotions on his sleeve, at one point getting overly frustrated after a pass to Michael Rosario that he was unable to handle. All in all, Tyreke "Too Easy" Evans was extremely impressive.
-JaMychal Green: He scored a dozen points, but did so quietly. Green is a quality athlete, with nice ups, and the ability to finish down low.
-Sylven Landesberg: Was one of the more disappointing players in the McD's game. His name was mentioned only a few times. Landesberg shot 1/5, finishing with two points, two rebounds, and four turnovers.
-Michael Rosario: The best player on the nation's best high school team exceeded all expectations, scoring 18 points on 8/13 shooting, along with five steals and three turnovers. Although Rosario did not have any assists or rebounds, he had a great game, showing off a quality jumper, nice hops, and solid D (in an all-star game!). Rosario's three-point stroke looked a bit odd, but his game around the hoop did not, as he finished almost every time.
-Samardo Samuels: Despite being relatively quiet, he did have some monster jams from the low post. Samuels was ferocious around the rim, with a great post presence, though he did lose the ball a few times going up to the rack. Samardo's handle wasn't wonderful and he did force a few shots, though the big man ended the game with eight points and five boards. He even was 2/2 at the stripe, one of just three players, along with Elliot Williams and Jrue Holiday, to shoot 100% from the line.
-Chris Singleton: The future Seminole had seven boards and turnovers, yet did not pick up a point in nearly 14 minutes of play.
-Kemba Walker: One of two players from New York, Walker was one of the most impressive players in the game. Kemba had 13 points, six boards, three assists, and three turnovers, shooting 6/9 from the floor. Walker was one of the quickest players on the court, repeatedly getting ahead to receive a pass on the break, and almost always finishing. Kemba has a nice stroke, shooting 1/2 from downtown. In addition, when running the point, Walker displayed great court vision.
-Elliot Williams: Duke's lone McDonald's All-American was not particularly impressive. Williams quietly scored 10 points on 4/8 shooting. He also grabbed two rebounds and an assist, along with two turnovers. Elliot can take contact around the rim, but did appear somewhat lazy.
-Tyler Zeller: He needs to bulk up ASAP. Zeller was active on D to start the game. On the offensive end, Tyler had poor hands and a not-so-nice jump shot. The 7-footer needs to stay around the hole at UNC.

-Luke Babbitt: He looked out of place in the game, quite frankly. Babbitt seemed awkward at times, and he finished with four points on 1/5 shooting, to go along with two rebounds, an assist, and a turnover. The Nevada-signee shot 2/3 at the free throw line.
-Demar DeRozan: He scored 10 points, yet had just one board. Demar failed to pick up an assist, but did have two turnovers. Overall, it was a so-so performance from DeRozan, who displayed athleticism, the ability to get to the rack, and a nice jumper. The future USC Trojan was 5/10 from the floor, but his talent for scoring was evident.
-Larry Drew II: He had a stellar game, not great, not terrible. He was 3/8 from the field, yet was only 1/5 from beyond the arc, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, five assists, and just one turnover. The stats show that Drew is more of a true point guard than a scorer.
-Michael Dunigan: He shot 3/3, all of which were deuces. Dunigan had just two boards, though, despite being 6'10. Michael finished around the hoop, did what he needed to get off clean shots on the low post, and was not flashy.
-Jrue Holiday: He had a solid performance, scoring 14 points on 6/9 shooting. Holiday was 2/2 at the line, but 0/2 from downtown. He had five rebounds, four of which were offensive, impressive for a player of his size, 6'4. Jrue added two assists, two turnovers, and five steals, which was tied for a game high with Rosario. Despite the normal lack of D at big-time events such as the McD's Game, Holiday displayed solid, aggressive defense. Meanwhile, on the offensive side, he was able to get to the hole, and frequently finished. He did seem a bit lazy in the second half, and it's possible he was tired due to playing 22+ minutes, the second most on his team. Overall, Jrue Holiday played a stellar game, but did not do anything in particular to separate himself from other participants.
-Scotty Hopson: He had his big-time athletic ability on display for all to see, showing off great hops and aggression. Hopson's 4/5 shooting gives proof that he is a great finisher. The uncommitted guard ended with 10 points, mainly due to an uncanny knack for being open around the rim, or by getting there himself. In addition, Scotty had two boards and a steal. He was one of three players to take four three throws (BJ Mullens and Ed Davis were the others), and he hit two of them.
-Brandon Jennings: His playmaking ability was evident, as he had nine assists and 10 points, as well as five rebounds. Jennings did have six turnovers, though, the most of all participants. Brandon's shooting was not particularly impressive: 4/11 from the field, 2/8 on threes, though he did step up big near the end of the game, knocking down both of his triples in the final minutes. Jennings' first half was all about passing the rock, while he used the second 20 minutes to score. He was called for two charges, a result of his aggressive, playmaking style of play. Jennings is quick and flashy, with good vision and leaping ability. Brandon was aggressive on D at times, and he was overly flashy on offense at certain points during the contest. Jennings did shot too many threes, and it did not appear to be one of the stronger aspects of his game. All in all, Brandon Jennings was one of the most impressive players in the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game.
-Malcolm Lee: He was quiet for the most part, scoring three points, turning the ball over twice, getting a steal, and two rebounds, both of which were offensive. Lee was 1/3 from the floor and 1/2 at the stripe. He was one of the quicker players in the game, and at times was aggressive on defense.
-Greg Monroe: Was possibly the most disappointing player in the game. After being named the John Wooden Award winner, Monroe had one point and six rebounds in 20+ minutes of play. He shot 0/1 from the floor and 1/2 at the line, and had five turnovers. Greg was physical, especially in the first half, but it didn't amount to much. His handle was not anything to write home about.
-BJ Mullens: His game wasn't special, and in fact was anything but that. BJ did have 12 points on 5/6 shooting, but had a measly three rebounds, despite being the game's tallest player, at 7'1. Mullens was on the floor for under 13 minutes, even though he was a starter. He had one turnover and one steal. Mullens struggled to finish down low, unless he received the ball in an alley-oop. He appeared lazy on the boards, had a bad stroke at the line (2/4), and didn't jump much. Overall, Mullens had a weak performance.
-Iman Shumpert: Did not do much of anything. He was 0/1, with his only shot being a three-pointer. Shumpert was one of just two players not to score, along with Chris Singleton. Iman grabbed five boards, which was tied for the second most on his squad, with Jennings and Holiday. As well, Shumpert had one assist.
-Willie Warren: He was possibly the most impressive player on his team, and maybe even in the game, but his performance was quiet. Warren did not do anything to draw attention to himself, well, other than score a game-high 23 points that is. Willie was 11/17 from the floor, which included shooting 1/5 beyond the arc. Warren missed his only free throw, grabbed two boards, along with two dimes, three steals, and two turnovers. Warren showed off his nice stroke, got to the rack, finished at the hole, and amazingly, did it all under the radar. Warren had a tremendous performance.

Overall, Michael Rosario, Tyreke Evans, Kemba Walker, Brandon Jennings, and Willie Warren were the standouts of the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game. Scotty Hopson, Jrue Holiday, Ed Davis, and JaMychal Green were also impressive. Although the class of 2008 does not have a clear-cut number one player, there are a number of players who have a great deal of talent and will be factors in their first year of college. The 2008 McDonald's All-American Game was just a preview of what is to come, so get ready for the next wave of NCAA and NBA superstars.

Note- used as a source for stats, heights, etc.

Note- photo on the bottom right is of Willie Warren, and is from

Note- photo on left in the middle is of Kemba Walker, and us from

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Update on . . . David Bruce

The Linden High School (NJ) Tigers' David Bruce is definitely a player to keep your eye on, and college coaches apparently agree. I spoke with the 6'9 junior forward on Monday, and we discussed the status of his recruitment. Bruce currently has offers from Rutgers, St. Joseph's, St. John's, Villanova, Pittsburgh, LaSalle, and Seton Hall. In addition, UConn, Houston, Rider, and Syracuse are all interested in Bruce, with UConn giving David the most attention of the four. The Cougars' pursuit of Linden's star junior should be interesting, as Desmond Wade, a 5'9 senior guard for the Tigers, will be taking his game to Houston next year. Bruce told me that right now "probably St. Joe's and Pittsburgh" are in the lead to land him. His interest in St. Joe's is due to the team's "very good coach [Phil Martelli]," and the fact that David has a "goal to [get to the] League," and he thinks Martelli could be helpful with that. Bruce is intrigued by the Panthers because they are a "very good program." The big man still isn't quite positive as to when he will be taking his official visits. I'll let you know how things are going with David Bruce as his road towards a college choice continues.

