Interview with JamesOn's coach

IC Correspondents Sherrell McMillan and Jeff Markman sat down with Coach John Moon before the Friday night matchup with Graham to discuss super soph JamesOn Curry.

IC: Coach Moon, how do you keep a budding superstar like JamesOn focused?

Coach Moon: First of all, the kid has worked all his life to be where he's at right now. His father and JamesOn have a great player-coach relationship from the standpoint that his father has spent a lot of time with him on individual instruction. He's participated in a lot of AAU, middle school, high school, Five Star camp, Nike All-American in Indianapolis, Indiana, so he knows what's at stake. So, it hasn't been a real problem from a standpoint of keeping him focused at all.

IC: What do you think his strongest assets on the court are?

Moon: I think he's a great shooter. I think he has great court awareness. As great a shooter as he is, he's really that great a passer. He can put the ball anywhere. Sometimes, he knows you're open and you don't know you're open, because his court vision is so good.

IC: What about off the court?

Moon: Well, as far as off the court stuff, if you saw him walking around school here, or hanging around after school, or in the hallways and stuff, he's kind of a laid-back kid. You certainly wouldn't look at him and think he could go on the court and do the things that he does. He's enjoying his high school life right now and working hard at basketball, and he's just, to be redundant, he's really just a good kid -- and he is a kid; he's 16 years old, just turned 16 on January 7th.

IC: If you could compare his game to anybody, does anyone come to mind?

Moon: I'll give you a quote a gentleman gave me. Howard Garfinkle of Five Star told me after the Southern Guilford game that he couldn't figure out if JamesOn was Allen Iverson or Ray Allen. He has a tremendous competitiveness about him, but he's silky smooth. I refer to him as being like Tiger Woods; when Tiger steps up and hits a golf ball, you know how easy it looks? JamesOn's game sometimes looks that easy, but as coaches, we know how many hours that he's spent working on that shot and working on his game.

IC: As his high school coach, what do you see as your role in his recruitment?

Moon: First of all, I need to make sure that he has the right classes, that he's taking the SAT, that he's prepared to go to college, and that he's been to the camps that he needs to go to for exposure, and I need to keep him grounded, need to keep him hungry. He's got to stay hungry and he's got to stay focused, and he's got to be the leader on this team and understand that all the eyes in this community and a lot of people in the state are looking at him. He's got a tremendous responsibility to be a good citizen as well as a great basketball player.

IC: Do you think his recruitment will reach the level of instate competition that Shavlik Randolph's did?

Moon: I sure hope so. I sure hope so, because if he has the academics, which he does right now, and he has the SAT score, and he's a sophomore so he's got plenty of time to head that direction -- if he has that, then he can do, in my opinion, what Shavlik Randolph did. He can pick them as well as they pick him, and if he has the academics -- he already has the basketball game -- then he can pick them as well as they pick him. I mean, what world could be better?

IC: If there's an area, or a couple areas, of his game that need improvement, what would that be?

Moon: Well, I think one of them would be strength. He's a sophomore. I think he needs to get stronger. I think, being out of the middle school only two years, having to play man-to-man defense and be the focal point on offense on the other end, to come back and play defense is going to take him being stronger, more physical, and more focused on both ends of the floor. This kid, in the conference, is averaging 36 points a game. Overall, this young man is averaging 31 if you look at the whole season. He's 23 points away from breaking Jerry Stackhouse's record tonight for most points scored by a sophomore. He's four field goals away from scoring the most 3-point field goals that have ever been scored at Eastern High School. He has 69 right now, and the school record is 72. Stackhouse, as a sophomore, scored 687, and JamesOn right now has 665.

IC: We've heard stories about JamesOn being a Carolina fan all his life, and that he loves Carolina. Do you think it will come down to what's best for him or his lifelong dreams -- "what's best for me?" or "where I've always wanted to play?"

Moon: I think that's where his parents and the coaches, like myself, have not got to influence him, but have got to say "look at who's in front of you at Duke. Are you going to be able to go in there and play right away? Look at Carolina. Who's in front of you, are you going to be able to go in there and play right away?" That's got to be a factor.

IC: So he definitely wants to play right away, wherever he goes?

Moon: Well, he's never not played right away. When he came in here last year, he started his first game as a freshman on our varsity and scored 25 points. He broke the state scoring record last year for a freshman playing on varsity. The record was 597, and he put up 639 in his freshman year. So, the opportunity to play in a big time program, I think, the opportunity to get a quality education from one of these institutions, and, if I gave you the list of schools that are looking at him, that have sent in questionnaires and showed interest, you could go through that thing and there's really, quote, "not a bad school in the whole bunch;" but, is he willing to go so far away from home, or is he willing to stay at home because of the resources that are so close by.

IC: Because JamesOn is such a good shooter, do you see him playing point in college or shooting guard, or a mix of the two?

Moon: That is an excellent question. Last year at this time, if you had asked me that, my answer to you would have been point guard, but after this summer, going to Hampton-Sydney Shooting Camp, going to Five Star, going to team camp, going to Nike, going to state games, going to these one day shootout things, coming back and doing what he's doing now, I would say that he would be a shooting guard in college. However, I would probably, if I were a coach or recruiter, say that he could be a combo guard -- he could be a shooting guard, and if he needed to play the point, he could play the point.

IC: Does he have a preference?

Moon: That's a tough one, because sometimes in our offense, the way we play, we want to fly. If you're sitting on the front row, we might hit you in the face with the ball going down the court because we're going so fast. He likes to get out and run. Sometimes we play him at the point, sometimes we play him at the shooting guard spot, but we have three pretty good guards, so when we get into our offense, he just plays the game.

IC: So he likes an uptempo game?

Moon: I think, when you look at the college game now, it is an uptempo game in most places. The first school that jumps out in my mind that's probably a continuity-type offense would be Stanford. They run a lot of that shot clock down before they take a shot, and they run a lot of sets. You look at Duke and Carolina. Certainly, Carolina wants to get out and run, and Duke is getting out and running, with a lot of 3-point shots, a lot of transition baskets, a lot of secondary breaks, so I think a program he would be interested in would be a program that pushes the ball up and down the floor and plays a fast tempo.

IC: What was your reaction to the scholarship offer from Carolina?

Moon: Carolina started looking at JamesOn when he was a freshman. Freddie Quartlebaum, an assistant coach at Carolina, and I go back a long way from working West Point's camp, so when JamesOn came in as a freshman, we took him to team camp at Wilmington. We had won the camp at Wilmington, and Carolina has their coaching clinic that I had been going to since I was a pup, so I went down and I saw Coach Quartlebaum and I said "I got a kid I think can play, and I'd like for you to look at him." He said "You know, Coach, if you say he can play, he can play," and I said "No, let's not go that route, we're not friends in this. Let me bring you a tape after we play some games, and you sit down and look at it -- you evaluate the tape." So we took the tape down and they obviously liked him, so that started Carolina's recruiting of him. They saw him again out at the Nike All American Camp, and then Quartlebaum came and saw him play at Southern Alamance, and Coach Doherty came over to Randleman High School, and he really liked what he saw -- really liked what he saw, plus he liked the potential of what could be there, so when he offered it, we were shocked, we were happy, we were excited, but we know its still early.

IC: Thank you very much for your time, Coach Moon. Good Luck tonight.

IC Notes: JamesOn Curry went on to break Jerry Stackhouse's sophomore scoring record, eclipsing the mark by 13 and putting him at 690 points for the season. He tied the school record for 3-point field goals by hitting three in the game, putting him at 72 heading into the final games of the regular season.

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