One on one with Justise Winslow

Five star small forward Justise Winslow recently reduced his seemingly endless list of schools to a more manageable group of 10. The Blue Devils are among those finalists and are working to get Winslow on campus soon. The Texas standout spoke about that and much more with TDD in our latest extended interview.

TDD: You recently reduced your list of schools. Who made the cut?

Justise Winslow: This is no particular order, and is just from East Coast to West Coast. I've got North Carolina, Florida, Duke, Kansas, Texas A&M, University of Houston, and Baylor, then on the West Coast, I've got Arizona, UCLA and Stanford.

A noticeable omission from the early interest list you had is Kentucky. Is there no longer mutual interest there?

I would say not really, I spoke with Coach Cal towards the end of the summer and he didn't offer me a scholarship. That was pretty much all I had heard from them since then, so it wasn't enough for me to leave them on my list.

What about those 10 schools helped them make the cut?

I just think I've been able to develop the best relationship with the coaching staffs at those schools along with the players. It's also just the way they have been performing this season. I really think I can see myself playing at all those programs in the future.

How much input did you receive from your parents and coaches in forming this list?

Well, with this list my family played a big part. My family has been helping me through the recruiting process, and helping me make decisions. My dad's been helping me a lot because he's been through this already. He played at U of H before, and my siblings and my mom have been on some of the visits with me, so they helped me pick out these schools as well.

Specifically can you share what kind of input they gave you?

From my mom's perspective, she's real big on the dorm life and academics. She's got a certain standard that schools have to meet. With my sister, she's big on facilities, and she wants me to have the nicest place to work out in. And, my dad, he just wants me to be comfortable with the school I go to.

How much does it help you to have such diversity of opinions and viewpoints as they advise you?

It definitely helps, I don't always get to see the whole picture, so when other people can, that helps me a lot.

You mentioned your brother before as somebody who you lean on, can you shed some light into his input?

My brother is playing football at Dartmouth right now. He just tells me not to rush the decision. He's told me to enjoy the process and high school. He's telling me build a relationship with the coaches, those coaches and the players, they will be like your dad and your brothers when you are campus.

You've mentioned building a relationship with the coaches several times, can you share some examples of interactions you've had with the coaches that have helped you build a relationship with them?

For the most part, on the unofficial visits. Like at Florida, it was a big football weekend when I visited, so it was cool seeing my mom and my the staff joking around, and just enjoying the game. Being able to relate to the coaches, just joking around at practices, on calls, just joking around about life.

What kind of things have your family liked about what they've seen on the visits so far?

I think they like the process of what the schools have given that isn't just basketball, like they show how they are concerned for you with your academics, that's a big thing my sister and my mom really liked.

Talk with me about the facilities you've seen so far, what's stood out?

Well, when I visited UCLA I was able to see for the most part the Pauley Pavilion. It's not completed so we couldn't see everybody, but a lot of stuff in there looks brand new, that was a neat thing to see on the visit. The Arizona visit was a lot of fun, I went down for their midnight madness and I spent a lot of time with the coaching staff and the players and I got to see a game atmosphere. I liked everything pretty much with both schools, their campuses are different and unique and I really liked them. The academic side of things, you could tell they placed a high priority on them.

How about the Florida visit?

I got to see a couple practices and Coach Donovan, he really got into the guys, him and Coach Pelphery, they are both really intense guys. They have a good relationship off the court, after they are done yelling at the guys, you saw how good a relationship they have off the court with the guys. It was cool to see that and to see the basketball fans, they are pretty passionate. I got to go to a couple academic meetings as well.

Who did you develop a good relationship with on the visits?

The guy I was with a lot on my Florida visit was Casey Prather, he's really cool. We chilled and hung out in the dorm, went to the football game, that was cool. I hung out with the whole team, but that's just one guy who stood out.

What's your mom thoughts on the dorms and facilities so far that you guys have seen?

Well, she wants me to have my own room, but some of the schools, you share a room or suite with other players. THe nicest arena is probably Pauley Pavilion, and Stanford is beautiful. Baylor's facilities are really nice too.

Some schools have extremely nice dorm rooms and others have a more simple, more traditional style--how big a deal is that in your decision?

Right now, my mom is kinda concerned about it, but I don't think it'll play into my decision.

You've been expressing a lot that you are hoping to visit Duke at some point, but the trip hasn't happened yet. Any reason why?

Yeah, it's just because of scheduling issues. I had scheduled already to visit UCLA in the fall and that was the only time they asked me to visit, for their Midnight Madness game. I also don't like to take visits during my basketball season, but I am definitely going to go visit there once my season is completed. Duke has already reached out with several dates for a possible visit.

When are those dates?

Either the weekend of February 24th or March 2nd or March 9th, one of those weekends. I have all those weekends off either from my season or they are after my season is completed, so I'll go most likely for one of those weekends for my visit.

Is seeing a game the main purpose in visiting?

It's not the main purpose, but it is big so you can see the coaches during the game with the players, their coaching techniques, body language with the players. You can see how the players react and how the fan base and how it feels to be a part of the game scene.

What are you evaluating when you look at the players body language relative to the coaching style?

Just to see if they give respect, see if they get along, you want to see by their body language if they get along with their coach and respond to his coaching.

You've seen hard practices from the sounds of it--how big a deal is it if you play for a demanding coach?

Well, no one really wants to be told what they are doing wrong, but at the same time, that is something you really need as a player, so I don't want a coach who will baby me or tell me what they think I want to hear.

Is it important to you to visit North Carolina on the same weekend when you visit Duke?

I haven't really thought about it to be honest, but those schools are so close, I could save money if I do both visits on the same weekend. I may do that but I'm not sure yet.