Jabarie Hinds- This Freshman is Clutch

Jabarie Hinds of Mt. Vernon (NY) is a 5'10 freshman point guard, but he sure doesn't play like your everyday freshman. Hinds hit the game-winning free throw with three seconds left in his squad's at the Prime Time Shootout against Roman Catholic (PA). Jabarie knocked down one of two, and his team slipped by with a one-point victory. I caught up with the superb freshman not too long after his late game heroics.

NB: So you’re only a freshman. You had the game on the line with three seconds left. How’d you focus on the free throws, . . . and not let the pressure get to you?
JH: Well I didn’t really have [any] pressure. . . . [Head] coach [Bob Cimmino] called a play for me and I just executed, and got to the free throw line.

NB: How about at the line? What did you do to not let the pressure get to you and knock the . . . shot [down]?
JH: I was just thinking about making a free throw because it was a tie game. I just wanted to make the free throws.

NB: When you hit the first, . . . what was your thought process [about the second shot]?
JH: I still wanted to make the second one, but as long as I made one, then we had to play defense.

NB: When the second one rimmed out, what did you guys draw up in the huddle to try to counteract their inbounds play?
JH: Guard number 10 [Maalik Wayns].

NB: Wayns had a great game against you guys. In the first quarter, he had . . . five threes. You guys really shut him down from the second quarter [on]. He really slowed down some more in the second half. What did you do to neutralize him?
JH: We wanted to make him get as few touches as we [could], keep the ball out of his hands, and just play defense.

NB: How helpful is it for you being on such as good team, having the upper-class talent that you guys have, with Sherrod [Wright] and Kevin [Jones]? How does it help you to develop?
JH: Well, they push me in practice, always working hard. They [are] always on my case, so I’m getting better as the season goes on.

NB: You’re only a freshman, but have you started thinking about colleges yet? Any schools [that] you’ve always wanted to go to? Any schools sending you mail?
JH: Yeah, it’s Seton Hall and Marquette, that’s it. They [are] the only ones that sent me [anything]. I’m not thinking about what school I want to go to yet.

NB: [Are you] just focusing on high school?
JH: Yeah.

NB: How are you liking it so far, [with it] just being [your] . . . freshman year?
JH: It’s good.

NB: Do you have any goals for this season and then [in the] bunch of years left . . . while you’re in high school?
JH: Just play hard, just play hard.

Hinds was without a doubt one of the premiere players in the class of 2011 at the event. This is evidenced by the fact that he was on the court with the game on the line, and that he took matters into his own hands by driving to the rack as the clock ran out. Jabarie did not crack under the pressure despite his youth. Hinds' game-winner at the stripe was an impressive feat, displaying that the freshman can come up big in the clutch. My hunch is that is won't be the last time you hear about a key play from Jabarie Hinds.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


First and foremost, I want to inform everyone that I have just one interview from the Prime Time Shootout that I have yet to post. I put up a large number of interviews over the past two days, so if you want to read them all, you'll have to click "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page, or just click directly on the interview on the side menu. I'd like to thank everyone once again for their patience.

Feel free to comment on articles. In fact, comments would be much appreciated. To let you know, if you have a request for an update on a player, just comment on that player's interview, and I'll try to get an update posted. As well, if there is a player that you would like me to interview or talk to, put that in a comment, and I'll see what I can do, but I can't make any promises!

Right now I'm working on follow-ups with players, primarily focusing on their recruitment, as you can tell from the three which I've already gotten up. There will certainly be a few more on the way.

Update on . . . Jayon James

Paterson Catholic (NJ) 6'6 sophomore swingman Jayon James was kind enough to take some time and talk to me yesterday. James informed me that he currently holds scholarship offers from "Seton Hall, Rutgers, Xavier, LaSalle, and Fordham." As of now, James ranks his interest in the schools in the following order: "Xavier, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Fordham, LaSalle." James' reasoning for having the Musketeers atop his list is that he likes "the Xavier system and their style of play," also mentioning that "they [are] getting a lot of spotlight. They [are] doing really [well]." When I asked Jayon about what schools he has grown up liking, rooting for, or wanting to go to, he said "probably Syracuse, Kansas, [and] UCLA," and then adding "Tennessee, I liked Tennessee. [I also like] Georgetown. They are the other schools that I like." James' squad at Paterson Catholic "was 22 and 5" this season, and his AAU team features many players from the school. His AAU team is "Playaz Red, [which has Jayon], Fuquan Edwin, Jermaine Peart, Shaquille Thomas, and Trevor Clemmings," all from Paterson Catholic. This Playaz Red team should be a group to watch over the summer, and Jayon James will certainly be a player to be watched.

Update on . . . Lamont Jones

Lamont "MoMo" Jones of American Christian Academy (PA) de-committed from Louisville soon after the Prime Time Shootout. I talked to Lamont, a 6'0 junior point guard, yesterday about where he currently stands in the recruiting process. Commenting on my question regarding scholarship offers, Jones told me that he has "none right now. [He] hasn't spoken to any schools." The reason why Lamont has not been talking to coaches lately is that he is being told "to worry about school and basketball . . . now." Lamont let me know that he "maybe [has a scholarship offer from] Arizona, [but he's] not really sure," which is likely because he has not been talking to coaches lately. On the topic of Arizona, "MoMo" informed me that they are right now the number one school on his list, with the current list of the schools he is interested in as follows: "Arizona, Texas, Memphis, [Florida State], Duke, [and] Kansas," and the is, in fact, his ranking of the schools on his list from most to least interested. All of these schools were "at one point in time" showing interest in Lamont. I asked Lamont is Louisville is entirely out of the running, and here is what his response was: "I wouldn't say that." Lamont, who told me he committed to Rick Pitino's squad when he was in "ninth grade," de-committed from the Cardinals because he "just wanted to enjoy the recruiting process." Jones did not have a chance to do this, due to his early pledge to Louisville. The recruitment of Lamont "MoMo" Jones should be an interesting one, and I'll keep you all posted on how it's going.

Update on . . . Tamir Jackson

I talked to St. Benedict's (NJ) 6'2 junior guard Tamir Jackson yesterday. Tamir and I primarily discussed his recruitment and how the college process is going for him. As of now, "Pop" has offers from UAB, Miami (FL), Rhode Island, Virginia Tech, Harvard, Penn, and South Carolina. In addition, Arizona is heavily recruiting Jackson, and both Virginia and Clemson are interested him. Right now, "UAB, Harvard, and Miami" are at the top of "Pop's" list. Tamir's reasoning for having these schools on top is that they are "showing [him] the most love." When I asked Tamir how the current scandal invloving Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker is "not affecting [him] at all," which is a good sign for the Crimson. UAB got the best sign of all, though, as Tamir told me that the Blazers are currently at the top of his list becasue he had the "most fun out there when he went to visit," of all the schools he has taken a look out. "Probably as of right now, UAB [is on top]. . . . They're number one, the same with [Harvard and Miami]," is what Jackson's response was to my question of who is in the lead for his services. DeMarcus Cousins, one of the nations top players in the class of 2009 recently pledged to UAB, so I asked "Pop" what impact that has on him: "It has a little affect. He's a great big man, and I play well with big men that are good. He called me the day he committed. He said he's waiting for me to commit." For those of you wondering why Tamir is favoring UAB over the "BCS Conference" schools, he let me know that he "doesn't really care about them big name schools," implying that the name on the front of a jersey won't be a deciding factor, though he still has interest in big-time conference schools, such as Miami. In his search for the correct school, Tamir is looking for "academics, coach/player relationship, [and if he] . . . going to be a priority." With two Ivy League schools on his list, you'd think that Tamir has some great grades, and certainly does, letting me know that he has a "3.6" GPA. Jackson told that he plans to take his official visits "probably in the summer or after AAU season." Tamir's squad at St. Benedict's finished the year at an astounding "24 and 1," so he is a proven winner, and is fine talent.

Jon Kohler- Jump-Shots? Lay-Ups? He'll Take Free Throws, Thank You

The Scotties of Bordentown High School (NJ) were the victors in the final game of the 2008 Prime Time Shootout. Led by Jon Kohler, the Scotties defeated the Abington Friends (PA) Kangaroos. Of the 12 members on the Bordentown squad this year, Kohler was one of the team's six years, who made up half the team. Jon is a 6'3 swingman, and he had an impressive game in the win over the Kangaroos. I caught up with Kohler after the last game of the 2008 event.

NB: You shot 20 of 25 at the line. . . . How were you able to maintain focus throughout the game and knock down all those free throws?
JK:I just think it’s easier than going and making a lay-up or a jump-shot, because you get calm down and relieve yourself before you head to the line. I just think [that] I just calmed myself every time, and . . it’s hard with the depth perception with this court. . . . The coach told us that before, to start inside and then come out. I just decided not to really shoot, just try to get to the hole, and I was getting fouled, but I wasn’t finishing, but I was getting to the line.

