One on one with 2016 PF Jay Huff

This local Top-100 prospect with long time ties to the Duke program has seen the Blue Devil interest ramping up over the last few weeks. So where do the Blue Devils stand with an offer and how does Coach K see this player’s career developing if he chose to commit? We spoke with Jay Huff about those questions and a lot more.

As this is our first conversation, why don’t we start by getting a quick bio from you.

Jay Huff: I’m born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. For middle school I went to Trinity in between Durham and Chapel Hill and then 9th grade year I came to Durham Voyager. I’ve been here all three years for my high school. I am the leader of an FCA Group, that’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes so that’s a lot of fun.

When did you get started playing organized basketball?

A long time ago, pretty much as long as I can remember. Competitively in church league I started around six or seven. I’m not sure what got me interested in it at first, I kinda grew up in a basketball family, my dad has been a coach and he started training a bunch of athletes and he even worked at Duke training athletes so I got to hang around that a lot and that sort of put a spark in it for me. I just kinda grew up playing, it was a lot of fun for me.

How did it come about for your dad to work at Duke?

Before we moved to North Carolina he did some coaching at The Masters College, it’s a Christian school out in California. Then he met my mom there and they moved to, I believe, Alabama after that and then I believe he did some AAU coaching there too but not much coaching besides that. Then when he moved to North Carolina, and he got a job at Duke and he earned his Masters Degree in Physical Training or something along those lines. He does a lot of that kind of stuff still. Then at Duke he worked a lot with athletes that would come into the Diet and Fitness Center, any athletes could come in and a lot of them were Duke players. I got to meet quite a few Duke players through that which was pretty cool.

Like who?

I met DeMarcus Nelson once I remember that and he took me once to the K Academy, which is where men like out of college would go and get coaching tips from former Duke Basketball players like Jay Williams, a bunch of players, J.J. Redick I met there, that was fun because he was one of my favorite players growing up. I met Coach K there as well, that was cool.

What do you remember about your first time meeting Coach K?

That was probably when I was around age 11. 10 or 11. The most recent one that I remember is I just met him and I actually got his autograph haha and he talked to my dad a little bit the first time. The most recent one that was a lot of fun, he was really nice and I got to go back and look at the 1,000th win award that Nike gave him, that was pretty cool and then I talked to him about basketball. He said that he liked my game a lot and I wasn’t like a stereotypical big man, I was more just like a basketball player and I thought that was a great compliment.

That sounds like you had a fairly recent visit to Duke then…

Yeah, we visited last week or the week before whatever it was, we went for the Wake Forest game and then after the game Coach K took me back into his office and we sat and talked for a while. It was Coach K, me, my dad, my mom, Coach Jon Scheyer and Coach Nate James.

How much did they discuss with you where they feel they are in their recruiting process with you?

He said that they were going to wait until after the season to really start recruiting and they were going to let me finish up my season since it’s closer to being done and we are sort of busy, which was very nice of him knowing that we still needed to finish our season. He has seen me play before, he came to our game against Manteo and that was actually really cool having him come to our school. Our school had never had that happen before because our school is still really new, it’s only like seven years old and it’s a charter school, so for Coach K to come to one of our games, it was just a huge honor for our school and for myself. Nobody really knew he was coming until the actual game, I think that was a total surprise for them and we played really well that game, we won by like 30 or 40.

How did you feel personally when you saw him come to see you play that game?

I wasn’t really nervous, there’s been  a few coaches that have come into the gym when we’ve been playing and I’ve never felt nervous. It was exciting definitely, but I don’t get nervous about stuff like that which I’m definitely happy that I don’t, because if I did get nervous, that would be a very nerve-wracking thing haha. Coach K walks into the gym and everybody took notice and parents started walking up to him, they didn’t harass him or anything like that which that was the main thing I would say I was nervous about was if people walked up to him like, “Coach K, Coach K”, so that was really cool and I think some of the parents thought it was pretty cool too.

When do you remember that Duke’s interest first started with you?

A few days, maybe a week before that. Nate James contacted my dad first but then they started really recruiting  a week or so before Coach K came.  Coach K said that he really liked my style of play and I would fit their system really well and he said they wanted me at Duke but there’s no scholarship offer yet which I wouldn’t expect one from them this early.

