Interview with Aldridge's coach

In the second of a five-part, week-long feature on sophomore Carolina target Lamarcus Aldridge, <i>IC</i>'s David Thompson sits down with his head coach at Seagoville High. Stay tuned the rest of the week for more interviews, along with photos and video.

Inside Carolina's David Thompson conducted the following interview with Robert Allen, the head coach at Dallas (TX) Seagoville.

Inside Carolina: What outstanding moments from this past season can you tell us about?

Coach Robert Allen: One game that sticks out is when he scored 44 points against Ennis High School [TX]. Ennis came out and they basically denied the wings, which meant we couldn't pass the ball to the wings, so we took advantage of Lamarcus inside. And, to my surprise, they never adjusted to our going inside and so he scored 44 points, and could've very easily had over 50. A lot of times he kicked it back out to the shooters and they weren't doubling down so he could have scored easily.

IC: About the playoffs, how do you feel Lamarcus played?

Robert Allen

Allen: Lamarcus played super! He did an excellent job of rebounding the ball and, especially, blocking shots. At one time, Lamarcus was averaging somewhere around 10 blocks a game. He led the entire area as far as blocks are concerned. And anytime we got in trouble, we always went inside to Lamarcus and he delivered.

My problem is that I don't think we went inside to him enough. Against South Oak Cliff, there were times when he was wide open and we never got him the ball. We ended up losing by seven and I think he would have made a big difference had we gotten the ball inside.

IC: Lamarcus' reputation as a ballplayer has grown tremendously this past year. In your opinion, why has it?

Allen: He's gotten exposure. He's played in national tournaments. He plays with Mitch Malone and Texas Blue Chips and he plays in all the shootouts around here. And, if he's not playing with Texas Blue Chips, then he might play with the Mustangs or he might play with Team Texas, so he's played a lot of basketball and word travels fast about how good this young man is. It's pretty much by word of mouth, from coach to coach.

IC: Lamarcus has played a lot with his back to the basket. What is Lamarcus' natural position on the floor?

Allen: Of course, because we lack size I have to play him at the "5." But Lamarcus can play the "4," he can play the "3." Lamarcus can even play the "1." He played the "1" in middle school (he was 6-5). And he certainly can play the "2." Lamarcus is one of our best shooters and I've been very tempted to put him out on the wing because we've been struggling as far as our outside shooting. But he's such a tremendous asset to us inside.

IC: What position do you think he'll play in college?

Allen: Probably the "5."

IC: What is Lamarcus' greatest strength as a basketball player?

Allen: His tenacity. Lamarcus stays after practice. He plays a lot stronger than he looks. If you look at his frame, he doesn't look as though he's very strong. But he can get in there with the best of them and muscle up with them. He's got a "never give up" attitude. He got pushed around quite a bit, but he continued to hang in there. Sometimes he's going up against guys that are a lot bigger, weight-wise, but he's been able to hold his own.

IC: How do you see that he made improvements this past year over the prior year?

Allen: Strength. He hit the weights very, very hard and he's one of our most dedicated players as far as working in the weight room. He's a lot stronger and he's using a little bit more variety of moves down in the paint area.

IC: What would you like to see Lamarcus improve on, going into next season?

Allen: Free throw shooting. As much as he's going to get fouled, it's real important that he improve his free throw shooting.

IC: What leadership skills has Lamarcus shown for the team?

Allen: One thing we've been trying to get Lamarcus to do is exemplify a little bit more leadership out there on the floor. Finally, he's coming around. Not only is he exemplifying leadership on the floor but in practice. And off the court. Lamarcus does not mind correcting people if he sees them getting out of line in the classroom, in the hall. And I told him, as one of our top ballplayers, it's important that he show that type of leadership because people are going to look up to him and they're going to follow him because he does the right thing. He's an excellent role model for many of our kids.

IC: How do you utilize Lamarcus on the offensive end in making the best game plan for your team?

Allen: Our offensive game plan is always centered on getting the ball to Lamarcus. If we're not able to get the ball to him initially, then what we normally do is use the skip pass and run what we call the "X action," to either bring him up from the low post, or if he's on the high post, bring him down to the low post. So we try to get him moving within the paint area to free him up because he's been double teamed, triple teamed and they still haven't been able to stop him.