NB: [Your team] had full control of this game from start to finish. How were you able to play so well on this stage?
JK: With us right now with the team that we have, . . . one night we’ll come out full blast like we did tonight and another we’ll lose to one of the worst teams, and it just the days that we bring it, the days [that] we have the most energy and work as a team, that’s when we pull out the W all the time.

NB: What does it mean for you and the rest of the team to play at the Prime Time Shootout?
JK: Well, it’s been marked on our calendar to come here, the whole team was psyched about it all day long. I was all day yesterday and all day today up until we had to go back to the school to get on the bus to come here. It’s just a wonderful accomplishment to be able to come here, and to get MVP honors it’s even better.

NB: How big is it to get the win?
JK: That’s even bigger. Right now [on 2/10/08] we’re 14 and 7, heading into the tournament, and we have a big game against Paul Robeson next Saturday for the Scholastic Play-by-Play. Hopefully this [will] just carry on to the state tournament.

NB: What’s your outlook for the rest of the year, including that state tournament?
JK: State championship obviously, but if not, we have other goals, just to have a winning season, just to have fun, it’s our senior year, it’s what we all worked [towards] for four years, and we just got to make the best of it.

NB: You mentioned it being senior year. Have you gotten any interests from colleges?
JK: I got a full [scholarship] offer from Dominican [University], which is a DII school in New York, and [LIU] CW Post is supposed to offer pretty soon, I talked to my coach a little bit. Other than that, it’s just DIII: Rowan, Widener, and Stockton.

NB: What school is at the top of your list right now?
JK: I really don’t have one, I’m not really focusing [on that] right now. I’m just going to wait until the end of the season, and see what else comes my way.

Shooting 20 for 25 at the free throw line is an impressive feat at any level, but a high schooler doing it makes it that much more astounding. Kohler's free throw percentage of 80% against Abington Friends was his team's key to victory. Jon's display at the line was the prime reason why Bordentown was able to push its win percentage to .667 after getting the W. If Kohler's free throw shooting is indicative of his overall talent as a basketball player, he will certainly be a good fit on a college team, and he will definitely be some one that a coach can put in as time is winding down to get to the stripe and put the game away.

Andrew Madlinger- Sophomore With a Sweet Stroke

Ridge (NJ) did not have a terrific performance at the Prime Time Shootout, but there was certainly a bright spot for the squad. Andrew Madlinger, a 6'2 sophomore swingman for Ridge, had his talents on display in a loss to Plainfield (NJ). Madlinger had 17 points, draining four threes and going three of four from the free throw line. Madlinger was easily Ridge's most impressive player. I had the opportunity to talk with Andrew after the game.

NB: [That was] a tough loss for [the team]. What happened out there? . . . You guys seemed to struggle to stop some of their scorers.
AM: Yeah, we came out pretty slow, just . . . probably [because of] the atmosphere and everything, it’s . . . a new experience for our team. . . . We’re pretty young, so we had to step it up, and we didn’t really take charge of our positives, like [that] we . . . were bigger inside, but we didn’t really exploit it, and we just came out real slow, that’s overall [the] down point.

NB: Is this your [team’s] first time playing on such a big stage?
AM: Yeah, this is our first time.

NB: You’re still a sophomore, but have you begun thinking about colleges? . . . [Are there] any colleges sending you mail, or not at this point?
AM: No, nothing so far.

NB: Are you interested in playing college basketball?
AM: Yeah, if I had the opportunity, I’d probably go after it.

NB: Is there a school [that] you’ve always wanted to go to [while] growing up, . . . a school you’ve rooter for?
AM: No, there’s no school. . . . No.

NB: How [has the team] . . . been doing so far this season?
AM: We’re 15 and 4 actually, and we’re in the semifinals of our conference [tournament], . . . and that’s the first time we’ve been there in 31 years, so it’s looking pretty good for us.

NB: What’s your outlook for the rest of the season?
AM: I think we . . . have a pretty good shot in our Counties, it’s like some higher seeded losses, and we have a shot to [be] playing for [the opportunity to be] conference champs, so it’s looking pretty good.

NB: How were you able to keep knocking on down those threes tonight?
AM: I don’t know, I just needed to step up, somebody’s got to take charge, and it was [my turn] tonight.

Every team needs a sharpshooter, and Madlinger fits that mold, if his performance at the Prime Time Shootout was any indication. Andrew had a nice stroke and good form, and his height, 6'2, is nice for a shooter in his grade. If Madlinger grows another two or three inches, he could be a very dangerous player. Either way, he is a player that--based off how he played against Plainfield--could project to a quality DII or DIII school, or possibly even a low-major school at the DI level. Remember, every team needs a shooter, and Andrew Madlinger is just that.

Anthony Baskerville- HS & College Ball in NJ?

Anthony Baskerville of the Plainfield High School (NJ) Cardinals had a wonderful performance at the Prime Time Shootout. Baskerville, a 5'8 junior guard, helped lead his team to victory over Ridge (NJ), scoring 14 points along the way. Although Baskerville might not have the ideal height for a basketball player, he is talented. After his Plainfield squad knocked off Ridge, I caught up with Anthony.

NB: [The team] had a big game tonight, [dominating] from start to finish. What went into that victory for you?
AB: All-out hustle, defense, and we just played hard.

NB: How [was the team] . . . able to contain . . . their team, they only really had one guy who was playing well for them, . . . [which was Andrew] Madlinger, [who] hit a bunch of threes. Other than that, you really shut down their whole team. What were you doing on defense to stop them?
AB: We ran a . . . man-to-man [defense], we did a “12” . . . to hold them out [from] . . . the [half] court line. That’s how we got it done.

NB: You’re still a junior, but have you begun thinking about colleges . . . yet? [Are there] any schools [that] you want to go to?
AB: No, not really. . . . I’m just weighing my options out.

NB: What schools have been sending you mail?
AB: Rider. . . . Nobody else really, that’s it.

NB: Are you interested in going to Rider maybe?
AB: A chance, yeah, maybe, yeah.

NB: Where do you want to go if you had any choice in the country?
AB: North Carolina.

NB: What do you want to accomplish the rest of the way this season, both personally and team-wise?
AB: A title, a title, a state title.

NB: What about for yourself?
AB: Going to school, really, getting into school.

NB: How about for your senior season, what do you want to do next year in your last year in high school?
AB: [I'm] trying to get 1,000 [points] and help team out, and that’s it really.

I spoke with Baskerville again yesterday, and he let me know that he is now receiving interest from Monmouth, which he says is the school that he would prefer to go to, because he is hearing that Monmouth has a "good . . . program." Anthony did tell, though, that he would go to "either one." On another note, Baskerville's team was defeated by Linden in the state semifinals. He also said this about the team this season: "I think [our record] was . . . 18-8, I believe." That is a solid record, and Baskerville is a solid basketball player, and one that might continue playing in New Jersey once he finishes up high school.

Isaiah Thomas- Famous Name, Great Game

Isaiah Thomas of South Kent Prep (CT) certainly has recognition, and not just because of his famous name. The 5'8 senior point guard might have the same name as a certain former Detroit Pistons point guard, but he has a wonderful game in his own right. Isaiah was one of the most impressive juniors at the Prime Time Shootout, raining threes and running the point at the same time. Although his squad lost in overtime to American Christian (PA), Thomas was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes.

NB: [The team] had that game for the first three quarters. What happened in the fourth quarter, then in overtime [that the team] . . . let the game slip away?
IT: Just little things, not rebounding, turning the ball over, and . . . we [are] used to playing with a shot clock, there was no shot clock. We could’ve just spread the court out and wasted time, but we didn’t do that, that’s why we came out with the loss.

NB: Coming into the game, did [the team] know that there wasn’t going to be a shot clock, or was that something that was unexpected?
IT: It was unexpected. We thought it was going to be 20 minute halves like we usually play, and a shot clock, but it didn’t happen.

NB: You had 31 points out there, an amazing performance. How did you consistently keep knocking down those threes?
IT: Just practice, practice, that’s hard work, practicing by yourself and whatnot, it pays off in the game.

NB: What would you suggest to some young kids out there who want to be hitting threes like you one day?
IT: Just keep working on your game, everyday, all day. Whenever you can, work on your game.

NB: You’ve committed to Washington. . . . What went into that decision for you?
IT: Basically, it’s being close to home, family. The coaching staff, my relationship [with] the coaches [was important], that’s basically it.

NB: I’ve heard a story behind your name, about some type of bet. . . . Do you mind telling us that story?
IT: My father made a bet, the Detroit [Pistons] against the [Los Angeles] Lakers, if Detroit beat them in the [NBA] Finals, that would be my names, and it was, and then my mom’s . . . into church and whatnot, that’s why my name’s spelled different [from Isiah Thomas’], like [it’s spelled in] the Bible.

NB: Is that interesting for you, or do you not really . . . think about it?
IT: It was, but now it’s just an everyday thing.