When you guys met with the staff recently on campus, was there any further discussion related to scholarship offers in the future?

Not really any talk about that, with them starting out  and I actually talked to Nate James some and he gave me some really good tips on what to work on. He said just to be in the gym a lot and work on my ball-handling, that was the main thing he said is work on your ball-handling and keep my shot pretty sharp by putting up a lot of shots. I definitely think the ball-handling was really good advice because I do need to work on that a lot. That was the main thing.

How do you feel about the situation with Duke so far?

I think it’s pretty cool. I don’t know where I want to go to college right now but it’s a huge honor just to be considered because Coach K is legendary, especially in Durham, he’s hugely well known and the crowds know him. To have him even talk to me about basketball is just a huge honor. I think it’s pretty cool but I’m not rushing into anything right now.

Did the Duke staff discuss with you how they would use you and develop you if you chose to go to Duke?

They mentioned it a little bit, they said I wouldn’t just be stuck down in the post, they would use me on the perimeter as well just because my jump shot is what helped that and I’m honestly not what I would say a “big man”, I can be certainly but it’s probably not my only position and it’s probably not my strongest position I would say.

For fans who haven’t seen you play before…how would you describe your on-court approach both on offense and defense?

Defensively I like to block a lot of shots and I have the timing down so that I can. A lot of times I won’t necessarily guard the strongest player on the court so I can help off more if somebody decides to drive so I can block the shot. I tend to guard people more who tend to play down in the post so that that way I can stay closer to the basket so I can guard for blocked shots. I’ve been working on my perimeter defense which will need some work obviously but I believe it’s getting better.

Offensively, it depends on the situation. Sometimes I’ll be the trail man in our transition offense and will run to the top of the key sometimes or sometimes I’ll run down to the block. If I’m bigger than somebody I normally try to get to the basket and I like to use a spin move in the post, especially to the baseline. One of my favorite moves is catching it, faking spinning to the middle and then spinning to the baseline for the reverse, as well as turnaround jump-shots, I enjoy those and I’ve been working recently on hook shots and jump hooks. I like to shoot from the outside and drive as well.

In addition to skill work, are you on any kind of physical training program?

During the season we lifted some but not to where it would wear us out for games. After the season weight lifting is definitely going to be a huge focus for me which is why I’ve decided not to play AAU this season I don’t believe. That was a decision I made awhile back but I was waiting to make sure that it was the right one, I didn’t want to rush  into it immediately. I want to get a lot of work in this spring and summer in the weight room and in the gym. I think a lot of guys a lot of times will spend too much time on the recruiting circuit and AAU and don’t really work on their game, they just go with what they have and try to get exposure. I’m not criticizing that method if that works for other guys, this is just what I think for me is the best thing right now.

What was the major reason for not playing AAU ball?

I don’t really know what sparked it but I think that I did read an article where Kobe Bryant said that the European players are more skilled than American players. Kobe was talking about a lot of AAU players don’t really get taught the game as much, they don’t learn the little things and I thought that could be something that could set me apart in taking that approach. I’ve played AAU for the past two or three seasons but I just think the best thing for me right now is this idea.

Who do you work with from a skill development perspective?

It’s really my dad, we like to get in the gym when we can and we do some shooting stuff, sometimes I’ll work with a weight vest, it just depends on the day. I also like to be in the gym by myself and work, I can just work on what I feel I need to work on. It’s very helpful doing that approach so it’s my dad, sometimes people will give me suggestions and I will take them and I’ll work on it some.

What’s the program looking like for you this spring and summer?

Well, I still have some stuff I’ll be doing with Voyager, I’m not not going to be playing at all, I believe we’ll be playing in the Powerade State Games, but don’t quote me for sure on that, I believe it’s possible we’ll be in that and there will also be some team camps we’ll be in. I’ll be in a few tournaments, like invitation type programs I’m assuming. I’ve received an invite from some Top 80 thing, I’m not sure if I’m going to that or not, I haven’t looked at the schedule recently and I have to make sure my family isn’t busy with something that I need to be a part of. Then I’ll be in the weight room a lot, in the gym a lot with a lot of ball-handling work because while I can play down in the post, I do like to move around. Getting stronger defensively like being able to slide my feet faster on the perimeter for defending quicker players, that’s going to be some work too this year.

