Beilein Catches Another Glimpse of Katenda

A few hours after he sat with Manny Harris for the star guard's departure announcement, Michigan head man John Beilein headed to Connecticut to take his second look this month at Cheshire Academy forward Eric Katenda. The versatile youngster has risen up the 2011 priority list for a number of programs, including Michigan.

For GoBlueWolverine's prior feature on Katenda, click here.

(Interview below with Cheshire Academy Coach, Kevin Kehoe)

Sam Webb:  Coach, can you tell us a little bit about Eric Katenda's game?  What are the things that he does well on the court?

Coach Kehoe:  "Absolutely, 6'8", 210. He's a junior, still only 17 years old.  About 41" sleeves.  He's as long as they get.  He can play on the perimeter and post people up, although he is more of a perimeter kid.  He is very skilled, gifted.  He can play the two or the three.  He shot about 44% from outside the arc.  Huge hands, I do not know how far you go back in basketball, but he's got Connie Hawkins look.  He plays the point on all our presses.  He has athleticism to guard point guards.  The kid has got high, high major athleticism.  If he ever reaches his potential god only knows."

Sam Webb:  Listening to your description, he sounds a lot like a Kevin Durant type of player.

Coach Kehoe:  "It's funny you say that.  When people were talking to me two years ago about him coming over, the guy over in Europe said, he reminds me of Kevin Durant.  I said that's pretty big shoes to fill.  I look at it this way, even if he falls short and he's like what Luol Deng? (Laughter)"

Sam Webb:  As far as what colleges are looking at him for, what position does he project to on the next level?

Coach Kehoe:  "I'm thinking that what schools are looking at him for is either a step out four or a very big three.  The kid is a mismatch.  He's a nightmare when it comes to trying to match up to him.  He played the game this year against a 6'6" kid here in New England that was wanted by Kansas; so you know the kid is pretty good.  He was bigger and stronger and was just abusing this kid from 10 to 12 feet in and ended up scoring 34 against the kid.  At times they were doubling team him with this 6'5" kid that is already verballed to Syracuse.  He was just going through the double team, over, around, doing whatever they want.  Then a lot of times you put a big on him, he just takes you out to the wing and he shakes you and then he shoots a jump shot and he covers 18 feet, he is already at the rim."

Sam Webb:  When you say he can put it on the floor, you're saying he can really handle the ball well for his size?

Coach Kehoe:  "When he first came here because he really did not understand American basketball that well yet.  The first time going down the court, this is 17 months ago, I thought the kid had no clue how to play basketball, because he was running the wing and has no idea of spacing, has no idea of getting wide, making a 45 angle cut, shooting the ball and going to the basket.  I thought we got sold a bill of goods.  I was so annoyed with him and I said you know what, why do not you play point guard for a while and see what's it is like.  It was like a young Magic Johnson.  Throwing 60 foot bounce passes with side spin kicking up to guys, around the back bounce passes going through the lane to the opposite low block.  What it was, was that he had played with the ball in his hands over in Paris and he had no idea how to move without the ball yet.  As his sophomore year wore on, he kind of started understanding angles and flash cuts and if the ball comes in at this angle it goes out at that angle.  Beilein was here (Monday) night watching him work out and I'm headed to the gym right now and UCONN, Georgetown, Providence and Xavier are coming in to watch him work out today.  I think he is at that level."

Sam Webb:  What has Michigan said to you about their interest and how he might fit in with them?

Coach Kehoe:  "Extremely high interest.  They like his basketball IQ, couple that with his athleticism, he is a rare kid.  Coach Beilein referred to him that he kind of reminded him at times a little bit of Raphael Addison that used to play at Syracuse.  I think with that 1-3-1 that they run, he'd be a nightmare at the point of that.  I think because of his high basketball IQ and with the way that Michigan will spread the floor, makes you uncomfortable guarding people and creating lanes, gaps in their offense.  The kid is tailor made for that type of system because if you kick it to him and he can catch and shoot or if there is a seam in the defense, he can get into the seam.  He can either create for himself or create something by making the defense draw to him.   

Sam Webb:  What schools have offered him up to this point?

Coach Kehoe:  "Notre Dame has offered him.  Coach Beilein said if he comes down this spring (for the spring game on April 17th) and if he likes Ann Arbor, he has a scholarship to the University of Michigan.  Iowa, Siena, Stetson down in Florida, Xavier, Quinnipiac, and Fairfield University.  Those are the schools that have officially offered him.  I have a funny feeling that if the assistant from Georgetown likes him tonight, the head guy is coming in I think April 8th, I think they'll get involved with him.  I know UCONN, this will be the third time that they've seen him play and I think their next thing is sending the head guy in to pull the trigger with him."

Sam Webb:  When you look at his game from a coaching standpoint what do you think that he needs to improve on?

Coach Kehoe:  "As far as what he needs to work on, he needs to put on about 20 to 25 pounds.  He needs to tighten up his ball handling and part of that is because he is so long, the ball is just out too far.  At this level, he is so athletic he can get away with it.  When you have ten high majors on the court, he has got to bring it tighter to his body – tighten his handle up.  He has got to get more elevation on his three point jump shot.  Like always and this is not a knock on him, he needs to be more passionate about defending the ball.  I do not think I can name five kids in American that I think are passionate about defending the ball.  It is an unfair statement, but if he fell in love with being a defensive player with his body and his athleticism, he could be outstanding defending the ball."

Sam Webb:  Knowing him like you do; what do you think are going to be the major factors in his decision making process?

Coach Kehoe:  "He will go to a school that has the best human beings to help him grow up.  That's it.  In Connecticut here, he is 6000 miles from home anyway.  So there are no geographic things.  He is not hung up on a conference.  I hate hearing that stuff anyway.  He will go with the human beings that will help him continue his growth with being a successful kid and if he does not I'll kill him (laughter)."

GoBlueWolverine will have more on Katenda in the coming months.

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