NB: What’s your goal for the rest of . . . your senior season, and then for next year at Washington?
IT: [My goal for] the rest of this season [is to] just go out with a bang, try to get as far as we can, try to get a championship [in] my last season, and for Washington, just get better and better each day, and that’s basically it, get better and better.

NB: When you play the way you did today, do you feel the team feeding off of you and playing with the same energy that you are [playing with]?
IT: Yeah, I think when I bring it, since I’m a leader, they’re going to bring it. When I’m slacking, they kind of slack off, so I try to do . . . the best I can.

NB: What’s the best part about playing for South Kent?
IT: [Pause] You got great players around [you].

NB: Would you mind explaining the tattoo you got on your left arm?
IT: It’s my Grandpa, he died two years ago. Actually, his birthday is coming up this month [of February]. So, I mean he was . . . like a second dad to me.

Thomas has certainly played his way past just being a ballplayer with a famous name. He has developed into a premiere point guard with a great shooting touch, and the ability to take over a game. Thomas single-handedly kept his team in the game against ACA,and had the Cardinals up for most of the contest. Isaiah Thomas has not been limited by his size, he is 5'8, nor has he crumbled under any pressure he has received to live up his famous name. Isaiah Thomas doesn't have to live to any name, and that's because he has his own name and his own game: Isaiah Thomas, playmaking scorer at the point.

Note- photo is from

Monday, March 24, 2008

Doron Lamb- Sophomore Superstar

When it comes to picking the best sophomore at the Prime Time Shootout, the choice is simple: Doron Lamb of the Bishop Loughlin (NY) Lions. Lamb is a 6'4 guard, and he is an absolutely tremendous talent. Lamb came into the event very well-regarded, and he supported that notion by his outstanding performance. Doron was the game's leading scorer in his team's victory over Trenton Catholic (NJ). After the win, I caught up with Lamb.

NB: [That was] a great performance. . . . [The team] dominated [the whole way], you had a great game [in your own right]. How were you guys able to play so well on this big stage?
DL: Well, [Head] Coach [Khlaid Green] said just said play hard, there [is] going to be a lot of people here, don’t get nervous in the game, so we just played hard, and we came out with the win.

NB: What did you do personally for yourself to continue scoring from start to finish, [ending] with 28 points?
DL: [I] just started shooting--I was short earlier before the game, we were going hard--and I just kept on shooting.

NB: What do you consider to be your strongest point of your game?
DL: My shooting ability.

NB: What about your weakest [aspect of your game]?
DL: My defense.

NB: What are you doing to work on that?
DL: Play defense, work hard in practice.

NB: You’re still a sophomore, but [have] you begun thinking about colleges yet, or are you just enjoying high school?
DL: No, I [am] just worrying about high school.

NB: Has there ever been a school that you’ve always wanted to go to [while] growing up, or just come to that when you--
DL: Louisville and Syracuse.

NB: [Are there] any goals [that] you want to accomplish during your high school career?
DL: Win the Federation.

NB: How did you decide to come to Bishop Loughlin out of all the private schools in New York?
DL: Me and Jayvaughn Pinkston are the best [sophomores] in New York. . . . So, we talked and we ended up going to Bishop Loughlin together.

Doron Lamb is a terrific player, and is one that should continue to thrive at the high school level. Lamb has the abilities to become a standout in the NCAA as well, and schools should definitely take a look at this amazing sophomore. Lamb is already interested in Syracuse and Lousiville, so it would definitely be a great idea for someone from those schools to check out Doron and evaluate whether or not he is a fit for their program. Doron Lamb is easily one of the top sophomores in the Northeast, if not the country as a whole. America better get ready to watch the superstar continue to shine for years to come.

Note- photo is from

Jayvaughn Pinkston- It's All About the Team

Jayvaughn Pinkston of Bishop Loughlin (NY) was one of the premiere sophomores at the Prime Time Shootout. Pinkston, a 6'6 forward, had a stellar game in a victory over Trenton Catholic (NJ). Jayvaughn did not fill up the stat sheet, and as you'll be able to tell by the interview write-up, that may well be because to him, it's all about the team. Here is what the conversation after the game between Pinkston and I looked like.

NB: [That] was a big win out there. [The team] pretty much dominated from start to finish. How were you able to have such a big performance?
JP: Because we [were] much bigger and stronger than they were.

NB: You’re just a sophomore, [but you] played so well on this big stage. How were you able to step your game up?
JP: Because it’s a crowd, and you got to rise to the occasion when your name is being called.

NB: [Does the team] have any goals to finish off the season? . . . What do you guys want accomplish?
JP: Just go on and try to win the Catholic League.

NB: What about personally?
JP: Personally, I don’t really have no goals like that, but just to play hard.

NB: You’re a sophomore, but have you begun thinking about colleges yet?
JP: Yes.

NB: What schools have you been considering, or [are] at the top of your list?
JP: Memphis, Florida, St. John’s, [and] Syracuse.

NB: Have you ever had a school that [while] growing up, you’ve always wanted to play for, or just whoever shows you the most interest?
JP: Whoever shows me more interest.

Pinkston is a highly-regarded player, but it seems he's much more concerned with how his team does, than what his personal accomplishments are. This attitude just might add to how he is perceived, and it certainly can't hurt. Jayvaughn's squad is lucky to have a player who is so focused on the team over himself, and whatever schools he ends up at will be lucky as well. For now though, Pinkston and his fellow Lions will continue to win basketball games, and Jayvaughn will be focused on just that.

Kevin Phillip- Headed to Drexel

Bishop Loughlin (NY) had a senior star this year, and he's headed to the CAA to play for the Drexel Dragons next year. Kevin Phillip is 6'7 senior forward for the Lions, and he's excited to be a part of the Drexel program for his college career. Kevin's team knocked off Trenton Catholic (NJ) at the Prime Time Shootout, and although Bishop Loughlin sophomore Doron Lamb was the star of the contest, Phillip had a stellar game. After the win, Kevin was kind enough to talk with me for a few minutes.

NB: You guys had a big win out there, you performed very well. How were you able to come away with that big victory?
KP: We just worked hard, that’s all we got to do this year, . . . work hard, and have a lot energy, have a lot of support. . . . We [are] still the youngest team in the country, I think, and we [are] working real hard to show that everybody’s sleeping on us, and now that we [are] on the map, everybody’s trying to come at us, everybody . . . since he beginning of the year [has] been saying ‘oh, Bishop Loughlin’s the same old team.’ Then we started winning, [and] everybody wants to come after us now, and I think we [are] going to do pretty [well] this year.

NB: You’ve committed to Drexel. How did you make the decision to go to Drexel over . . . the other schools that were looking at you?
KP: I think it was a pretty good choice for me. I like the team chemistry, I know a lot of the players there, I know Jamie [Harris], I know Gerald [Colds] , and I know Frank [Elegar], and . . . Tony [Chiles] is a great assistant coach, and Coach [James “Bruiser”] Flint is a good head coach. So, I think I’ll do pretty [well] . . . there, too.

NB: Are you excited to be playing in the CAA against a lot of other kids from New York who will also be in there?
KP: Oh yeah, of course.

NB: What are you most excited [for] about playing college basketball?
KP: [Pause] A learning experience, I’m trying to learn everything I can. Everybody’s trying to make it to the top. Everybody asks me ‘why didn’t go [to] West Virginia, why didn’t you go here, why didn’t you go there?’ [It] doesn’t matter where you go, if you’re a pro, you’re a pro, you [are] going . . . [to] have to work on your game, and . . . [however] much work you put in, is what you [are] going to have when [you] come out.

NB: What do you think you need to work on the most in college?
KP: My post [play] and my perimeter [play]. I’m a pretty good post player, and I’m a pretty good perimeter player, but I just, I’m trying to get better with everything. Everything that . . . They [are] willing to teach me, I’m willing to do.

NB: What’s your goal for you college career?
KP: Average a double-double and try to take a championship this year . . . This year I want to get that 100 points in free Philly cheese steaks.

NB: What are you majoring in at Drexel?
KP: I didn’t make up my mind, but it’s either going to be business or engineering.

