Elijah Thomas: We have, and we really played well as a team. We wanted to beat Huntington Prep, and we were focused on moving the ball and making the extra pass. That's why we won, I think.
What made it different than other games?
It was because we were going up against such a top ranked team. After our win against Yates, who almost never loses, we knew that it was a statement game going up against Huntington Prep, so we wanted to win the game real bad.
What was it like for you going up against your former teammate, Austin Grandstaff's new team?
It's different, but sometimes when you go to college you aren't able to play with your teammates who you played with growing up. Because of that, I found myself used to it. We still going to play with the same AAU team though.
What's it do for you as a player to compete in such a high level high school game?
It was really good because there was a lot of media there, and everybody was watching us, so that was a good experience just being in the spotlight.
Those in attendance wrote about your game expanding. What changes have you seen?
Really, it was boxing out, rebounding, playing smart, being patient on my shot selection.
Are these kinds of games chances to expand your skills or is it just a chance to show what you're worked on?
It depends, I think. It made me have more confidence in my game, and it grew us as a team. We showed we could play better than we thought we could inside and outside. I also put some stuff into the game that i've been practicing, so that was good.
There were a ton of reports also after the game on Twitter about new offers coming in--can you shed some light on what it's like for you having all these new offers in just a matter of days?
It's a good feeling, it shows your hard work is paying off. At the end of the day, it's about staying consistent and working hard. Some people were saying that Kentucky offered me and some people were saying they hadn't offered, so I don't really know. From what I heard they did and I also heard that they didn't, I haven't really talked with Coach Calipari, so I don't really know.
Can you elaborate a little more reference your contact with Kentucky since you did indicate yourself on Twitter that Kentucky had offered?
It was just more of, people, when I was walking around, people were congratulating me on the offer from Coach Calipari, but I didn't know anything about it. It was just friends, teammates and other adults that were there. I thought they had offered, but my coach told me the next morning that Kentucky didn't offer, they had just expressed heavy interest and they wanted to talk with me after the game and all that. People were all on Twitter saying stuff like I was committing and I was thinking deeply about the offer, and that kind of thing.
What I told my coaches, and they understood, is that even if they did offer, I would treat it just like every other situation. Just because they are Kentucky, doesn't mean that Kentucky is a a good fit for you, and you have to go where the best fit is for you. Just because it's a high profile team, and the NBA players, from what I see and like when I talk with friends in college who play, if you put in the work, you can go to the NBA. As long as you are playing, there are NBA scouts everyday.
What makes you have that mindset?
Well, first of all, I don't really like to get into the whole it's a big school so lets blow it up thing. I'm a humble type kid, so I don't pay attention to recruiting stuff. For Kentucky to have interest in me, I guess it seems like I fit their system well, but I don't know any of their coaches well, and I haven't been on campus. I haven't built a relationship with them, so the players who look at it like that, they get all oohed and aahh'ed because of the name Kentucky. I don't pay attention just to the name of the school. I want to go somewhere because it's the best fit for me, and I don't want to go and it's not a family or it's not what you thought it was. I want to go where they will put you in a good situation and where it's going to be a family.
Just to confirm, are you saying there's been no contact with Kentucky at all with you?
No sir, I have not had any contact with them at all. They have talked with my coaches it sounds like.
How much communication is going through your coaches recruiting wise or your family?
It's mostly through my high school coaches, but my mom, Rell Porter, my head coach of my high school and AAU team, they all communicate. I do a little because you don't want to make it seem like you don't have interest in a program that's recruiting you, and I have interest in every school that is recruiting me and I let them know that. I'm not saying I'm putting a school higher than others, they are all equal. I'll do some contacting every now and then.
So what schools have you had contact with?
Are you talking with head coaches or mostly assistants?
It's mostly assistants right now. Unless you go on the visit, it's hard to speak with the head coaches because they are preparing their teams right now for the next game.
Who would you say you have a really good relationship with assistants wise?
I have a good relationship with a lot of them.
How much communication have you had with Coach Capel from Duke?
We've talked a lot, we talk a lot about having the attitude of wanting to be great, not just decent but wanting to be a great player. A lot of coaches ask you, what do you want to do and they'll give me pointers and quotes that help me. I've got a great relationship with a lot of assistant coaches but at the same time, I really don't do a lot with the recruiting stuff because I don't want to get caught up in it because I'm just a sophomore.
Talk with me about Louisville offer, that sounds like it came right after your game against Huntington.
Yeah, they actually called and offered me, Coach Richardson, he's an assistant coach, he said they would like to offer me an official scholarship to attend the University of Louisville and they have liked me since the summer and they also like how I have improved every time they have come see me play, they also liked my basketball IQ and how I work for good shots.
They were basically telling me the things they really liked, so I was like "Coach, c'mon, you gotta tell me the bad stuff too." I don't like talking about the good stuff all the time because when I'm working out with Rell, he's always telling me the bad stuff that I need to work on my game, so I can push myself to be better than everybody.