IC: On the defensive end, what's your strategy with Lamarcus?

Allen: A lot of times, we use Lamarcus to play a one man zone. We say, hey look, you play the lane. If anything comes in there, you block it, you can give help defense if one of your teammates gets beat, and he's done a good job of protecting the paint, defensively.

IC: What is Lamarcus' workout like?

Allen: His workout consists of running, weights, working on his low post moves, working also on his outside shooting because he's such a remarkable shooter. And there's a possibility that they may play him like Chris Bosh is going to play on the wing. So we always let him work on the outside also. We let him work on the tossback to improve his passing and we do a lot of ball handling drills and a lot of dribbling drills. He handles the ball very well—he's just a remarkable athlete to be 6-10.

IC: Has Lamarcus gone up against Chris Bosh?

Allen: He went up against Bosh, and I've heard this from a lot of coaches, a lot of fans — he outplayed Chris. He outplayed Chris both times that he went up against him. Honestly, he outplayed Chris Bosh.

IC: What do you think Lamarcus's potential is on the college level?

Allen: His potential is unlimited. Lamarcus is probably going to be one of the top basketball players in the nation upon attending the University of North Carolina. Because I know the kind of program that they have there and, with the skills that he possesses already and becoming a part of an excellent program like the University of North Carolina, his game is just going to take off to another level that is unheard of.

IC: What style of play is Lamarcus' play best suited for?

Allen: We definitely employ the up-tempo style of play because we do have some kids who are very athletic who can get up and down the floor. Lamarcus has improved in that area, too, as far as running the court. We played yesterday and he had something like 15 dunks against Madison. A lot of them came off of baskets that were missed. He came from one end to the other end and would dunk the missed shot. He's done a good job of running the floor.

IC: If a person is watching Lamarcus for the first time, what will they notice about him?

Allen: His aggressive approach to getting the job done. His defense in the paint and how he's aggressively attacking the goal offensively.

IC: What is his shooting range like? From what distance does he have the green light?

Allen: The free throw line, extended. And he's pretty consistent from the free throw line extended. And he's not a bad shooter from the three point arc. He has it all.

IC: How is Lamarcus' defensive skills?

Allen: He has a good idea of man/ball relationship when he's playing defense. And he has pretty good feet. He started out, he didn't have quick feet. We do a lot of plyometric type drills and it's helped him tremendously. And he knows how to take angles – recover should the man beat him driving to the goal.

IC: Would you characterize him as a power player or a finesse player?

Allen: He's a power player. Believe it or not, especially with his frame, like I said there's a lot of people that think that he's a finesse player, but Lamarcus is a powerful, powerful player. He will dunk on you at any given moment!

IC: How's Lamarcus doing in the classroom?

Allen: Lamarcus is an excellent student. He's one of those kids that we never have to worry about academically because his grades are just as important as playing basketball – probably more important. Because his mother makes sure that he takes care of business in the classroom, because if he doesn't, he's not going to be allowed to play. Lamarcus understands that he's got to take care of business and he does a good job of that.

IC: What's it like to coach Lamarcus?

Allen: He's one of those guys that you just thank God that he's part of your program because he's a better person than he is a basketball player and that's what I love about him! He's one of those guys that you hate to see graduate – you want him around forever. He's just a joy to coach, very coachable, tremendous attitude.

Tremendous work ethic. He's one of the hardest workers that we have. Lamarcus is one of the first in the gym and he's one of the last to leave, every day.

IC: There are important decisions that will approach concerning schools. When does Lamarcus want to make a decision?

Allen: Lamarcus wants to make a decision as soon as possible. In fact, he's already made it known that the only school that he wants to attend is the University of North Carolina. That's been his life-long dream and he's not going to be deterred.

IC: He sounds very confident. Where does that come from?

Allen: Tradition. He's evidently been following North Carolina for a while and he told me right off the bat.

I told him, "Lamarcus, you're going to be highly pursued. Where do you want to go to school?"

"Coach, I want to go to the University of North Carolina."

This was before [UNC] started showing any kind of interest. And we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that that's where he goes.

IC: Who are the most noticeable other schools in touch with Lamarcus?