I recently spoke with Kevin, and we discussed his senior season accomplishments, college, and more. Kevin told me that he was a Third Team All-Catholic League (CHSAA) selection, and that "it's [his] first time in three years [while] in the Catholic League [that he was an All-League selection]." Kevin also said that he "worked hard for it [and] everybody said [he] earned it."
As well, Kevin told me that he feels he "does a pretty good job rebounding and blocking shots," also saying that he "could do more athletically." Phillip will be "playing the 3" during his time as a Dragon, which is a position that suits his size and frame. Speaking of Drexel, Phillip mentioned that "the chemistry of the coaches [is] real cool, . . . they'll tell you everything as it is," which was a main reason, along with the school's new area, as to why he selected Drexel over other schools that he was considering. According to Kevin, the colleges that were looking at him were "West Virginia, Xavier, George Washington, Drexel of course, South Carolina, [and] UMass." Drexel's lone unsigned commit is Rice guard Chris Fouch, and of Chris, Kevin told me that he "is a great shooter," adding that Drexel needs "a great outside shooter." Kevin was not worried that Fouch is currently unsigned, saying that "he's going to sign, most definitely." The senior forward's response to my question of the main way that he can help Drexel to rebound from their rough season was the following: "What I feel I can do for Drexel coming up, is bringing a lot of energy. I love competition, and I don't give up for nothing, and I can also contribute on both sides of the court, especially on the [defensive] side. I feel that defense starts the offense, and if you can stop people by playing great defense, you can start a great offense." One thing that Phillip is especially excited about is the possibility of free cheese steaks while at Drexel, like he mentioned in the interview. What is he talking about you say? "Everytime we get 100 points, it's free Philly cheese steaks! I was at a game when they played against [Towson], and a Drexel fan who sat behind me said that Drexel hasn't gotten 100 points in a while. So, we're going to be getting 100 points in a lot of games, because I love cheese steaks." Kevin is clearly pumped up for the opportunity to be a Drexel Dragon, and Drexel has got to be excited to have this high-quality player, and person for that matter, to be attending the school next year.

Lorenzo Freeman- BMOC Now, but Where To Next?

Trenton Central High School (NJ) is one of the premiere public schools in Central New Jersey for hoops. This year's squad featured a 6'6 senior center by the name of Lorenzo Freeman. Although Freeman did not have a terrific performance at the Prime Time Shootout in a match-up against Christ the King (NY), he and his fellow Tornadoes did have a great season. After the loss to CTK, I spoke with Lorenzo.

NB: That was a tough game, . . . hard loss. What are some [bright] spots you did see from your performance [in] that game as a team?
LF: I’d say overall we played [well]. We came back, really, and then we just let it fall away. It was a big court, and we really had to get our spacing down [pat], but overall I think we played [well].

NB: How do you think this is going to affect your upcoming game against [The] Pennington [School] for the Mercer County Tournament? [Do you] think this will give [the team] . . . some more motivation to go out there and perform?
LF: Yeah, I think we [are] going to be real hungry next game, real hungry.

NB: What’s your outlook for the Mercer County Tournament? . . . What [is the team] . . . looking to accomplish there?
LF: We hope to accomplish [making] the semifinals at least, at least make it to the championship, that’s our goal, to make it to the championship.

NB: Are you . . . excited to possibly play against Trenton Catholic . . . in the championship game?
LF: Yes, yes, yes, excited, real excited. We wanted to play them during the regular season, but it didn’t happen.

NB: How was it playing on this real big stage at the Prime Time Shootout?
LF: It’s kind of different, [there’s] a lot more space in here, you have to get your spacing opportunities, but I got used to it, it was okay.

NB: Have you made a college decision, or are you still weighing your options?
LF: Nah, I’m still looking, still looking for one.

NB: Do you have any schools . . . at the top of your list, or not really?
LF: Not really.

I talked with Lorenzo Freeman again tonight, and we discussed his future on the court and where he will be headed. Lorenzo informed me that he currently does not hold any offers, and thus "might have to do a year of post-grad," and will likely be headed to "either Peddie or APEX," though he is "favoring Peddie." In addition, Freeman mentioned that Rider is the only college to have shown him interest thus far, and his year at the a prep school would be increase interest in him. Freeman told me that he would "like to go to Rider or George Mason." Lorenzo is a senior, and he has applied to Kansas State, Rhode Island, and Central Connecticut State, though he has not heard back from any of them, and even if he does get in to one or more of them, he "still might PG." As well, he let me know that his squad won the Mercer County Tournament, defeating Trenton Catholic by one point. The squad handily defeated Pennington in their first round game, so apparently the team was psyched up to recover from the loss, just as Lorenzo expected. I'll be sure to keep you posted on where Trenton Central's "Big Man on Campus" takes his game.

Ryan Pearson- Ready for George Mason

Ryan Pearson of Christ the King (NY) put on one of the top performances at the 2008 Prime Time Shootout. The 6'5 senior displayed a nice inside-outside game, and thrived on the low post. Pearson was listed as a guard on the team's roster, but he likely projects to a forward spot at the college level. Ryan will be a George Mason Patriot when he does bring his game to the NCAA. I caught up with Pearson after his team defeated Trenton Central (NJ).

NB: You had a great game out there today. What do you consider to be your forte, because you’re [listed as] a guard, but you’re able to play down low [on] the post? How do you think that helps you, and what do you consider to be the best part of your game?
RP: I think the best part of my game is playing down low, because I feel that . . . I’m a mismatch for all my defenders so if I see that a guy is bigger than me, and if the post is not working, I can go and take him off the dribble, or [because] I’m a good team player also, so if I’m not having a good game, I always try to get my team involved, never give up, and just keep playing.

NB: What do you consider to be your biggest weakness that you need to work on?
RP: My biggest weakness, I got to work on more perimeter defense, guarding the perimeter, because I know in college I’m going to guarding a lot of “3” guys, and they [are] going to be quick with the ball and I have to work on sliding my feet and getting my perimeter defense together.

NB: What was it like playing in this atmosphere where you’re in Trenton, playing against a team from Trenton, with the crowd being . . . for the team you’re playing against? Was that [in] any way affecting the way that you guys were playing, or not at all?
RP: It didn’t affect us. We came out psyched for this game, because last year we came here and we lost, so we just wanted get it won for the road, because we [are] seniors and we [are] going off to our college, and we didn’t win this tournament, . . . so we just wanted to get this all won and we [were] really hyped up about the game. We played out-of-control a little in the first half, but in the second half we kind of pulled it together and played like how we [are] supposed to.

NB: You mentioned being a senior, what are some of your goals [for] your senior season?
RP: I want to win [the] championship, I want to win it all. Last year, we won the city championship, but we didn’t go to Glens Falls, so I now I just want to re-cap that, win the city championship and go to Glens Falls and win it all, and I’ll just go out with a bang.

NB: Have you made a college decision yet?
RP: Yeah, I’m going to George Mason. I signed a Letter of Intent to George Mason.

NB: And what went into that decision to go play in the CAA?
RP: I like the conference. I like the conference, I like the area where the school is located at, I like the coaching staff, the guys down there [are] cool, . . . we all get along. I like . . . everything about the school, the campus, . . . everything they have to offer for me, it just felt like a good fit, that’s why I just chose [to go] there.

NB: Was their Final Four run a few years ago a part of your decision?
RP: Yeah, that too. I knew they were going to be a tough team, and I knew they [are] a team on the lookout, so they [are] upcoming and arising, and they always play a tough schedule, so we [will] always be able to knock down some of the Top 25 teams.

NB: There [are] a lot of kids from New York who are going to the CAA. What’s it going to be like playing against them in college as well?
RP: [It will be] just like high school, just like AAU basketball, it’s going to be the same thing. . . . I’m cool with a lot of them, so . . . it [will] be fun just playing around them all year long.

NB: What are you most excited [for] about playing for George Mason next year?
RP: [Pause] That hopefully [I will] have a chance to do my dream, and go to the NBA. If not, I just want to have a successful college career.

The Patriots of George Mason were back in the NCAA Tournament this year, and although they didn't make another magical run to the Final Four, the squad did have a solid season, winning the CAA Tournament. Although the team will lose Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas, GMU should still be competitive next year, and Ryan Pearson will certianly be able to help. Pearson is a fine talent and if he Prime Time Shootout performance is any indication, he will be a successful CAA player. Ryan Pearson is ready to take the Colonial Athletic Association by storm, and the rest of the league had better watch out.

Erving Walker- It's About Skills, Not Height

People under 6'0 generally aren't regarded as top-notch basketball players. Erving Walker of Christ the King (NY) is an exception. Walker, a 5'8 senior guard, had a quality performance at the Prime Time Shootout against Trenton Central (NJ). Walker certainly had some motivation, with his future coach, Billy Donovan, in attendance. That's right, 68 inches is enough to get you a spot on a team in the SEC, as long as you have the skills. Erving and I chatted after the win at the Prime Time Shootout.

NB: [The team] dominated that game from start to finish. How were you able to just completely take control of that game?
EW: They were kind of wild, it was just all over the place like little bees on honey, but we knew we were definitely the better basketball team, so we just wanted to come out and play [at] a loose, slow pace, but if we got the break take it, but we just wanted to come out like that.

NB: People always talk about height in basketball. Do you feel there’s any way that your size gives you an advantage?
EW: Yeah, I feel like I’m lower to the ground, I [can] cause more havoc on defense, I get under your dribble, and the littler [people are] . . . harder to guard. . . . It has it’s disadvantages, [such as trying to] post-up [or] whatever, but I just try to make the best of it.

