Terps Interested in 2015 center

2015 center D'Jery Jean (D.J.) Baptiste is new to basketball, America, and the recruiting process.

Only two short years ago, D.J. Baptiste was living in Haiti and didn't even know how to play basketball. Now, this 6-foot-10 225-pound sophomore center, is receiving attention from schools like Connecticut, Stanford, and Maryland.

The transition wasn't easy for Baptiste though.

“I grew up in Haiti. I came here last year,” Baptiste said. “In Haiti, basketball is not that interesting. When I came here I was learning how to play basketball basically. I didn't know how to use my body. I didn't have hands or stuff like that, and I was really skinny. So it was very hard for me, but I worked a lot.”

And the work has paid off for Baptiste. This summer, he participated in the New England Elite 75 showcase freshman/sophomore edition, an event that showcases the top underclassmen talent in the New England region.

Baptiste's AAU team, the New England Playaz, also won two tournaments in Philadelphia this summer, including the new The Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest tournament.


Baptiste hasn't let the success go to his head though; he's still working hard. Over the summer, he gained 40 pounds in order to become a better defender.

“The guys used to post me up. I was so weak I couldn't do anything,” Baptiste said. “I knew I wasn't strong, so I needed to put on some muscle.”

Baptiste also worked on becoming quicker and improving his jump-shot this summer. Baptiste's goal is to have the shooting range of Boston Celtics' forward Kevin Garnett coupled with the athleticism and low-post game of his favorite player, Los Angeles Lakers' center Dwight Howard.

Baptiste already believes in his low-post game. “When I post up I usually score the ball all the time,” Baptiste said. “I post hard. I know how to seal the guy.” College coaches are noticing Baptiste's low-post skills. As a freshman, Baptiste was not eligible for scholarship offers, but already, only a few months into his sophomore year Baptiste has picked up offers from Stanford and Connecticut and those are just the offers Baptiste knows about.

Other schools have shown interest in Baptiste, including Maryland. This September, the Terrapins, along with various other colleges, visited Baptiste's school, Wilbraham and Monson Academy, which is located in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

“I met the assistant coach,” Baptiste said. “He told me to keep working. He was really impressed by the stuff I was doing on the court at that time.”

Baptiste was invited to college camps this summer but was unable to attend any of them because of a torn ACL and MCL, injuries he suffered last April.

Baptiste isn't too worried about colleges at this point in his career though.

“Right now I'm not really focused on colleges yet,” Baptiste said. “I want to go to a college where I fit the best.”

Fit isn't Baptiste's only criteria.

“I want to go to a school that does a very good job with big men,” Baptiste said. Baptiste also mentioned he wants to attend a college where he can receive a good education.

“My goal is to be a professional player,” Baptiste said. “But professional basketball is not really the only thing I want to be. I want to have something beside basketball.”

Baptiste's main focus now isn't colleges though. He's focused on helping his team win a state championship. Last year Wilbraham and Monson Academy lost in the semifinals; Baptiste hopes that this year will have a different ending.

“Right now our goal is to win the championship,” Baptiste said. “What I want is to be able to help my team.”

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