At Miami's Elite Camp, Mavunga sat down with RedHawk Insider a day after he arrived on campus to discuss his personal goals, his play in the Indiana-Kentucky All-star series, the state championship, his game, what Miami expects from him, and what he wants to accomplish at Miami.
Tell me a little bit of what is going on lately.
I just arrived on campus yesterday (June 25, 2008). I have been back home working out, lifting, and trying to keep in decent shape so I would be able to play in this league and adjust my game from the high school level to the college level. I know it is a big step that I have to take. I have been working on some specific things and just trying to get my game better and try to play NCAA basketball this year.
A few weeks ago I saw you up in Indianapolis at the Indiana-Kentucky series and in that game you were backing up Tyler Zeller.
Pretty good player.
Yeah, he is a pretty good player. I didn't want to back him up, honestly. It kind of hard backing up a guy going to North Carolina - a seven footer. He's a good player. I had to back him up and it is something you got to agree to and it puts you in a position where you are preparing for college. You might not get to play the minutes that you want. You go from being in high school maybe a standout star, maybe being the best player on a Division I team. It is just mental. I didn't complain. Just as long as I know I am good. (laughter). It was exciting. You know I had fun being on the Indiana All-star team. Just wish I had a better chance to exhibit my skills.
In the game I saw, although you didn't get the ball much in those eight minutes you played, four minutes in each half, you made the most of it. Particularly in the second half when you came out of the game you got a nice hand from the crowd. You took two charges I remember.
Tell me about that.
The thing about my game, I am not flashy. I don't try to make the great play. I just try to make the play the help the team win. The thing about taking charges is important. I led my team last year in charges. I think I took 18 charges last season. It is something rare in a guy who weights 265 pounds. I think it is important just because with the whole thing with people don't want to drive as much. You take some charges and people will be more cautious - more cautious when they drive the lane because they know there is someone there who is willing to sacrifice his body. That's all it is, just sacrifice. Just doing the small things. That is the type of thing that doesn't show up in the box score and don't show up on the stat sheet, but are really important. I believe in those little things.
You won the (Indiana) state title in the big school division. Talk a little about that. It came down to the wire in the title game with Marion and the last second shot.
It was exciting. We worked. All I know is in my four years at Brownsburg - I just started playing basketball as a freshman. It was the first time I ever picked up a basketball and played, and ever since about the second week of me playing basketball I wanted to win a state championship. I got to what (Indianapolis) Pike play and that is the reason I started playing basketball. Pike had Justin Cage who went to Xavier, Curtis Wright, Jeff Teague who is going to Wake Forest now. They had good players. They just inspired me. That was the game everyone was playing. In Indiana, basketball is huge. Ever since then I decided I wanted to win a state championship. Even though I just started as a freshman, I put in work. I did countless hours in the gym just working on my game trying to get better. That helped me out. Going from a freshman to a senior. Going from no one knowing me at all to receiving numerous amount of scholarships to big Division I schools is a true blessing and tribute to the hard work I put in.
The state championship was a great game. We worked for it. Not only me, but everyone on that team wanted to win the state championship. We all believed. We were never ranked in the top ten in the state of Indiana. The high school never made it past eleven. We won 13 games in a row during the season and made it to the state championship. Being the first state championship in school history was pretty exciting for us, the school, and the community. It was something really huge. It was just a great feeling. You know what if feels like to be a championship. Bringing that over here, hopefully we can bring a few more championships over here to Miami.
Let me ask you something on a related topic. Class basketball has been a hot topic for years in the state of Indiana. What is your position on that?
I think class basketball…hmmm….well a lot of people talked about who would win between Brownsburg and Washington (2nd biggest school division state champion), the team that Zeller played for. It raises a lot of disputes over who the best team in the state really is because not everyone is playing against each other. I think it should be no class basketball just because all the teams deserve the chance to play against the best teams. That way you have one champion and everyone knows who the best team in the state of Indiana is or whatever state it is. But I also understand that with the growing amount of schools that it is something that is necessary to divide it up and it is probably easier to divide up tournaments, sectionals, and everything else. Overall, I think everyone playing in one class against each other is better because it shows you who the true champion is.
What have you been told about how you are going to be used here at Miami?
I am going to be used on the block, on the perimeter, and things like that. I shot 48% from three point range last year for my high school team and was the leading three pointer shooter in the state. It is something I have been working on in the last two years just shooting perimeter jump shots. I just think it just makes you harder to guard. I think I can also take it down to space block inside. I can slash to the basket. Basically, I am told I was going to go the 4 position. They expect me to come in and do what I am told and that is what I am ready to do. Put in work and whatever work I put in see how far it takes me.
What are you planning on majoring in?
Right now I am undecided. I am thinking business, something that my father did. You want to be your own boss. I am an individual type of person. I am really good about working in groups. I establish myself as more of a leader to myself. I self motivate myself to do all the things. Just something like that makes me look at business. I am also looking to go into education because I want to become a basketball coach. So that is about it for the two majors that stick out right now. Other than that, everything is still open.
I chose Miami because it was a position where I was told I had the chance to play for Tim Pollitz, help replace him. He was a great player here at Miami. I saw him play. I played against him. He was hard to guard. He did some good things for Miami. I was told I was in a position where I could help. I don't think you can replace him. Not as a freshman. Not in one year. But I feel I could help and fill in what he provided for Miami. I looked at other schools that offered me like bigger schools. I thought I would not play as much. You look at schools like that who recruited me like Pittsburgh, Purdue, Virginia Tech offered me, just bigger schools like that.
I came to Miami which is close to home. Only an hour and fifteen minute drive. It is far away enough from home to be away, but close enough to go home when I need to. Just the overall situation they have for me was just hard to pass up. I like the campus life here. Everybody on the team seems to get along. We have great guys. Just a great program and tradition. Coach Coles is all about winning. I like Coach Henderson as a coach as well. Just because they are just gutsy guys. They work hard.
Who are you going to be rooming with?
I think I am going to be rooming with Vince Legarza. Good guy.
Who would you say you pattern your game after? Would do you describe?
Anybody people would know. I am waiting for someone to say they pattern their game after Michael Jordan.
No. No. No. (laughter). Michael Jordan was a great player. If I had to pick one person, (it would) probably (be) K.G., Kevin Garnett, just because I have a passion for winning the game. I think the little things do matter. Even Ben Wallace, although I think I can score more than Ben Wallace can. Just the little things that they do. Ben Wallace takes charges…he defends it. I think that is something in basketball that you just see. I know I haven't played for long, but I have looked at the history of it. People competing in basketball has become less and less. People don't have as much of a passion for the game as years go by. I think guys like that, Kevin Garnett and Ben Wallace, they just have such a passion for winning. I think Kevin Garnett was the biggest reason that Boston won the NBA championship because of his passion for the game and wanting to win. I am just a winner. That is all I can say. I am just a winner.
What do you think of this Elite Camp?
I think it is pretty neat. Get kids out here so you can see what talent they have. You get to meet the kids. The players can go talk to them. It is a pretty neat experience other than I can't play and show off to them.
Why can't you play?
Coach said freshman can't play. It is awesome though. You get to socialize with the guys. The guys get to play against possible recruits.
What would you want people to know about you? Something odd about you.
I have a 13 year old little sister who is 6 foot 3.
Say that again?
I have a little sister who is 13 years old, just turned 13, and she is 6 foot 3.
That is amazing.
She has already gotten a lot of letters from Big Ten schools so far.
That is awfully young.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I am ready to play basketball for Miami!
Outstanding! Thank you.