NB: Do you think that the way everyone talks about [height] is really as important as it is [made out to be], or is it if you’re good at basketball, it doesn’t matter how big you are? What’s your opinion?
EW: It does have some implications, of course you’d like the height, but if you [can] play, you [can] play, and that’s really it, if you [can] play, you [can] play.

NB: There [are] a lot of Catholic schools in New York. . . . When you chose to come to Christ the King, what [led to] your decision to come here over some of the other schools?
EW: There’s a lot of great teams in the Catholic League, but the cultural diversity at Christ the King is great, [it’s] not just one race. Distance-wise, I’m from Brooklyn, but it’s about only 20 minutes from my house, and I feel that it’s the best school to prepare you for college, they got a lot of different resources.

NB: What went into your decision to commit to Florida?
EW: Coach Donovan, he’s a great coach, [and] he was a small guard himself, so it’s always good for someone that [can] relate to you [to be your coach]. The great atmosphere down there [was important], and I just feel like their style of play is up-tempo and it should do me well.

NB: Are you to maybe be able to help Florida get back on the national scale they were on the past two seasons winning back-to-back national championships?
EW: Yeah, I definitely would like to help them win the national title, but . . . right now they [are] not as dominant as they [were] for the past two years, but if you look, they [are] still in the top 25 [as of the time of the interview].

NB: What’s your main goal [for] the of [your] senior season?
EW: City championship.

NB: What about personally?
EW: City championship. If I was to win the city championship, I got to play a certain role in that so I want to do that.

NB: How about in college, what do you want to accomplish when you’re at college?
EW: [Conference] championship, national championship. You know what the goals [are], everybody wants the best personal things, freshman [SEC] Player of the Year, any of those things, but just fit in and help out the team the best way I can.

Is there too much of an emphasis on height in basketball? That's not for me to decide, but i do know this: if you have skills, you can play ball. Erving Walker not only said that himself, but he proves that on the court. Walker will be able to ease his way into the rotation at Florida, as the team is full of guards, including Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas. Walker's room for growth in the Florida system should help him improve as a player, and allow him to be a successful college player, regardless of his size. Erving's height hasn't held him back thus far, and it shouldn't keep him from being a quality player in the NCAA.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Jayon James- Part of the Puzzle for Paterson Catholic

The Cougars of Paterson Catholic (NJ) are not as well known as some of the other New Jeresy powerhouses, but that may not be the case for long. Jayon James, a 6’5 sophomore swingman, along with fellow members of the class of 2010, 6’5 Fuquan Edwin, 6’8 Trevor Clemmings, and 6’6 Shaquille Thomas, as well as 5’8 freshman Myles Mack, may very well have the Cougars on the map nationally in just a year of two. This young crop of talent could take the squad from Paterson Catholic quite a long way. After the Cougars destroyed Montrose Christian (MD) at the Prime Time Shootout, I spoke with Jayon James about the game, his skills, and his future.

NB: [The team] had a big game out there. Start to finish, you basically dominated them. How were you able to contain such an explosive team?
JJ: We just played together and played hard, and we just came out with the W. We just gave it our all on the court.

NB: You guys really had [Trsitan] Spurlock’s number and [Isaiah] Armwood’s number the whole game, they really were silent. What [did the team] . . . specifically do to shut them down?
JJ: We played [a] 2-3 [zone defense], everybody just played help defense and stopped them from getting to the basket because we knew [that] they like to slash, and they [are] good, they [are] very good players, so we just hold them down.

NB: You seemed to be a very versatile player out there. What do you consider to be the best part of your game?
JJ: I think I see the floor very well, and I have a very high basketball IQ.

NB: What about [your] weaknesses? What do you think you need improve the most on?
JJ: Athletic ability, speed, and strength. . . . I think I can improve on that.

NB: You’re still a sophomore, but have you begun thinking about college yet, and [if so] are there any schools that you’ve been thinking about?
JJ: I have a [few] offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Xavier, and I hope I get a lot more later on.

NB: Is there any school that you’ve always wanted to go to that is . . . your dream school?
JJ: I’d really like to go to Kansas.

The Cougars will make an impact on a ntional level over the next two seasons, and quite possibly beyond. Jayon James, along with the other Paterson Catholic underclassmen, will have their team making headlines. Jayon James will be a key part of the Cougars' road to prominence, and will have to work on those aspects of his game that he knows need work. The Paterson Catholic Cougars' win over Montrose Christian was not an abberation, this team can really play basketball, and they're only going to get better.

Isaiah Armwood- Tough Loss, Bright Future

Montrose Christian (MD) is where Kevin Durant of the Seattle SuperSonics played his last year of high school basketball, and the Mustangs have replaced the star with a number of top-notch players. Leading the way for the Mustangs are a trio of talented juniors: 6'8 Isaiah Armwood, 6'7 Terrell Vinson, and 6'7 Tristan Spurlock. The three stars were not enough to beat Paterson Catholic (NJ) at the Prime Time Shootout, but the group definitely has a bright future to look towards. I dsicussed this potential, amongst other topics, with Isaiah Armwood after the loss.

NB: That was a tough loss . . . out there. What do you think went wrong?
IA: We just, when it comes down to it, we just didn’t hit shots. . . . We got to play better defense on their guards.

NB: What do you think [the team] . . . could have done to neutralize their guards? . . . What type of defense would you have wanted to run to help that out?
IA: It was just tough, that point guard killed us, we had nobody that could stop him, nobody at all, nobody.

NB: With you, Terrell [Vinson], and Tristan [Spurlock] all being juniors, what hope do you have for next year when you [three] are all seniors? You could be one of the top teams in the nation. What are you looking [towards] for next year, or are you still [only] thinking about this year?
IA: Yeah, I’m looking forward to the end of this year, but I’m very excited about next year, very excited.

NB: What do you think . . . [the team] is going to be able to accomplish next season?
IA: Hopefully a national championship, hopefully.

NB: There’s a lot of hype surrounding you three, three great juniors, do you ever get overwhelmed? . . . Does it take up a lot of your time? . . . [Is it ever too hard] to handle?
IA: Not really, I don’t pay it that much [attention], not really. I don’t pay it that much [attention].

NB: You’re . . . a junior, but have you committed to a college yet, and if not, are there any schools that you’ve been really considering, or are you just weighing your options right now?
IA: I’m not really thinking about it because the season is going on.

NB: You’re just enjoying high school?
IA: Yeah.

NB: What’s your favorite part about playing high school basketball?
IA: It’s the excitement, the excitement.

NB: What’s your favorite team to play against?
IA: Probably Oak Hill.

Armwood did not have a good game against Paterson Catholic, but there is certainly cause for optimism with this young man and his team. Armwood is a highly regarded player, and he could have a terrific senior season. Assuming Isaiah does have a fantastic year in his last season at the high school level, and his other talented teammates do as well, Montrose Christian will be a force to be reckoned with. Head Coach Stu Vetter will have his Mustangs on pace to compete for a national title, an accomplishment that Armwood would certainly love, and the team has the talent to make it happen.

Note- photo is from

Jordan Theodore- Making Seton Hall a National Power?

Jordan Theodore of the Paterson Catholic (NJ) Couagrs will be taking his game to the Big East next season. The 6'0 senior guard will play for Bobby Gonzalez at Seton Hall. Theodore was one of the Cougars' best players this season, and he had a great performance in a blowout win over Montrose Christian (MD). After the victory, Jordan was kind enough to speak with me for a few minutes.

NB: [That was a] big win . . . today. Start to finish you were completely in charge of that game. How were you able to play so well and dominate such a good opponent?
JT: Well, we just wanted to go out there and play hard, just go out there and get it done. We stressed defense . . . everyday in practice, so we went out there [and] we played D. We beat them on the glass. . . . We just went out there and played hard.

NB: What does your team pride itself on in general, is it defense, offense, [or] a specific part of either side of the floor?
JT: It’s defense. Everybody on our team can score, everybody can go by [someone, and] hit a jump-shot, or go by somebody [and] get a lay-up, but [with] defense, [if] you stop somebody, you win. We were able to get out early, get a 15 point lead, and keep it.

NB: Is that what you pride yourself on personally, as well?
JT: Yeah, defense, defense. I’m known as a defensive stopper.

NB: You scored a lot of points . . . today. How were you able to score so much, and really lead your team to victory?
JT: Well, I went out there, I put a [few] crossovers together, got some lay-ups [and] fast break points. I knocked down a lot of jump-shots. . . . My jumper was working for me.

