Going In-depth with Derenbecker

Matt Derenbecker is a top priority for LSU men's basketball coach Trent Johnson's 2010 class. The Country Day standout recently took part in the inaugural I-10 Elite Basketball Camp in Baton Rouge on Monday and LSU was one of the many colleges that had coaches in attendance.

When Matt Derenbecker transferred from Ponchatoula to Country Day at the beginning of his junior year, he knew that he would have a chance to showcase his skills on one of the top teams in Louisiana on the Class A level.

The Cajuns had, who many considered, the top player in Louisiana for the 2009 class in Eddie Ludwig. After finishing runner-up for the state championship in 2008 – a 48-39 loss to Christian Life – Derenbecker was supposed to be the piece of the puzzle that would help the Cajuns win their first state championship since 1980, when another Ludwig and Derenbecker combination was on the court.


Just like in 1980, Country Day found itself sitting on top of the mountain this past February, and the tiny K-12 school in Metairie owed a lot of gratitude to another Ludwig and Derenbecker tandem.


“That was really something special because the last time they won it all was when my dad and Eddie’s dad was there,” Matt said. “It was a real fun year.”


Derenbecker made a name for himself during his sophomore season at Ponchatoula, where he earned Class 5A Second Team All-State honors after averaging 23.7 points and 11 rebounds a game.


He had an idea of what to expect when he made the move to Country Day. After all, he and Eddie played on the same AAU team prior to his move. The friendship was already there, but it reached new heights late in the summer of 2008.


“We were already cool but it was more of a situation where we saw one another and just said hey,” Derenbecker said. “When I first transferred, though, we hadn’t moved yet and we had a bunch of practices so I stayed at his house for like two weeks. We became real close then and are still close and talk all the time.”


Derenbecker and Ludwig formed a deadly duo for the Cajuns and were both Class A All-State selections. Derenbecker averaged 20.3 points a game while Ludwig was right on his tail at 19.8 points.


Either one could have received Louisiana’s highest honor on the basketball court, but in the end it was Derenbecker who was the recipient of Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year.


Now, with Ludwig at LSU, it will be up to Derenbecker if Country Day is going to make it two state crowns in a row.


The three-star shooting guard has been working hard to achieve that goal as he’s put in countless hours in gymnasiums all around the country. He’s been to a Stanford and Virginia Elite Camp, as well as team camps at North Carolina and Tulane.


As a result of the exposure he’s gotten the last two years, Derenbecker has already pulled in offers from LSU, Stanford, Georgetown, Alabama, Georgia Tech, and all of the smaller schools in Louisiana.


With a busy month of July ahead with his AAU team, Derenbecker will likely garner more interest on the recruiting trail that will result in more scholarship offers.


LSU has been the team to beat for the nation’s 25th ranked shooting guard since Trent Johnson extended an overture to the standout performer in the middle of July of last year. Do the Tigers still hold the upper hand?


“I’d say that’s still the case but Stanford is making a strong push and recruiting me pretty heavily,” Derenbecker said. “I already have an official scheduled to both and both know that I’m interested in them as much as they’re interested in me.” 


Both schools showed just how strong their interest level was on Monday – the first day of the NCAA’s summer evaluation period – when they scouted Derenbecker in action during the first annual I-10 Elite Basketball Camp that was put on by Christian Life head coach Todd Foster.


Derenbecker couldn’t speak to the coaches as it was prohibited by the NCAA, but he was definitely aware that Johnson and LSU assistant coach Donny Guerinoni were on the sidelines. He was also aware that Stanford assistant coach, Mike Schrage, who is the lead recruiter in Stanford’s pursuit, caught a 1 a.m. spur of the moment flight out of California on Monday to make it in for the event.


Derenbecker has left the door open for other schools to get into the mix, but he’s taken things a step farther with his two favorites as he has scheduled an official visit to LSU on Sept. 11 and will head to Stanford the following weekend.


“If I go to LSU and then Stanford and feel 100 percent comfortable with my decision about wanting to go to one of those schools then I won’t take another official,” he said. “But another school may come into play in July so I don’t want to say that’s the only two I’m taking.”


When it comes to LSU, there are several factors that have kept the Tigers in the top spot for Derenbecker, such as proximity to home and familiarity with the program and coaches.


However, something else recently caught his attention when he traveled to Baton Rouge to spend some time with Ludwig.


“The thing that has really made the biggest impact with me is that I never knew how I would fit in with all of the players because they have so many athletes and stuff,” Derenbecker said. “But I’ve played some pickup games with some of the guys and it amazed me how they all played tough and shared the ball. They did what they had to do to win and wasn’t all about just shooting and scoring. That really made me a lot more comfortable with them.”


With LSU being only an hour away from his parents, it would be impossible for Derenbecker to not take that into consideration. However, he’s doing his best to not let distance be the deciding factor for what is a decision that could affect the rest of his life.


“That’s going to play a big factor, but the thing that kind of keeps that in check and evens that out is a Stanford degree,” he said. “I want to look at what school I would be more comfortable at without considering distance, then when I figure that out I’ll take into account how far it is. I know I have a tough decision in front of me.”


Although he doesn’t want to let distance be the deciding factor, Derenbecker admits that being close to home has its advantages when it comes to his family.


“It would be huge for my mom and my dad too,” said Derenbecker, who has a brother who will be a sophomore at LSU this fall and a younger brother at home. “He [dad] loved watching me play, and watching me on TV from a long ways away wouldn’t be the same. It’s definitely going to be tough to leave my parents, but with mom definitely. I’d miss her a lot, and my dad, too.”


When considering the pluses and minuses that each school has, one area that is a big plus for the Tigers is the coaching staff.


“The staff is incredible, all of them,” Derenbecker said. “They go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and they take the right approach.”


The right approach, according to Derenbecker, is looking out for his best interest and being honest from the onset of his recruitment.


“They don’t tell me that I’m great or get my ego real big,” Derenbeker said. “They tell me what I need to improve on and to be the best I can be. They want me to be in the best situation, which they think is with them, but they just want what’s best for me.


“They’ve always told me that I’d have a big role at LSU when I was a freshman, but I kind of said to myself, ‘I don’t know about that’,” added Derenbecker. “Then one day I went up there and they had a chart laid out with all of the positions and how they were recruiting. I think they are real with me when they tell me that.


“I had a couple of coaches that I talked to once and they would tell me that I was what they needed and I would start if I came there. I think to myself that they’ve only seen me on film so how can they say that? But I feel like LSU and all of the colleges I’m dealing with are being real with me.”


Whether he makes a decision after his trip out West to Stanford, or if he decides to wait a little longer, Derenbecker will have a bright future on the college level, and quite possibly, beyond.


The only question is where will his future take him? Derenbecker doesn’t know that just yet, but his good friend seems to.


“Ever since Eddie committed, he’s always been asking me when I was going to commit,” Derenbecker said with a laugh, noting that Ludwig does it in a jokingly way. “He hasn’t been putting any pressure on me, but he lets me know plenty about LSU.”


Note: Check back to TigerSportsDigest.com soon for video of Derenbecker in action from the I-10 Elite Basketball.

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