So for the way you are hoping to play on both ends of the court in college, what programs do you think do a good job with guys like you in their program?

I’ve talked to Virginia quite a bit as well as visiting there a few times. I’ve talked with the coaches there and they seem to do  a really good job with player development. In their system they don’t seem to have a big man who just goes and who tries to dominate, they have big men certainly but it’s not like their main duty is to just go down and bang around the basket. They just share the ball really well and I like that type of system where the ball gets passed around a lot. I’ve never enjoyed playing or watching the game where it’s just one person dribbling around and scoring because then it doesn’t always work. I think Virginia’s system fits me very well along with some others.

Who are the “others” you think potentially fit you well?

I haven’t looked into some as much, I’ve been on a visit to James Madison and their big men I believe don’t seem to be relegated to the post which is nice.

Which schools are you really hoping to have an offer from before you finalize your recruiting process?

I’d love to have an offer from Virginia, I definitely think I would like that to have that just because I really like their coaching staff, their players are all really nice, their fans are nice and their facilities are great. It just seems like a great place to go to. An offer from Duke would be great, I think that would be a great honor, I certainly like their facilities and their coaching staff and all that. I haven’t really thought too much about what schools that I want specifically to offer me, so if there are other schools that want to offer me that’s great and I would consider them. Other than that I haven’t really thought too much about it yet.

If a scholarship offer comes from either Virginia or Duke or both—how do you think that affects your recruitment big picture?

Well I would certainly look at both and I would definitely pray a lot about it. I would definitely consult a lot of people including my youth leader Brad, he’s given me lots of great advice just on college stuff before, so I would certainly talk with him because he’s great. Definitely my parents, a bunch of people I would talk to and then I would really pray and see what God wants me to do. I generally don’t make decisions on the spot, that’s not how I’ve really done those kinds of things. When I changed schools from Trinity to Voyager at first I grew to like it and I really like it here now, so I hope that whatever happens with whatever school that I go to, I certainly didn’t make the decision to go to Voyager quickly, it took me over the summer to figure out what I was doing. I’m not saying that I’m going to wait to decide until the end of my senior year but it would certainly not be an immediate decision if either offered.

What do you think will be the major criteria you will think about as you evaluate what school you really want to go to?

There aren’t a lot of specific criteria I don’t think. I think the coaching staff and the way they develop players and use players is certainly a big thing. I think a lot of times for me it’s not specifically what I would want because I don’t really know sometimes but I would think I would have a sense of when I see it that I would know it’s the right fit for me.

  What are your family’s thoughts on schools and the recruiting process?

They aren’t trying to push me anywhere. They have been telling me some pros and cons with different things. Certainly they are giving me some good advice but they aren’t pushing me anywhere, they want me to make the decision mainly and have them support me. I don’t feel pressured by any of them. They certainly like Virginia, they came on a visit with me both my mom and my dad and they really liked it. My dad being a former Duke employee, he certainly knows his way around there but that doesn’t mean he is pressuring me to go there, I don’t think he would ever pressure me to go anywhere. They help me by listening to what I have to say about it and then they give their opinion. It’s not something we just talk about once and then drop it, we will let things sit for a few days and then we’ll talk about it again.

Do you consider yourself to have a favorite or an early leader in your recruitment?

We’re in the information gathering stage. I definitely like Virginia, I like the stage they play at in the ACC, that’s the main conference I’ve grown up watching and I’ve been to the ACC Tournament a few times. It just seems like great basketball. I certainly like Duke, I’m not sure where I want to go and I’m not saying that oh, Virginia is definitely the school I want to go to, that’s just the school I’ve talked to the most I believe in a serious way.

Big picture—do you and your family have a plan as to where you want the recruiting process to go timeframe wise?

I think we probably will do something similar to what my sister did with narrowing down the schools that I liked and then go from there. Then maybe visit some schools once or twice, official or unofficial depending on if I get invited for an official. I think that would play into it as well.

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