NB: Being in New Jersey and a part of Paterson Catholic, you guys sometimes get overshadowed by some of the other schools in state. How does that make . . . [the team] feel? [Paterson Catholic] is a great team, just like [St.] Anthony’s and [St.] Benedict’s, but when people talk about New Jersey, [Paterson Catholic] isn’t always mentioned, but you’re up there, so how does that help [the team]?
JT: It just makes us go out there, and strive to be the best. We want to be better than St. Anthony’s and St. Pat’s [and] St. Benedict’s. They [are] the high-level programs, and they are ranked in the country, we’re not. We had them big games, like [one against] St. Benedict’s, [and] we lost. We had a big game against Mt. Vernon [from New York], [and] we lost. We [will] probably end up playing St. Anthony’s or St. Pat’s in the states [tournament], so we [are] going to go out there and do what we do.

NB: You’ve already signed with Seton Hall. . . . What went into your decision to stay in-state and go to Seton Hall?
JT: I just wanted to stay home. I wanted all my friends and family to be able to watch me play. I love the metro area, and I’m just going to keep doing my thing in [New] Jersey.

NB: How’d you pick Seton Hall over some other local schools, like Rutgers, St. John’s [ in New York, and other] schools like that [which] are located in the tri-state area?
JT: Well, every time I was on The Hall, like every time I was on campus . . . with coaches and teammates, it just felt like home. I [have] been going to camp at Seton Hall, not Seton Hall camp exactly, but Easterns and the other camps, I [have seen] Hall for a long time, and every time I was there, I balled, I played my heart out, and it just felt good.

NB: What are you most looking forward to about college basketball?
JT: [Pause] Everything, . . . the Big East Tournament, the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, I just can’t wait to get there.

NB: [Are there] any goals [that] you have [for your time] as a college basketball player, or are you waiting until you get to that road?
JT: Big East Freshman of the Year, NCAA Freshman of the Year, . . . Big East champions, NCAA champions.

NB: All in your freshman year?
JT: All in my freshman year.

Theodore has some lofty goals, both for himself and for Seton Hall. Although SHU has struggled the past few seasons, they have some quality players on their roster, including sophomore Eugene Harvey. A jump to Big East and NCAA title next year would be unexpected, but anything can happen. If Theodore's fellow Pirates are on a wavelength similar to his, The Hall could certainly make some progress in the 2008-09 season. Jordan Theodore has his goals, and he plans to accomplish them . . . all in his freshman year.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

David Bruce- Local Standout

The Linden (NJ) Tigers are a top-notch New Jersey pubilc school basketball team. The squad is led by Houston-bound guard Desmond White, but it was 6'9 junior forward David Bruce that stood out at the Prime Time Shootout in an overtime victory over St. Raymond's (NY). Bruce was a beast down low, playing strong against the squad from New York's CHSAA. I caught up with David after his impressive MVP performance.

NB: That was a big win . . . for [the team] . . . out there, start to finish you played real well, it was a close game. How’d you guys pull away in overtime and come away with the win?
DB: Last night we got some rest, we had our legs. We just came from two losses, and we [were] just motivated.

NB: This is your second big win against a good team from New York, the other one was Mt. Vernon. How are you guys able to play so well against such good competition?
DB: Well, we just played Linden basketball, great defense, teamwork, [picking] each other up, and we came out with the W.

NB: What do you consider to be the forte of your game, and what do you consider [to be the aspect of your game that] you need to work on the most to be successful in college?
DB: Blocking shots, getting . . . offensive rebounds, [and] maybe . . . [playing] around the perimeter [are my strongest points]. That’s my . . . best game. What I got to work on is getting to the rack, getting to the basket off the . . . block.

NB: You’re still uncommitted . . . for college. . . . What schools are you considering? Are [there] any schools at the top of your list that you’re really thinking about heading to?
DB: I’m not sure yet.

NB: Is there anything specific [that] you want to accomplish either personally or team-wise in your final two years of high school?
DB: Not really, just play ball. Hopefully get some high DI looks, and that’s about it.

NB: What schools have been sending you mail so far?
DB: St. John’s, Rutgers, St. Joe’s, Seton Hall, LaSalle, [and] a couple other schools.

As evidenced by the schools looking at Bruce, he is a local commodity, but his play agasint St. Ray's was that of a big-time national recruit. Either way, David Bruce can certainly ball. The big man would be a welcome addition two years from now to any of the schools he mentioned, as well as many others in the tri-state area. Assuming Bruce consistently like he did against St. Raymond's other schools just might have to get involved in his recrutiment. For now though, the local school are lucky to have a shot at this New Jersey standout.

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Julian Diaz- Priorities are in Order

Julian Diaz, a 6'3 guard for the Notre Dame (NJ) Irish, will be heading to Villanova next year, but not to play basketball. Diaz, a senior, will be attending Villanova on a baseball scholarship. Nonetheless, he is a certainly a quality basketball player. Julian was Notre Dame's MVP in their win over St. Joseph's (NJ) at the Prime Time Shootout. I spoke with Julian after the victory.

NB: That was a big win for [your school]. How were you able to pull through in the end? After that three it looked like St. Joe’s was maybe starting to pull [off] a comeback. You guys played some nice D down there, what went into that to maintain the lead and come away with the victory?
JD: It was all about keeping our composure at the end. Towards the end . . . we had a six point lead and they hit that three. They were making a run, and [to stop] any run, you just got to keep your head, you got to play smart, and play through it, and stay focused.

NB: Probably a lot of people coming to this game might not have thought you guys had a shot. St. Joe’s had a good team. How’d you guys feed off that? . . . Being the underdog, is that a mentality that really helped you guys to win in this atmosphere?
JD: We played them twice already in the preseason, and they beat us twice, and then coming into this match-up, we didn’t want to lose [for] the third time to them, and knowing [that we are] the underdog, it just fires us up even more because we want to come in here and upset a better team.

NB: What was it like getting that Most Outstanding Player award here at the Prime Time Shootout? How [did] that feel when they called your name?
JD: It was nice, I enjoyed it a lot, but nothing . . . goes before getting a win as a team.

NB: [It was announced] when they were giving you that award that you [are going to] Villanova. What went into that decision? What were some of the other schools that were looking at you [for basketball]?
JD: Other schools . . . for basketball, it was smaller DIII schools. So, I was really looking to better my future and an education at Villanova is better than four years of basketball at . . . a smaller school. So, I was thinking [about] after college what I’m going to do, and taking the degree from Villanova seemed like the better option.

NB: Do you want to try to play ball there, . . . maybe try to see if you can get on the team, or you’re not really worried about it?
JD: I’m thinking about it still, I don’t know yet, I’m undecided. I would love to play under [Head Coach] Jay Wright for Villanova, but it’s going to be tough to balance two sports with schoolwork, so I just got to see what’s in my best interests.

I contacted Julian today, and he informed me that he is still unsure of whether or not he will attempt to walk-on to the Wildcats' basketball team. Diaz is evidently a reaslist, knowing that he must get a good education, in case athletics don't work out. This is an attribute that fading amongst high school athletes, many of whom just base what they do on how they can get to the pros. It's refreshing to see a student-athlete like Julian Diaz who has his priotities in order, and knows what he must do to be a success in not just athletics, but life as a whole.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Brice Massamba- The Mountain West's New Mountain

Brice Massamba is a mountain of a man. Findlay College Prep (NV) needed all 6'10 of the senior power forward this season to make their run to the national finals. Massamba will attend UNLV next year, where he could have a major impact as soon as he steps on the court. Massamba's immesne abilities where on display at the Prep National Championships title game on March 6. Massamba hurt his knee about halfway into the first half after coming down hard on an attempt to grab an offensive board. Brice had to sit out for a while, but came back and continued to dominate. I caught up with Brice after the game.

NB: You guys didn’t quite come up with the victory, but what are some of the positives you can take out of that game?
BM: That we played together, and we did it as a team.

NB: And you’re heading off to UNLV next year. . . . How were you able to pick UNLV over all the schools looking at you?
BM: They were recruiting me in the beginning of the season when I came in last year, and I just love the coach and the fans, so I picked it.

NB: When you think back on your high school and prep career, . . . what stands out to you as the best moment, the one you are going to remember . . . forever?
BM: I will remember this year forever because [of] the team we had., I loved the team, all of the guys. It was just fitting.

NB: Does losing this game put a damper on the season, or is it still just great?
BM: It’s still great, but it could [have been] better if we won the last game.

NB: You guys still knocked off a lot of great teams. . . . How is this going to help Findlay build their reputation as a top-notch prep school?
BM: I think people will start giving Findlay some more respect now that they know what we can do.

NB: What do you think about playing time for next year, or are you not even worried about that yet?
BM: I’m not worried about that yet.

NB: Do you have any college goals at all for your four years there?
BM: Take UNLV to [the] NCAA Tournament at least.

NB: What happened to your knee in the first half? You came down hard on it. . . . Do you [know] what the injury was?
BM: I twisted my knee when I landed after the push. . . . I’m not really [sure] what happened. We will [check] . . . up [on it] when I come back to [Las] Vegas.