That's a pretty unique approach to this whole process. Where does that mindset come from?
It comes from Rell, he taught me me a lot because he's been through the same process I'm going through and my friends in college who play, they taught me a lot. People don't realize, but I'm just a big kid, when I'm on the court, I like to smile and have fun playing the game and off the court, I just try to be a regular kid, hang out, play with my friends, like yesterday, my team and I, we had a snowball fight. I just always realize that there's somebody out there who is better than you and who is outworking you, so I don't get serious about the recruiting stuff because it won't make you better, I want to be a kid as long as I can.
What are the things you are looking at objectively about schools recruiting you to determine if they are a good fit for you?
Well, as I'm watching a game on ESPN, I like watching coaches who are into their players but at the same time, I also like watching guys on the bench to see if they are into the game and are having fun with it. Are the players a family on the court? What's the environment of the crowd? The thing is… though, I have two years left, so I want to be a kid as long as I can because I want to go to the NBA someday and when you go to college, it's more businesslike, so I want to be a kid as long as I can.
What's your expectation regarding the length the time you want to spend in college?
First of all, I would love to play in the NBA, but at the same time, my mom and Rell have put it in my mind a lot that you go to college for an education. So, I can tell you right now, I'm going to school for more than one year just because it takes time to develop and there's some guys in the NBA right now who could be great if they had stayed in college longer. It just depends on how fast you progress in college and your draft projection and also the money too, because when you go pro, you are an adult and a pro and you are on your own, so I haven't looked deep into how long I'm going to stay in college just because I'm still young.
What kind of things do you think you need to keep developing as a person and player to one day be in a position to fulfill your NBA dream?
I'd say honestly, being more consistent with my left hand both shooting, dribbling and passing, people know I can shoot with both hands, so I want to be consistent with my shot with both my left and right hands. I also want to be a monster with rebounding the ball and my game off the dribble because there's some guys in college who can't dribble into good shots even if the opportunity is there, so I want to be able to make those shots in college by working on those skills in the gym. I also want to stay humble because some guys get to college and start partying and doing dumb things and I don't want to do that. There's a lot, but the most important thing is staying close to God and playing the game the right way because that's the only way things are going to work out the right way.
Do you pay attention to the discussion about which schools are considered "big men schools" and which ones aren't?
Well, I turn my twitter off from people who tweet me about I should go to this school or that school for starters. Also, every game I watch on National TV, the big men touches the ball but there's also big men who aren't just as skilled or the role they play is different and they don't touch the ball all that much. Like for instance, the Kentucky dudes right now, their bigs don't touch the ball much, but when Cousins was there, he touched the ball every possession because he was skilled or like Anthony Davis, he was skilled too but he blocked shots and rebounds. Cousins was skilled and he touched the ball a lot and scored but he wasn't as athletic as Davis was. There's other examples too, like Joakim Noah, when he was at Florida, he scored, or Patric Young, his job is to block shots and rebounds.
It sounds like you are very aware of big men and their varying roles?
It just depends on the role of the player who has to play and what matters at the end of the day is what is your role that is going to help your team win the game. If your role is to score on every play or get back and rebound and play your heart off in defense or make hustle plays. Like the guy from UConn, he didn't score much at all, but he made like five extra plays by his hustle and rebounding, so it just depends on the situation.
That right there is a really good front court combo. It's really hard to stop those two. Ryan Kelly, he's not very athletic, but he's very agile and he's very deceptive and he's hard to be guarded all over the floor. Mason Plumlee, he can pretty much do it all, and he's so long, it's hard to get his shot when he gets it off.
When you go to college-Do you think you are going to be the centerpiece big that they build the team around or will you be the big who plays a role with other bigs in the rotation?
I haven't really looked into it, or thought about it that much. The thing is, I'm going to be a freshman, everyone will be older or they will be the same age. In my mind I'm going to play around other guys because I'm going to be new to their team. One of my favorite things to hear from my mom is she'll tell me that such and such a coach tells her that I always progress each and every time he sees me play, which is a good thing to hear for all the work I put in with Rell, it's paying off.
For the people who thought before that I was just a slow, overweight kid when I was 275, well now I'm 230 and it's always funny, because people think I'm 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, and overweight. Now I'm showing them that I have the soft touch, I'm getting more agile and I'm also working on getting the ball in transition and either finishing or finding guys in transition, staying out of foul trouble and also staying agile and keeping my footwork, so it's good showing that I'm improving as a player.
Any visits you are trying to make soon?
I've talked with Duke about doing a visit and Georgetown wants me to come too. I just don't have dates for visits at the moment. But, Kansas, Duke, Georgetown, LSU….I'm going to try and take a couple visits during conference play. It costs a lot of money though, you gotta save money in your piggy bank to go on those visits. I'll be going to LSU whenever my cousin goes visit. You have to look at your schedule because I play on a team with a national schedule.