Sam Webb: From a coaching perspective tell me about Dwayne Bacon's game, what does he do well? How big is now, kind of break him down for me.
Diana Neal: “(Dwayne) Bacon is a kid that can play the one, the two and the three, but he is probably better at playing the two and three. He is a go-getter and he can score the ball in various ways. He can shoot the ball, he can attack the rim. Once the attacks the rim, he is playing above the rim. He is able to guard the threes and fours from the other team. He is just one of those guys who really knows what he needs to do at this point so he has stepped his game up from last year to this year. He has matured and I think the kid is on his way. He understands everything that he needs to do. His thing is that he wants to be the top player in the country. It could sound like a long shot to some people, but that’s his goal. He wants to be the top player. Right now, he is (#23) in the country. He is just not satisfied with that. He wants to be the top player in the country. He is running every day now to get in better shape. He has lost a lot of weight from last year, so right now he is in more of college shape... college built for everything. He has really been working hard just trying to prepare himself to get to that next level. Another motivation he had is Shane Larkin. Shane came from our program too and I took the guys up to see a game. They just saw how everything was ran and I thought that was good for them because that was the first real college came that they had ever been to. It was a great experience for them and really got a chance to see behind the scenes. After the game, they see how all of the people are all over them. It was something that really motivated him so he came back with a chip on their shoulder. Corey (Sanders) was shooting balls like Shane Larkin. It has just got to that point. They are more hungry now than they were last year. As ninth graders they played 16 and 17 with Rashawn 'Pookie' Powell last year. Pookie is going to Memphis. (Bacon and Sanders) have been around some great players. We had one go to Michigan State, one to go Ohio University. They’ve been around it and they know what it takes to get there. Those two kids are just hungry right now. They’re very hungry.”
Sam Webb: How big is Dwayne now?
Diana Neal: “He is 6-6. He says he is 6-7. He feels like he has grown another inch, but we never give it to him (laughter). Until someone actually tells him that like the doctor’s office or he's got that 100 camp coming up... When they go and measure and they say 6-7 then I’ll say 6-7 (laughter).”
Sam Webb: Now tell me about Corey Sanders' game.
Diana Neal: “Corey is a guy who is under the radar. A lot of people overlook Corey. They just look at Bacon who is 6-6 and forget about the little guy. He has been going through the same thing my other guards went through like Shane and Pookie... just under recruited. This is not said in a bad way sinceit could be that just the schools did not need him or whatever, but Shane could have played at Duke. Shane could have played at North Carolina. Shane could have played at Kentucky. Any of those schools, but they never came in to look at him. Pookie could have played at the same schools, but they never took the time to look at him because of their size... because they are 5-11. Pookie is not even 5’11”. Corey is pretty much in the same boat. He is a smaller guard, but Corey plays above the rim more than Shane or Pookie every day. Up to now, he has had more dunks than most of those guys put together the whole time they played. Corey is a more explosive guard, plays above the rim, and plays hard on both ends – defense and offense. He plays defense and gets steals... and he’s going to dunk it. It is not like he is going to go to the rim and lay it up. He just plays so hard. He plays so hard on both ends, 94 feet, and that has always been Corey. He has a lot of energy, great motor, and is shooting the ball way better than last year. Last year he was attacking more and is obviously pretty good dunker. This year, he is pulling up from the three on the fast break. It is surprising to me, I’m like, 'AHHHH!'... and then he’ll hit it (laughter). His confidence level has gotten better and his shooting has gotten better. The ball screen, he has started to read that better. All of this has just come from seeing the guys in the past and seeing the schools they are going to, the opportunities that they had, like at the big camps like the Lebron Camp and Deron Williams Camp. That is their goal now... they want to be invited to those big camps. They know that they got to stay hungry and they've got to just play hard. Right now they are playing (on the 16-and-under and 17-and-under AAU teams)... same as Shane and Pookie did, and it is a lot. It feels like there are more games now than back when I had Shane and Pookie. They were separated. Now the games are like back to back to back to back. Eventually, I’ll pull them and just put them on one (age group) and stop letting them play both just so they are able to show the coaches exactly what they have without being fatigued or anything like that. I don’t think Corey would be fatigued. Sometimes, like he says, it is just a mind thing. It is all mental. Those are two guys I love coaching and they're really hungry right now. We have a goal that they set and they are just trying to reach those goals. Corey will have a bigger and better story to tell once he gets to a college. It is really something special for Corey.”
Stay tuned for much more on Bacon and Sanders in the coming days.