With Gonzaga enjoying such a successful season on the court, the coaching staff has spent the season prioritizing a small group of recruits in the 2018 class. In this process, the staff evaluates potential fit not only from a basketball perspective, but also how a prospect would fit in culturally and academically.
One of the first recruits to receive an offer in the 2018 class was Scout’s 33rd ranked player, Taeshon Cherry. According to his father, Darnell Cherry, the offer was the culmination of a lot of evaluation from the entire Gonzaga staff.
“The way that the offer came about was through Coach Few and Mark Olivier, who runs the Oakland Soldiers,” Darnell explained. “After Gonzaga came and watched him on the EYBL circuit, they began to establish a relationship with us. It wasn’t an immediate offer like other schools do. We know how Gonzaga operates in terms of winning games and pumping out pros, but the way they are talking to us is all about getting to know more about the school and the academics. Brian Michaelson has been spearheading the recruiting and I really like him a lot.”
When the offer came, it wasn’t a surprise for the family, but did show how serious the staff was about their son.
“We weren’t surprised when it came,” he said. “We aren’t the type of family that is out there seeking offers. Both my wife and I played college basketball, so our approach has been, if you like Taeshon, recruit him. If you don’t, that’s fine as well.”
The way that the ‘Zags coaching staff has approached recruiting Taeshon has been a bit unique as opposed to other schools.
“They really prioritize the guys they want. They aren’t out there throwing out 20 offers to 20 kids. They are selective about who they are looking at and that stands out for us.”
Leading into his junior season, the skilled forward faced a setback with a wrist injury that required surgery. According to his father, this actually may have been a blessing in disguise.
“Taeshon is a fiery competitor,” Darnell said with a laugh. “He plays with emotion. Prior to the injury, everyone was talking to him about playing with emotion, instead of playing emotional. After he had the injury, he had to sit back and learn to channel his emotions. He was 16 when he broke his wrist, so I think we are also seeing his natural maturation and he is growing up.”
Since returning from injury, Cherry has been impressive, culminating in an outstanding performance at the 2017 Nike Extravaganza last weekend. However, it’s the details of his craft in which the biggest improvements have been made.
“This might sound a little funny to you, but it’s all around his foot work and how he gets his shot off,” explained his father around his improvement. “That comes from having spent countless hours in the gym. We don’t have a trainer or a skills guy or anything like that. When he works out, he is working out with me, or Coach Dan, who is the associate head coach at his school. They have spent countless hours in the gym working on his footwork and you can see how his balance and feet have improved.”
Once his junior season comes to an end, the family will start to turn their focus towards recruiting. However, there is one thing that Darnell knows will absolutely be a factor in where Taeshon ends up.
“We have been having some small conversations as a family, but we really don’t talk about it a lot yet. We do know that the No.1 thing is going to be the education part. What I mean by this is, Taeshon is a smart guy, but I want him to be at a place that is monitoring his academic progress and pushing him at that. I don’t want it where someone is hovering around him, but I want to make sure that someone is there and helping him. We want him to take class seriously. I played DI basketball. I thought I was going to play in the NBA. So, I know that at some point the ball stops bouncing, so I want to make sure he is set after that.”
While official visits and a decision are looking like they will occur in the Fall, the family is hoping to get their first experience at The Kennel in the coming weeks.
“He will do all five official visits,” Darnell clarified. “We are really trying to make it up to the BYU game for an unofficial visit as a family. Right now, we are going to wait and play through the AAU Spring and Summer. We want him to continue to get better and really finish up classes strong his junior year. In the Fall, we will start making our plans for his visits. As of right now, we haven’t talked about which schools he will visit. We also want to sit down with his high school coach, as he is heavily involved and we really trust him.”