As long as I can remember, I had a ball in my hand. Shooting a ball in a fisher price hoop. When I was a little kid, I would ask my dad to stay up late with me and shoot the ball at night. In the mornings I would ask him to do the same, and he never complained. When I was in 3rd grade I started playing a bit more of organized ball in a sense. I was attached to the game.
In middle school I started playing AAU basketball with coach Sina. I wanted to continue building with him, so I chose to go to Gil St. Bernards. My freshman year at Gil was awesome. I’m still close to the school, kids and other members within the Gil community. It’s a awesome place that provides great academics with an elite basketball experience. We made it to the sectional final and lost to a really good Roselle Catholic team that year. Paul and I were both freshman starters alongside Adam, Mike and Alex. I think the early success shocked a lot of people. I don’t think people expected us to win right away. They might have recognized the talent but winning at a high level is hard for many when you are young. I’m still close to those guys. Shout out to Paul, we still hangout and workout together all of the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that year and I appreciate what everyone did for me.
My sophomore year I went to Montverde. It was just one of those things, that if you’re asked to go play play for Montverde and you are going to have a shot to play on a national schedule on one the #1 ranked team in America, it’s very hard to say no. It’s one of those things you could look back at when you’re older and say “what could’ve happened?” It took me a long time to make that decision. It was a lot of factors that went into that and I talked to a lot of people before I made my choice. I made my decision and I don’t regret it.
I got a lot better while I was there and made plenty of relationships. R.J. Barrett is still one of my best friends, along with Andrew Nembhard. Coach Boyle is a great coach. He knows how to develop his players. He does a great job a building his players up to the pro level. Academically, I didn’t see any fall in regards to education. They are a very prestigious school academically.
For the past two years, I played on the Nike EYBL circuit for the Tim Thomas Playaz. I think the EYBL is a great platform that does a great job providing players a chance to showcase their ability. Nike does a great job in regards to promotion of the league every year as well. I think it’s a special league and an honor to play in. It helped me a lot mentally and skill wise. It gave me a chance and platform to separate myself and weed out bad habits. I think that AAU helped me. People can talk all they want about how AAU is bad, which I understand. There is a lot of bad that goes along with it. With that being said, you can use it as a tool to grow as well.
In regards to recruitment, things really picked up for me near the back end and after my freshman year. I had a string of really solid games, one in particular that I hit 9 threes in. That made a couple headlines and turned some heads. At Montverde, I saw a huge pick up in recruitment as well. The practices were flooded with coaches who would stop by. You would see the Villanova’s, Michigan’s and other elite schools constantly. I learned that you never know who is going to get the word about you. Every coach knows other coaches and spreads the word on potential talent. No matter who is in the gym, you never know how far the word can spread.
This year I came back to New Jersey and played at St. Benedict’s Prep. Being home with my sister and the rest of my family was awesome. St. Benedicts is a special place and school. A lot of good happens there. Basketball wise, it has been a great experience. We were the third ranked team in America for most of the year. We won big games against teams like Hudson Catholic and Huntington Prep. We won the Prep Championship in New Jersey against Blair.
There were a bunch of schools that reached out. I personally felt it was best to keep my circle tight and keep word on my recruitment to my inner circle. My family and coach were people I would seek advice from.
I decided to continue my academic experience and athletic career at Lehigh. There were three things I looked at when deciding a school. 1) Basketball 2) Academics and 3) the social experience. They gave me the best balance of all the schools that recruited me. I really liked the coaching staff. Their academics are great also. That’s really important to me. Their business school is ranked in the top 10 in America. It was win all around.
I want to thank my family, all the coaches that have influenced me in the past. I want to say thank you to Lehigh Head Coach Reed and Coach Wyche for giving me this amazing opportunity. Lookout for St. Benedict’s next year. We’re looking to be #1 in the country next year.