Vonleh Stepping Into The Spotlight

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- Noah Vonleh doesn't remember the exact moment he realized he was an elite prospect. But he's now quite aware of, and confident in, his status as one of the nation's top prospects in the class of 2014.

And if there were any doubters among the scouts in attendance at this week's NBPA Top 100 Camp, the rising junior forward from the New Hampton (N.H.) School made them believers with his Friday performance.

After playing a supporting role to teammate, and 2013 No. 1 recruit, Jabari Parker in the Thursday's games, Parker's early departure from the camp meant that on Friday it became Vonleh's team.

In the more prominent role, and with extended minutes, Vonleh had a camp-high 19 points and five rebounds.

"I've been rebounding the ball, getting guys open looks and scoring a little bit," he said.

And that speaks to what makes him such an enticing prospect. He's got a non-stop motor – "I just like playing hard and competing" -- is unselfish, and can be remarkably efficient on offense.

Those 19 points? They came on six field goal attempts – and he made all of them.

"A lot of guys think that's how they have to play, but I just want to win, and I like to get the ball to other players," he said. "If I need to score, I'll score."

At 6-8 and now up to 225 pounds – "I've been in the weight room," he said proudly, in reference to adding 10 pounds over the last year – plus sporting a 7-3 wingspan, Vonleh is versatile prospect.

Here at the NBPA Camp, he's playing the power forward position, but he's developing a skillset that will enable him to be at least a combo forward at the next level and envisions becoming a wing player sooner than later.

Vonleh's favorite player is Kevin Durant, and though his game and body type is in a different mold, he cites the NBA scoring champ's offensive skills when discussing his own abilities.

"(Durant) is a great shooter and he's great off the dribble," Vonleh said. "I'm good off the dribble but I'm trying to be great off the dribble. I've been able to shoot threes for a while but it's getting a lot better now. … I need to get my ball handling better, keep getting my shot better, keep rebounding and work on everything. And develop a mid-range game also."

Even with all that room for improvement -- evidence of his lofty ceiling -- Vonleh knows his ranking as a Top 5 prospect is justified.

"I do feel like I'm one of the best players, but I don't think about it too much," he said. "I just love the game of basketball and want to keep getting better so I can hopefully see my dream come true of playing in the NBA."


With college interest in him rapidly increasing, Vonleh is taking it all in stride.

"I'm learning about all the top players that have come through there, what players they have had that have gone through to the NBA," he said of each school under consideration.

"I'm trying to find out where I could best fit in and be able to play my type of style, getting up and down the floor."

Most 2014 prospects are talking to college assistant coaches at this point. Vonleh is hearing from head coaches. Such is the recruitment of a Top 5 prospect.

"When North Carolina offered I talked to Roy (Williams) on the phone," he said. "When Indiana called and offered I talked to (Tom) Crean. At Arizona I talked to Sean Miller. "

Ohio State and UConn are in the mix, and Vonleh cited growing interest from Florida and Kentucky. The Boston-area product (he attended Haverhill (Mass.) High School before transferring to New Hampton) also claims interest in nearby Boston College and Providence.

North Carolina has figured prominently into Vonleh's recruitment thus far.

The UNC staff has made a number of trips to New Hampton and Roy Williams traveled to Las Vegas this spring to see Vonleh in action with his AAU team.

Williams called Vonleh six weeks ago to make a formal scholarship offer.

"He said I was the first offer for 2014," Vonleh recalled of the conversation with UNC's head coach. "He's a real cool laid back guy. He told me a lot about the history of North Carolina and how I'd fit in.

"North Carolina says I can be a Marvin Williams-, Harrison Barnes- type player. They came to a lot of my games and said they like the way I play."

While Vonleh was UNC's first 2014 offer -- and while that was an early offer by UNC's standards – it was far from Vonleh's first offer.

"I was all right with that," he said. "I just was hoping they'd offer."

Beyond seeing a few local schools, Vonleh hasn't had time to make campus trips and doesn't have any booked for the immediate horizon.

"I'm always busy so I don't have any visits planned yet," he said. "I'll probably end up taking all five (official) visits and see which one best fits me."

Perhaps the best indicator of where things stand as of today can be found in Vonleh's answer to which schools he definitely wants to visit.

"Probably North Carolina, Providence, BC, Arizona, Florida," he responded.

Vonleh's mother moved to the United States from Liberia shortly before Vonleh was born. She's not completely familiar with the recruiting process, which can certainly be overwhelming, but has expressed her preferences – only one of which it sounds like Vonleh is willing to adhere to.

"A good academic college and probably a college close to home – probably doesn't want me to go far away," he said of his mother's college input. "(But) I can go on the West Coast, I don't care. … I'll go anywhere – wherever best fits me I'll go."

Vonleh initially downplayed the impact of the decisions of his highly ranked peers as influencing him, but later acknowledged that he's "pretty close" with top 2014 center Jahlil Okafor, who has begun to plant a seed of playing together without mentioning any specific schools.

But none of these recruiting factors – or the process in general - are weighing heavily on his mind.

A new NCAA rule went into effect on Friday that allowed unlimited texting for college coaches. With his cell phone poised to erupt as Thursday evening approached midnight, Vonleh wasn't fazed. In fact, he went to sleep.

On Friday morning, texts from 10 schools were waiting for him.

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