Gary Battle, father of Tyus Battle: It’s a great university from every standpoint. It’s a great academic school, culture, there’s a lot of diversity there, lot of different cultures there with kinda what you see in the United States today—lot of different people with a lot of different cultures all over the place. It’s kind of a big and small campus, it’s kinda small in that there’s only 6000 on campus but it seems bigger with the grad students. We both loved the way it was laid out, it was enjoyable and from a basketball standpoint, they run a tight ship and Coach K does a good job at communicating, the kids are all gentleman and we had a great time.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by, “they run a tight ship there ?”
They really dotted every I and crossed every T with what they showed us. They have everything that a kid could ever want in terms of a kid being a basketball player with all the amenities, the practice facility, Cameron Indoor it’s got all the historical, the oldness and the history of the school is preserved very well but it’s also very new and updated in different ways. It has all the things you could ever want in terms of the trainers, weight lifting program, strength and conditioning, just everything. It’s the best of the best.
What was going through your mind as you made your way down there?
Well, we were excited for sure. Tyus, he’s been on a few visits but it’s still a special visit and we’re just making sure that Tyus was prepared to soak up every bit of the experience there and reflecting a bit on how much he has worked to have an opportunity to even be there. We also try to keep it in perspective though, a lot of the coaches work really hard with these basketball kids and recruiting Tyus, so we try to be respectful. Obviously Duke is a different kind of place with the kind of success they have had.
Did what you saw at Duke kinda follow along with what you expected?
It was really emphasized how much they really wanted Tyus to play for them. They have a real need for a guy like him that helps win championships, someone who has that kind of pedigree. What really was emphasized was how much they want him in different ways. They want him on campus as a student, they want him on the team, he’s important in the locker room with the guys. Coach K talked about how at one point in time, maybe second year or if it goes beyond that that he could be a captain of the team, he has that ability from what Coach K told us.
What was your personal impressions of the players as you spent time around them?
I think that was one of the things we liked the most about the trip was the people. Kids are really down to earth, very polite and very appreciative of what they have. The level of appreciation which I think is really important for young men, they really expressed that and they came up to us and thanked us for being there, which was cool. Even Sulaimon told us that he wanted to make sure, he’s going to be gone by the time Tyus gets there, but he told us how important it was for Tyus to be there, I think that shows you what they are all about.
As you sat down with the coaches—what kind of questions or feedback did you offer them as you interacted?
Really just more so how they would play him and what kind of opportunity he might have. As much as they could shed any light on that since it’s two years away at a program like Duke is, you look at guys who could or could not be there in two years. We just asked questions that we ask of every staff, we talked about going back and watching a game, how the schedule is looking and we talked about the academic part—what kind of assistance do they get.
What were your impressions of the information you received regarding the academic piece?
It’s good, just like every other school. They have academic advisors, tutoring, all that stuff. We liked it because the setup there is similar to what he experiences in the classroom here at Gill St-Bernard’s. Small school with a lot of opportunity to learn and Coach K described it as a place where they want you to be good, not just as a basketball player, but also as a person and a student and they really work with you on that at Duke.
How much, if any, is it a drawing point for you guys with Duke that it has a similar feel to Tyus’s high school?
It is definitely a plus, it’s not the end all be all, but it is a plus. At the end of the day Tyus is getting a scholarship to play basketball and he does have future aspirations with basketball down the road, so first and foremost we’re looking at the basketball situation. Everything there though, it’s about as good as you can get.
What was the coaching staff’s message about Tyus’s projected role and how they see him developing if he were to go to Duke?
Well, they think he could be a really good player there, he could be a captain there, they expect him to play immediately, that’s the expectation but there’s no promises that were made. He’s a wing there, a guard, one of the primary defensive players there that could guard three different positions, very valuable in a lot of different moves there.
The defensive impact Tyus seems to be thought of as able to have right away—is that a common thing that most coaches say about Tyus’s projected early on role?
Yeah, we’ve heard that from a variety of schools. When Coach K talked, he also talked about how well Tyus can shoot the ball including from the three point area, but he also talked how he’s strong in taking the ball into the paint from the perimeter. He’s always shot it well from mid-range and he also talked about Tyus’s body and how he can keep working on it and keep developing it. His role is really going to depend on what the situation is where he goes. He’s only a junior but where he has a real opportunity—that’s a big part of the process for us.
I wanted to ask you about the conversation involving Derryck Thornton, Jr. and Tyus and possibly playing together in college? How much of a factor is that in your school considerations as a family and how much do you pay attention to that discussion?
We don’t pay attention to it and it’s zero factor. Tyus is going to go to a school and Derryck is probably the same where they each need to go where it’s the best fit for each of them. Derryck and his dad, they are good friends of ours, but at the end of the day, each kid will make the best decision for himself.
You have to trust that the coaching staffs are going to bring guys in, but the discussion has kinda been overblown about Tyus and Derryck, but it’s really more so an organic thing. If the recruitment ends up working in that direction, great, but if not, that’s ok, it’s not really something, and I know Derryck feels the same. If Derryck goes to whatever school, that doesn’t automatically mean that’s where Tyus is going to go and vice versa. We have some similar schools recruiting us, we obviously have Duke and Kentucky and we have Michigan and Miami I think are the same, Louisville, those I think are the schools that are recruiting both Tyus and Derryck. I know Derryck released a list recently, and I knew Kentucky was recruiting him and Duke was and so was Michigan, but I didn’t know about the other schools that were really recruiting him, Louisville is recruiting Tyus as well.