Are you considering doing any official visits earlier than Fall of your Senior year?

I am aware of the new rule, schools have mentioned that, but I think it'll be better for me to get my list down to five or six schools and then decide where I'm going to visit officially.

Do you view it as important that you visit a school unofficially before you'll consider visiting them officially?

Yes, I think that's important, you don't want to waste an official because they are official.

What schools outside of Duke do you still need to visit unofficially?

Duke's the only one left I haven't visited unofficially yet, that's the most important one right now.

What's your thoughts on the seasons so far of the schools on your list?

I've been watching them every chance I get on TV since I can't take visits right now. Tonight I watched some of Duke's and UNC's games tonight and I've gotten to watch a lot of the Midwest teams a lot and I'll watch the later games out on the West Coast.

Your DVR must be active…

I don't really DVR them, I just turn them and watch when they are on.

How much are you evaluating style of play and the players when you watch?

I'd say that's a big thing I'm doing, I want to play for a program that suits my style as a player, so I'm watching the wing players to make sure I fit in.

Can you elaborate what style fits you?

An up and down team, pick and roll sets, preferably not a team that plays zone because I'm a pretty good man defender. A team that pushes the ball, runs pick and roll.

Do you prefer a guard oriented offense over an offense that guards play off bigs in the flow of the offense?

As a guard I would say I'd prefer a guard oriented offense because I like having the ball but I think I can play off a big because we play like that with Team USA.

Tyus Jones has shared his perspective on playing off of Jahlil Okafor, can you describe how you would play off of him as a wing guard/forward if you played together?

With Jahlil you gotta give him good post entry passes because he's going to get doubled a lot, so you gotta play off him, cut through the passing lanes, move without the ball, because he'll get the ball because of the attention he gets. It makes it easier playing with a good big like him, and it's a plus to play with a talented big like him.

Are you three still talking a lot about playing together, or is that fading a bit?

We're still talking about it a good amount.

Does that equate to you are firmly planning to play together?

It's not 100%, it's possible we'll try, but it's not 100% definite.

Has anybody had a creative pitch about how they would develop you as a player?

A lot of schools will bring in their strength coach and their shooting coach if they have one, let me meet with them, they walk me through their individual workouts. Nobody has stood out with that.

Is relationship with the coach the most important thing?

It's not the most important, but it's pretty high up there. The important thing for me is tied with recruiting classes, who they have coming in, plus their academics, that's all important.

Since Duke hasn't hosted you for a visit--do you consider them to be behind in your recruitment at this point?

No, I wouldn't say that at all. I'm just really excited to get down there and see the campus before I narrow things down, they aren't behind at all. Duke offered me late in the summer and I just had scheduling issues to try and get down there in the fall, they shouldn't be concerned in my interest level in them because I am making it a priority to get down and visit them. I like Duke just as much as I like other schools, I just think I need to get a visit there because they are the only one left to visit.

How much communication have you had with the Duke staff since they started recruiting you?

I've had a pretty good amount, really. I've talked with Coach K several times and the other assistant coaches too, Rasheed Sulaimon, we had a relationship even before he got down there. The communication with the staff hasn't let down as the season has progressed, they have been down for a few games, and we have talked a good amount on the phone.

How much have you and Rasheed talked since he got to Duke?

We talk some on twitter and when he's home on break, we work out with the same trainer, so he'll be joking around with me about how he needs to get me down to Duke.

I'm going to ask the obvious question--do you have any favorites out of your top schools list?

No I don't, they are all completely equal right now.

What's the next step for you now that you have named a Top 10?

Next step is get to down to seven or five or so, whenever I'm ready. Ideally I'd like to make a decision around Christmas next year.

That sounds like it comes after the early signing period in November, is that the plan to sign in the spring?

Yes, I would like to sign in the spring but verbal sometime in December this year.

Is it a firm or fluid deadline to verbal in December?

I would say it's more fluid, it's not set in stone, it's just a goal I have so I can play my senior year stress free.

What's the big reason for waiting to sign in the spring?

I would say the NBA departures are a part of it, it would be good to see who will be there, but it's not the main part of my decision.

Sounds like the depth chart is a big deal to you…

Yes, it is.

Are you looking at who would be at the wing positions at that point for each school or is it more just to see the overall roster picture?

I would say both. When I go to college I do want to play, just somewhere I can play and is capable of being a championship contender.

How big a deal is it if a school has a good amount of guards and wings in the program relative to your decision?

I'd say it's a big deal, but I don't mind sharing the spotlight, I just want to be a part of the team and like being around the guys.

Are you more likely then to pick a school based on how many guys are on the roster at those positions?

No, I want to play for a more talented team rather than just being the main guy. I want to play with a good team and if there's a good amount of twos and threes at a school, I think I'd still be able to play and grow as a player and would probably be able to grow as a player ?

How do react to a coach who tells you that you will have to earn your spot--that there's no minutes guaranteed?

That's really what I want to hear because I'm going to fight for my minutes. I'm not afraid on playing on a Fab 5 team with a lot of talent or coming off the bench, I just want to compete for minutes and win. I'm not afraid of having to fight for my spot with other elite players.

Do you know if Tyus and Jahlil are on a similar verbal/committment time frame as you are?

I think they are similar, I know they want to get it done before their high school season really gets rolling senior year, for those guys I think they just want to get the process over like me so we can enjoy our senior years. We haven't really talked about whether we're going to sign in the early or late signing period. I think they are firmly committed to playing together in college and I would like to play with them but I have to do what's best for me and they have to do what's best for them. I think they are firmly committed to playing with each other.

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