Duke making Battle a big priority

Tyus Battle is one of the top players in a very good class of 2016. We spoke with the player's father to get the latest on the Blue Devils' approach and where it may be heading.

So what are your thoughts on the college basketball season up until this point? Any memorable games you guys have seen?

Gary Battle, father of Tyus Battle: We’ve pretty much been looking at everybody that is recruiting Tyus. We haven’t seen everyone unfortunately, but we have seen Duke several times…against Michigan State and Wisconsin, and we saw them earlier in their first game. I’ve DVR’ed all the games and Tyus and I have been watching them.

Do you and Tyus watch the teams recruiting him with a keen eye on the details, or is more just enjoying a good game when you watch?

We definitely don’t watch them with a critical eye, i would say we look at them in a keen way. It’s hard to be too critical of them at Duke for example, the kids play hard, they play well with each other, they play hard and they play for each other, which is great. They are winning with 3-point shooting, with togetherness and I think Coach is giving them a nice level of freedom and structure, it’s been good watching them.

Has any team really intrigued you guys by what they have been running—offensively or defensively?

Yeah, Louisville, the way they play. They haven’t been hitting a really high percentage of their shots, I think they are shooting like 30 something percent from the 3s. I was looking at some of their stats this morning, they aren’t shooting all that well from the foul line either but they do a good job at speeding the game up and make a lot more possessions, which is attractive. They definitely are a team I pay attention to as well as Ohio State. The way they are playing DeAngelo Russell, I think Tyus may play a similar role there, similar I like the way their coach has been coaching his team, adjusting to them, he’s a coach like some who adjusts to his team each year, which is a good attribute. 

With coaches that adjust to their personnel each year, how are you evaluating Tyus’s potential fit in the future in programs where every year they change how they play?

Tyus will fit anywhere, that’s one of the best things with him and that is one of the main reasons I think why he is so highly recruited, is because he’s adaptable and he’s multi-dimensional. Some kids are rebounders or shot blockers or only point guards or some kids are only a wing—with Tyus he can do a multitude of things. I think there’s only a few kids in the country like that who can be a star at multiple positions. I think he’s best suited in playing multiple positions, i think that’s how he can potentially most helpful in college, but I’m not going to be the coach then, i’m the coach now and i’m coaching him through this decision, that’s the biggest coaching i’m going to be doing.

Is it going to be a big factor in your final evaluations of schools for Tyus who they have on the wing personnel wise when he’s going to be in college?

It doesn’t come into play as much as people would think. We’re not really looking at it just that way, i look at everything. It’s definitely more weighted towards style of play and the opportunity to play. Every school he’s being recruited by, there’s a certain level of the elite of the elite, but all of them are elite programs. Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, UCONN, they are all a different order but they are all winners and they all have recent and past success, history. Louisville has a ton of recent success and UCONN as well, and they have past success as well. Duke, Kentucky, it’s the same. It doesn’t, the biggest thing is the style of play and how they are going to play him, but it does come into play who is there. We want to be sure from a coach’s standpoint that they are good guys and that they are going to look after him. You want guys that are really going to look after you, take care of you, make sure you fit into the program, I think those are important to building a team and how to be successful in picking the right guys for your program and who share the same core values as you as people. You want to see them developing their young men to become better young men.

How have the meetings been going with the coaches this fall?

The only coaches that have come by were Coach K, Coach Capel and Coach Scheyer—other than that we’ve been watching teams play. I went to the Villanova vs Michigan game, I went to the UCONN game a little while ago. I’ve been watching a multitude of games, it’s been a good indication for me and for Tyus though.

That seems to be a serious level of interest from Duke with 3 coaches visiting you guys…

Oh yeah, well, they’ve offered him a scholarship, can’t get anymore serious than when they offer a scholarship. Every time that K has been here to visit, he’s always had two other guys with him, he’s K man, he’s got swag man, you know? Listen man, K has swag for real, I’ve learned that a little bit in spending some time around him, I can see why he’s so successful. That doesn’t always necessarily come out on the tube, but he’s got swag. He’s a cool guy you know, he gets it, he’s a cool dude, he’s got swag. If you are a 40, 45 year old dude like myself, you can appreciate that he has that swag appeal that I can relate to. He’s obviously a high level basketball guy, but he’s also just a really good guy too, you can talk shop with him. You can talk hoop with him but you can also be regular with him, he’s a cool dude. 

What was touched on during the meeting with the Duke staff?

Yeah they were expressing just how much they really want Tyus and just how critical he is to their success and the recruiting process in 2016. They were very direct in saying that Tyus is as critical to their efforts as anybody as we are recruiting and they wanted to make sure that we understood that.

What kind of approach have they taken in terms a potential commitment from Tyus?

They don’t do that, they don’t pressure for a commitment at all. I don’t succumb to pressure—one thing I’m definitely not going to do is bow to pressure, not with something as important as this for Tyus. One thing I respect Duke for and a lot of the coaches and teams recruiting Tyus is none of them recruit Tyus that way. They value and respect the decision we have to make as a family for our child to go to college. It’s a fine line between expressing how much they want your kid and actually giving you the space to make that decision. The way I look at it—I try to control this process because my standpoint is as much as these programs are recruiting my kid and showing how much they want him, i’m also recruiting them. We’ve got the programs recruiting Tyus that we want and there’s nobody that is recruiting Tyus that we don’t want, so we kinda picked them as well as they picked us in recruiting Tyus. I hope that everything works out in the long run for him.