What are the next steps in the process?
We expect to take some official visits at some point in time, I’m not sure when or where those are going to be yet, but we just gotta keep doing our due diligence. We may take one more unofficial visit at some point in time, we’ve pretty much visited every place we wanted to except one or two places.
I’m not really sure yet.
Do you both feel like there are a lot of unanswered questions for the schools still recruiting Tyus? MO< Yeah, we don’t really have, there’s still a process where we’re waiting for the 2015 process to unfold at a few places, we don’t know who is going to be there yet. We’re not looking at anybody in particular to see where they go, it’s more just to see how things develop with these schools and who they get in 2015. We want to see what kind of big men they get, Kentucky has a lot of open spots.
With Duke, I think they are already pretty much done with 2015 with Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard, but there’s some situations you can see where things are going to be roster wise but there’s others that you can’t right now, so we want to look into that more so we can make more firmer decisions. For Tyus and us as a family, we’ve probably been one of the more dedicated families in terms of taking visits, we’ve been around. Thank God we have the ability to take visits-we have been taking full advantage of that ability.
As a parent, will you advise Tyus to take all five available official visits before deciding?
Once we find the school we like and we firmly believe that the school, you have to wait and see how you feel a few days later, but if we find a school that we 100% feel comfortable with and if he is ready to move on and pursue that college-we will make a decision and move on. We don’t have to take all five official visits because we’ve taken so many unofficial visits already.
Which schools or visits have done, in your opinion, the best job in presenting their case(s)?
That’s a tough one, everybody does a great job. At the end of the day, if they weren’t doing a great job during the visits at communicating with us, they wouldn’t be recruiting Tyus. It’s important that everything is transparent and honest on both sides. Everybody has done a good job and recently, Duke did a great job, the Syracuse visit was great, Kentucky too and Louisville. Michigan has done an outstanding job, they will definitely be a school that makes our list for sure.
Do you think Kentucky and Michigan occupy an extremely strong position in Tyus’s recruitment?
They have done a great job, we’re going to be narrowing down to a list of 10 or so in the next couple of weeks, so any school that makes that list is going to be strong and will have done a pretty good job. We want to get back to Michigan for a game and all that because we were at a disadvantage the first time we visited because it wasn’t for a game, it was during the summertime. That means we don’t know fully what the culture is like up there, I can only tell you what I’ve read and heard from people about it, but we have to see it for ourselves, we would like to be able to go there and touch it a little bit more, if that happens.
With schools that you have seen them play in a Midnight Madness type game setting, is it important to you guys to see them play a regular game?
I got a very good feel for how the guys play, there’s a history with these guys in terms of what style they play, how they coach, how they communicate with guys. Michigan again, we haven’t been there during a “live time” with a game and all the people on campus, so we may want to try and do that, but it’s not mandatory or anything like that. There’s probably still a couple more we may want to visit, places like Virginia, Florida, every other place we’ve been to.
Since we’re talking game action—what were your impressions of what you saw during Duke’s practices and the game you were on campus for?
Yeah they had a shoot-around Saturday morning at 10am, then the Countdown to Craziness that evening. It was outstanding, guys were playing real hard, they were playing like they were playing for a job, playing for a spot, playing for a position. That was very attractive to us.
How do you guys work through evaluating schools whose offensive/defensive systems change year to year based on personnel—how do you guys figure out a potential fit for Tyus in light of those kinds of circumstances?
The good thing about Tyus that makes him attractive to so many schools is his ability to play different styles, he can play in structure, he can play in a full court press-stuff like that. He can zone, he can play man to man, half court, full court. What matters to us in trying to pick the best place for him is what kind of guys is he going to be around and hopefully an opportunity at his position.
Like any of us as parents who have done the due diligence, it’s about style of play, opportunities on the court and of course, depth chart, it’s definitely about depth chart at that level. If you want to be able to get on the court, you have to be ready to compete because there’s always somebody in the depth chart and you need to see who is on the depth chart.
With Tyus it’s a bit more difficult because he can play so many different positions, so then you have to ask yourself—do you want to play off the ball, on the ball, primary ball-handler?
I think with Tyus’s case—we want him to do all of the above since he’s a six foot six guard, he’s got good ball skills. We embrace his versatility but at the same time there’s certain things he wants. He can play on the perimeter, he’s learning to work on his post game in the mid-post area, working on his turn-around jump shot, that’s the benefit of having a 6-9, 6-10 wingspan while being 6-foot-6. He definitely wants to be a guard and he can play some forward too so he can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward and he can be a guy that dribbles, that can run off ball screens occasionally and he can play in space. So that’s a want, so as a parent and a coach, I have to make sure I balance the wants, desires and try to come as close as possible because nothing is going to be an exact fit. Things will change as we go along here, that’s just the nature of the business. Since I’ve been around and I know a lot of people, I’m hoping I’ve done a pretty good job at advising him with that.
Everybody has their own process/plan towards decision making time—do you guys have any plans with that or still unformed?
Really I couldn’t say right now. We’re not looking at that way. When the time comes, it’ll kinda be like when we picked a high school for him, when we had to make it happen, when we found a school that we knew—we just had to make it happen. If we find the right college for him, it’ll be right then and there. As long as everything makes sense with the style of play, opportunity, depth chart, we want to make sure they have some big people too so he can play where he wants to. We really just feel very happy with where things are at with these schools, we’re blessed to be in this position and we have a lot of humility about this and hopefully he’s going to keep getting better and keep healthy.
So it could be in a month or it could take a year, is that a fair read?