Allen: University of Kansas, University of Florida, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Idaho, University of Texas, SMU, TCU – you name it, just about every school. Wake Forest, Clemson… man, so many of them…

IC: Have any of these schools offered him a scholarship that you are aware of?

Allen: Not that I'm aware of.

IC: In your mind, who's expressed the strongest interest of the schools that have been in touch?

Allen: The University of North Carolina.

IC: You've got a young man that loves the University of North Carolina. In your opinion, where would be best for him to play ball?

Allen: The University of North Carolina – no doubt about it.

IC: How often does Lamarcus hear from UNC?

Allen: You know, Lamarcus contacts them on a weekly basis. He contacts either Coach Doherty or Coach Wojcik on a weekly basis.

IC: Have any of the UNC coaches come to any of Lamarcus' games?

Allen: Coach Wojcik attended a couple of them.

IC: How does Lamarcus feel about the way North Carolina is handling his recruitment?

Allen: I tell you what. He thinks the University of North Carolina is first class all the way in terms of his dealings with them.

IC: What kind of factors are important to you as a coach for Lamarcus in looking at schools?

Allen: First of all, I want him to attend a school that values academics and makes sure that the young man graduates. And I want someone that he can communicate with. I want the coach to have what we call an "open door policy," to where, if Lamarcus is bothered by anything, if he's homesick, if he's having financial problems, whatever the case may be, if he's having problems academically, that he feels that he can come in and talk to the coach. Kind of relieve some of the stress in that manner.

IC: Is distance at all a factor?

Allen: Not at all. In fact, Lamarcus would prefer to get as far away from Texas as he possibly can. He's just worried about, probably some negative influences if he stayed too close around the area. Maybe some people that would try to discourage him from going back to school should he be close enough to where he could commute to and from school on the weekend.

And some people may be jealous of the success that he has at this time and try to discourage him from doing those things that are going to be required of him as a student-athlete in college. If he can get away from that type of influence, he feels like he's going to be better off.

Plus, he wants to be able to grow up. He wants to be able to grow up and he feels like if he's away from Mama and Daddy to where he can pretty much call the shots in terms of what he should be doing, I think that's going to…

IC: Who's helping Lamarcus to make the decision on where he'll attend a school?

Allen: He's come to me along with my two assistant coaches. His mother, his father, and older brother.

IC: Is there anybody that you can compare Lamarcus' game to, either on the college or professional level?

Allen: Rasheed Wallace. He plays exactly like Rasheed Wallace. Rasheed Wallace can shoot the three, he can take it to the goal, he plays strong inside, can run the floor well. He's another Rasheed Wallace. He's probably going to be better than Rasheed Wallace.

IC: What are his aspirations and life goals?

Allen: One of his aspirations is definitely to go to the NBA. That's a life long dream of his. If that does not materialize, then he definitely wants to get the best education that he possibly can so that he can come out and get a good job and be able to take care of his family.

IC: Any particular area of academic study he'd like to pursue?

Allen: I believe he said he wanted to go into some type of engineering field. I don't know exactly which one.

IC: What's Lamarcus' present height?

Allen: He's a legitimate 6-10.

IC: And is he still growing?

Allen: I think he's still growing. I believe he's still growing. He might be 6-10 ½. Last time we measured him, it was a month ago and he was 6-10.

IC: What's his weight?

Allen: I think Lamarcus is about 220 now. 215 – 220.

IC: Has he put any more weight on now the season is over?

Allen: He's putting on a little. We're really trying to work hard to bulk him up.

IC: Do you have any other comments about Lamarcus?

Allen: Nothing other than just to say that I've been coaching for 32 years and he's one of the finest young men that I've coached in my 32 years of coaching. He's a very tremendous asset to Seagoville High School He's put us on the map.

And just to see the progress that he has made from the time that I saw him – and I'll be honest with you, when I saw him in eighth grade, I thought he'd never play for me because he didn't run the floor well, didn't play defense, didn't block shots, played very soft, everything that you didn't want a 6-5 kid to do, he did it.

And to see him maturing into the type of ball player that he is today just brings joy to me and to my assistant coaches because the sky's the limit for Lamarcus. He's improving day after day after day. And the whole state of Texas is abuzz because of Lamarcus. I mean, my phone just rings off the hook. Every AAU coach, every BCI coach, everybody wants Lamarcus to play for them.

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