What kind of questions did you guys have for the Duke staff when you met with them recently?

Just stuff that they answered, style of play, how they have adapted over the years to his personnel. Like before, they played a lot of motion and inside out, but over the years there’s been times when they haven’t had dominant post guys where they played through their guards or in years where they had really great bigs like Elton Brand or Jahlil, they played inside and out or like when they had Kyrie—they’ve just always adapted each year to who they had. We talked a lot about how Coach K has evolved, especially from him being involved in USA Basketball. 

Has Duke identified to you guys relative to 2016 what their hoped for roster situation is and how they potentially see Tyus fitting in?

Yeah they are recruiting Harry Giles, Tyus Battle, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, Derryck Thornton as well. There’s really no order in that, it’s just the guys that are really important to them and Tyus is as important to them as anybody, he’d be key cog in the wheel from what they have said because K loves versatile guys. 

MB

I guess for me I don’t see Jayson Tatum being the same kind of player as Tyus, they are different in what they do and how they play. That doesn’t really come up to be honest. They both dribble and shoot but they play in different ways. Jayson is versatile also just in a different way, like he may not be a 1-2-3 strictly, he may play a 3 or a 4 role in college depending, he may you know ? All these guys, most of these kids, if you are a wing you want to play the 1 sometimes or the 2, you always want to play different positions. I think with Jayson it’ll be interesting to see how he plays in college, but he’s a great player for sure. 

So for your consideration of schools—is it not all that big a factor in your evaluation of any of the schools on Tyus’s list are potentially looking at bringing in Tyus AND another wing in his class in together?

I can’t really say, if you look at a school like Syracuse, Tyus is a combo guard in their system and I don’t see them recruiting another combo guard that year. you look at Duke, I don’t know if they are recruiting, I think Duke plays a way where the parts are interchangeable so in their system, I don’t know, but a guy like Jayson Tatum may play a 3 or a 4 man role in their system, he’s interchangeable to either position because he’s a special player, just like Tyus.

So it sounds like you guys definitely tailor what you view is the potential position and role that Tyus could potentially have school by school—fair read?

Yeah if you look at the schools recruiting Tyus—even like with a Louisville, who else are they recruiting in 2016 you know that is really similar to Tyus ? We do look a little at the class ahead of Tyus, I do like to see guys who are pros or who has the potential to be a pro. But with 11 schools, most schools like Villanova, Virginia, they don’t recruit a lot of guys like Tyus. You got Duke—well, they recruit guys like Tyus but they aren’t really recruiting another guy that is just like Tyus in his class. Harry and Tyus are different, Jayson Tatum and Tyus are different, you look at a guy like Dennis Smith, he’s different. Look at Michigan—they recruit guys like Tyus and they recruit and play multiple wings together, that’s the one school but the way they play, they play with multiple wing guys but then you look at a school like Ohio State—Tyus is a combo guard in their system. See I think Tyus is a combo guard anyway but he can also play on the wing because of his versatility. So I think it really depends on the system, but most of the schools we’re looking at I would say aren’t recruiting multiple “wings” in the same class that are exactly like Tyus, you see what i’m saying ?

Several months you mentioned that you were going to be evaluating as a family how to trim the list down further in the future. Have those discussions advanced much since then?

We really haven’t discussed it much, he’s got his season approaching and he’s got a couple of AP classes that he’s really busting his butt on. We’re really in the evaluation stage at this point and I think this process will organically work out. Him and I are usually on the same page with this stuff, as you have these young guys and they are around you every day, you see them start to think a little bit like you on a daily basis. He’s definitely changing, he has to start looking even harder and moving towards making a decision potentially. I think we’ll get there after this season. It’s the hard part because they are young, but he’s grown in that way and I also think he’s paying even more attention to what he’s hearing because when you talk to him and ask him questions, he remembers a lot more.

How is Tyus when you guys meet with the coaching staffs ? Is he more comfortable or more guarded?

He’s reserved, typical 17 year old. He’s comfortable I would say, he’s not a guy who talks a lot, i would say he talks about what he means and what he’s thought about. Him and I had a conversation about the recent controversy in New York with the police choking situation and the Saint Louis situation and race relations in general, just how he feels about it. He’s a smart kid and he’s got his own opinions which is good. He just doesn’t talk about stuff just to have small talk.

Have you guys had any helpful conversations with either players in Tyus’s class or their parents reference the recruiting process and where things are headed for you guys?

No, our recruitment, Tyus’s recruitment it’s really a family decision. As friends we discuss different situations as parents but the reality is, these are young men making individual decisions and just like them, Tyus is going to make his decision based on his needs academically and athletically. Organically if it happens for him to play together with guys, that’s great, but that’s not the main thing in his decision.

Are you guys evaluating the potential for any early official visits for Tyus?

We may, I’m aware of the NCAA rule with that. We haven’t discussed where yet because in January he’s taking the SAT or ACT, then he can take official visits after that. People have asked us about that though.

Did that come up in the recent Duke visit—Tyus taking an early official visit there?

Yeah we discussed it with them, but it’s not really something we’ve thought seriously about at this point because a lot of schools have asked that. That’s a decision we’ll make towards the end of the season, I don’t think we’ll do anything earlier than that.

Do you think there’s more pros or cons to doing some earlier official visits for Tyus?

It doesn’t matter, we’ve taken so many unofficial visits already, I don’t think we need that many official visits to be honest with you. Yeah we kinda, every school has resources, nice facilities and all that. 

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