NB: Was that affecting you in the second half, or where you past that?
BM: No, I didn’t think about it.

NB: So, you’re fine now?
BM: No, not really. It hurts, so we’ll [check] . . . up [on it] when I get back.

When Massamba gets to UNLV, he will be the new mountain at the school and in the Mountain West Conference as a whole. Brice has tremendous abilities, with nice agility for a player of his size. Massamba displayed a pretty drop step, a knack for grabbing rebounds, and was easily the biggest player on the court. If Massamba plays in college the way he did in the title game, he could be an absolute steal for Runnin' Rebels of UNLV.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

DeAndre Liggins- Kentucky's Next Star Guard?

DeAndre Liggins of Findlay College Prep (NV) is a 6'6 guard with a nice shooting touch. The senior was a vital part of Findlay's success this season, helping to lead the club to the national championship game. Despite losing to Hargrave Military Academy (VA) and falling just short of their bid for a title, Findlay had a wonderful year, and would not have been on the same level with Liggins. I caught up with the Kentucky-signee after the title game.

NB: You guys weren’t able to come up with the victory, but you hit a bunch of big shots down the stretch. How’d you guys maintain focus despite the score?
DL: We just wanted to keep the game close by making shots and executing down the stretch.

NB: You guys still had a great season [with] only one loss. What does this mean for the program?
DL: It means a lot. It means we can get good players to come here, and they can continue to build on [our] success next year.

NB: You’re heading to Kentucky next year, so what was it like playing against [Mississippi St.-bound] Dee [Bost] in a future SEC match-up?
DL: It was cool. He [is] a good player, he hit some big shots, and I’ll see him next year in the SEC.

NB: How did you pick Kentucky over all the schools looking at you?
DL: I think it’s a great fit for me, and I can come in and play immediately.

NB: How’d you end up coming to Findlay? . . . [It’s] not most well-known prep school. What made it appealing for you?
DL: It was a second year program, and I just wanted to come in and make Findlay a name.

NB: How do you think Brice [Massamba’s] injury affected you guys? . . . He came up limping in the first half, and it didn’t seem like he was at full strength in the second. How did that affect your game plan?
DL: A lot, because he [was] playing pretty [well]. I think he was the player of the game, and he just played with heart, and we just came up short this time.

NB: [Do you have] any goals for your college career at this point, or are you just thinking about finishing up . . . school?
DL: I’ll just continue to work hard, lift weights, and train everyday.

DeAndre Liggins had a major impact at Findlay, and cold provide a similar boost to the Kentucky Wildcats next year. Liggins is able to run the point, and his 6'6 frame gives him a height advantage over most point guards, and can also play shooting guard, due to his height and solid stroke. The Wildcats need a top-notch guard to come in and push them closer to the top of the SEC, and Liggins could do just that. DeAndre Liggins is poised for success at the college level, and his height/skills combo could take him a long way.

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Michael Peck- Program Builder

Findlay College Prep (NV) is not a well-known prep school for basketball, but this season, the squad squashed any notions that teams from the West cannot compete with those on the East, specifically those in New England. Findlay Head Coach Michael Peck brought his team from being a relative unknown to being at the forefront of prep school basketball. Peck has gotten players such DeAndre Liggins, a Kentucky commit, and Brice Massamba, a UNLV commit, and his team went all the way to the national championship game. Findlay took an undefeated record to Fordham University in Bronx, New York for the Prep National Championships, where the team was the two seed, and knocked off Harmony (OH) and Notre Dame (MA) on its way to the title game, where the team met Hargrave Military Academy (VA), another undefeated club. Michael Peck kept his team in the game throughout, and his squad almost picked up a come from behind win, but fell just short, 75-73. Coach Peck and I spoke for a few minutes after the tough loss.

NB: So, you guys had a great season, [but] came [up] a little short. What happened in the game today?
MP: Oh, I just think [that] like any good game--Hollywood, we said before to our guys, Hollywood couldn’t script it any better, number one versus number two, both teams undefeated going into it, and then there ends up to be a two point game, [and it] goes down to the final 1.4 seconds. That’s a great story, but I think . . . the ebb and flow, there’s ups and downs to any game, there’s swings our way, there’s swings their way, [and] I just think their guards just really controlled the pace offensively for them. . . . Two days before this I saw their guards, those guards just continue to make shots, big shots, deep threes. . . . When you’re making shots--I always tell our guys all year, it doesn’t matter if a team’s not very good, what their record is. . . . if kids are making shots it’s going to be a ball game because the bottom line is [that] you got to defend and stop, and if their scoring, . . . scoring isn’t a luxury, you’re going to have to score just to be in the game, and that’s kind of what happened. . . . I think their guards did one heck of a job for them, and just made some big shots and we answered, but obviously came up a little short.

NB: You mentioned big shots. Down the stretch you guys hit a lot of those. How were you guys able to really make that into a game?
MP: Well, it’s kind of funny. One of the things that we practiced before we left [Las] Vegas to come out here, is we practiced a lot of situations [at the] end of games. . . . We were undefeated [and] our margin of victory was about 30, so we didn’t have a ton of close games, but one thing we knew coming out here [was that] we were going to have to prepare for that. So we tried to practice and simulate end-of-game situations. Okay, you’re down seven [with] 2:37 left, . . . we’re going to play it out, and lo and behold, we did not practice it very well. Our guys just did not have much success coming from behind or holding a lead even, in those situations, but like anything, I think when you put our guys in an actual situation when it’s a do-or-die, there have been drills in practice that we’ve done . . . when it’s on the line and it’s for real they respond and they get results usually. So, this unfortunately was the first time . . . where it was played for real, and they didn’t get the outcome that they usually get, and it hurts, it hurts, and it should, but nonetheless, we’ll go through a little mourning now, but then we’ve got to regroup and look at the bigger picture.

NB: Did it mean anything special to you guys being the only team from the West Coast at this tournament, or were you guys not even thinking about that?
MP: Yeah, teams say that, but my argument on that is . . . [that] if I enter contest and I come in first place, but I’m the only one that enters it, does it mean as much? . . . There’s only three teams that I know of out there that are sort of in this world of prep school [basketball]. . . . New England, the NEPSC, kind of is the end-all be-all of what people know in terms of prep school [basketball], and then out in California there’s Summit and Stoneridge, and then us. So it’s not like there’s a whole list of them out there, so being the only school from the West, I think it’s neat and it has some appeal to it from a fan standpoint or a media standpoint, but for us I don’t think we thought too much about it to be honest.

NB: You mentioned that the New England schools are the most well-known. So, . . . how does this tournament, knocking off a school like Harmony [and] a school like Notre Dame really help you guys to establish your reputation as a top-notch prep school?
MP: Well, I think that’s one of the things we did. We played a national schedule this year. This was our ninth trip East. We played those teams, we played South Kent three times this year, [and] beat them all three times. . . . We went to the National Prep Invitational in Rhode Island. We beat Brewster out there, we beat New Hampton. . . . We knew we had to play those teams in order to get the credit that we felt we deserved and needed to ultimately be one of eight to make it here and get invited here, and then to compete, and so that’s what we set out [to do]. We didn’t pad our schedule too much, we wanted to play the best, because one) that makes you better, and two) . . . in our second year, that’s going to give us the recognition and the credit that we needed.

NB: If you had one word to sum up the whole season, what would it be?
MP: [Pause] It was long, it was long, it was a long season, but it was fun. Our guys, like I’ve always said, when you have talent, and they play hard, and they play together, what more can you ask for? I think that our group of guys was a group of guys that bought into our system, and embraced it, and our play showed [that].

NB: How are you going to replace guys like Brice [Massamba] and DeAndre [Liggins]?
MP: I have no idea, that’s a great question. If anybody’s got any ideas, I’m willing to take calls, e-mails, [and] what-have-you. We’re working on that right now, we’re in that process. We know that these guys have set a standard that’s pretty high, and the expectations [are as well]. I think we can get back to being very competitive and then being very good, but it’s not . . . going to be the same group of guys. We got to, as coaches, we got to know that, and as our fans and people back home got to understand, we’re not going to have Jacques [Streeter], we’re not going to have DeAndre. . . . Now, we’re going to have different players that we think are going to be as good, and we’re going to make them better and help them, but it’s going to be different. So, it might . . . taste good, but it’s going to be a different product. [The] steak’s going to be a little bit different, but we think it’s going to be good.

Michael Peck is clearly a proud coach, and for good reason. Coach Peck has molded his team at Findlay into a national title contender, and he has done a great job. Peck had a roster of stars this season, and Findlay's roster should remain loaded, as long as Michael Peck is in charge. He has found a way to have his team compete with the big dogs, and not just play the, but beat them. Michael Peck and Findlay Prep are here to stay.