As this is our first chance to speak with you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Off the court my nickname is I’m known as the Big Ballerina, I take ballet, I do yoga and dance classes, whatever I can do to make me a better player. On the court I do a lot of stuff to work on my game.
What led you to do ballet and yoga and all that to work on your game?
A lot of people said I have a lot of talent but you know how it goes with bigs, you have to work hard like everybody else to get better. So I started doing yoga which helped me work on stretching out my muscles and getting nimble. Doing ballet has helped me with my footwork for a guy of my size. This is my second or third year doing that. When I was playing football and doing two a days, and I wanted to impress the coaches, I would come in early several days a week, get some dance and ballet stuff going and it was great. What I didn’t know was that the dance teacher I’ve worked with knows Ben Watson from the NFL, he’s his nephew.
How did doing ballet and what has that done with helping you with your post moves and post footwork?
Being light on my feet is a good thing and it helps you stay on your toes right and I also want to be able to contort my body in mid-air, so that has helped me work better on the balls of my feet. It’s helped when I go up for rebounds with how I land and it’s also helped when I do spin moves to the basket of staying on my feet.
Have you been the type that your game has developed through a lot of hard work, or have some things just come naturally to you?
Always, always hard work. It’s been a big priority in my life and honestly at first I didn’t think basketball was going to come the way it has, that’s how it’s happened.
Is there anybody in college or the pros that you would point to who do similar things to the way you play?
There’s three guys that I’ve really tried to model my game after and that’s Shaq, Hakeem with his footwork and Tim Duncan for his mid-range game.
Do you consider yourself a center at the collegiate level?
I definitely see myself as a center in college and at the pro level.
How would you say the recruiting process has gone for you so far?
It’s been going great, it’s been a great experience. The colleges I’ve been to, each one has been really different. I haven’t done a ton of talking with the coaches yet due to following the NCAA guidelines, but from what I’ve been told by my coaches that I just need to be ready for when it comes.
Two part question—which programs have your coaches been indicating to you who have been reaching out pretty steadily to them about you, and which programs have you personally had the opportunity to visit so far?
As far as the schools I’ve visited, I’ve visited a lot of nearby schools so far—the farthest school I’ve visited so far has been Xavier, other than that it was ODU, Virginia Tech, NC State, I visited UVA but they haven’t offered, UNC, Duke, I believe that’s it. And Georgetown and Maryland as well.
Which programs have you made the effort to regularly communicate with, either prior to your visits or after?
That happened for Virginia Tech, Duke, Maryland, I think that’s the three. I know Duke came up to watch me at my school for a workout. Virginia Tech was good too, I was able to talk with them and Maryland as well.
How far back does the Duke interest go with you?
It started before the very first live period. I got a call from coach saying Duke is really interested in you. Coach Jon Scheyer and Coach Nolan Smith want to come up and see you workout and I told him that was totally fine, just setup a date. Then I worked out in front of them and they really liked it and started talking and building a relationship and from there it just kinda took off. They told me they wanted me to really come down for a visit, the campus was lovely, the environment was just great and I got to go down and see the facilities and have a conversation with Coach K. It was all great, just a great experience.
How’d you feel about Duke getting involved at this point?
I was pretty ecstatic, it was cool to see them come to my school and watch me workout and really it’s great whenever any school comes to visit you and watch you workout.
What was the Duke staff’s feedback for you after the workout?
They told me that I had really great footwork as a big, we love that you are explosive and they told me that right now they just want me to fall in love with running all the time and just always having great plays.
You saying that things “took off” with Duke at a certain point, was that based on your workout in front of them, or was it more based on things they said to you since then?
I think it was it took off when I came to visit. Right after I finished a workout they came up to Richmond for another one and then I called them right after and they told me that they definitely loved the way I played and I would love for you to see our facilities and our campus. I had a nice kinda four day period before I started the Top 100 Camp, so we decided to do the Duke visit then.
How were you feeling going into the Duke visit?
I was a little nervous but I was excited overall. It was great to see everything in person and it was exciting to be there.
What do you remember from what Coach K and the coaches said to you when you guys got to sit down during your visit?
Coach K is a funny guy, man. I had met Coach K once before and it was kinda ironic. I had been there once before for a football camp and I was able to get a picture with him and he remembered that and he said that you look much better and have a better face hahaha. It was a great conversation, he talked about liking the way I played and how unfortunately he hasn’t been able to get out to a lot of games with the surgeries he’s had.
What was your feedback for him in that conversation?
I wanted to talk about what I call the typical things like nutrition and other things but then we talked about players and recruiting and he talked about how Duke has a really good class coming in this year and how they will need a really good big like me in my class. He said that’s something they would like to have, like an Okafor-type big with good footwork who can set the offense and the defense.
What were your thoughts on that comparison?
It felt good with seeing how great a big Okafor is. I have been compared to him before because he’s big and he’s light on his feet and because he can do things off the dribble and in the mid-range.
What else did you get to see and do while you were there?
A lot of his players actually weren’t there which was surprising to me because they had just finished a summer session but I still got to talk with Amile Jefferson, Marques Bolden and Grayson Allen, which was cool. They were cool because they were good guys and they are type that you want to talk with. They are chill guys and we had a good conversation.
Do you think the Duke visit met or exceed your expectations?
I didn’t really go in with any expectations because I knew they were under a lot of construction. From what I’ve been told in the remodeling process, so they talked with me about what things are going to look like once it’s done.