Meet Jason Haas - Part I

In a situation very similar to last year's freshman class, there is one member of this coming fall's frosh hoops class from back East who Booties just don't know much about. To help Stanford fans get much more familiar with PG Jason Haas, here is the first installment of our Bootleg interview with him. This edition looks at the comparisons and contrasts between his last two years of basketball, and his self-evaluation of skills and needs.

The Bootleg: What were your shooting percentages these past two seasons?
Jason Haas: In my senior season at Penns Valley High School I helped lead our team to a 22-6 record, averaging 24 points per game, playing just 20 to 24 minutes per game. I shot 48% inside the arc, 44% outside the arc with 47 three-pointers, and a school-record 94% from the foul line, shooting 136 of 145. This season at Blair Academy, I helped lead our team to a 17-9 record, averaging around 9 points per game and 8 assists per game. Our prep team did not have an official statistics keeper as my previous high school team did. However I am sure that my shooting percentages were very similar, just taking a lot fewer shots.

The Bootleg: Jason, your stats were very different between this season and your prior one. Can you elaborate on the differences between the two seasons in terms of your abilities, intended roles, teammates and competition?
Jason Haas: In contrast from this season at Blair, the previous season I was depended on to be a point guard and the primary scorer. This year however, I was able to play a true point guard position, making things happen on the court for my teammates and specifically making plays to get the ball to top ten nationally ranked junior big men, Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva. To show the comparison from this season to last season, at Penns Valley I scored a career high 40 points in a single game, whereas this season at Blair I dished out a career high 20 assists in a game.

In terms of my abilities between the two seasons, I feel that I have made great strides by taking a prep year after high school. At Blair Academy, my coach has helped me to become a much better defensive player both on the ball and off the ball. More importantly, my coach has helped me become mentally tougher, fearing no one once I step on the court. He has taught me to be friends with opponents off the court, but enemies with my opponents on the court. My senior season at Penns Valley, I was more of a combo guard because I was depended on so much to be a primary scorer. During my prep year at Blair, my coach has helped improve my abilities in decision making and play making. Looking back on my last two seasons, I have become a much better player both physically and mentally.

In terms of my teammates, at Penns Valley my teammates were not as skilled or talented as my teammates were this year at Blair Academy. Playing against a "Box and 1" or a "Triangle and 2" all season long, I was relied on to carry the team, bringing the ball up the floor, starting the offense, and being the first person that looks to score. This season however, I played with four other players with Division I abilities. Our starting lineup was 6'3", 6'3", 6'6", 6'8", and 6'10". Obviously we were a very tall team, with each player being able to score from any point on the floor. As a point guard of such a team, I was forced to learn when to take shots for myself, and when to get the ball to one of my teammates at the right time at the right spot on the floor. It was a privilege and a great learning experience playing and leading such a talented team.

In terms of my competition, last season at Penns Valley, the teams we played were not as physical or talented as the teams we played this year at Blair. This season we played some of the best prep teams in the nation that included Worcester Academy, St. Patrick's, St. Thomas More, Our Savior Lutheran Academy, Northfield Mt. Herman, Trinity Pauling, St. Benedict's, and Life Center. We lost to Worcester Academy, a team who featured 8 Division I signees, twice this season, with both games coming down to the last couple seconds. At one point in the season we were ranked 17th in the nation among all public and private high schools, recapturing our league championship title and advancing to the New Jersey Prep State Finals. Unfortunately, we lost in the state finals in a tough game against St. Benedict's, a team that we had beaten earlier in the season. Playing some of the best prep teams in the country meant that I would be going up against some of the best point guards also. Each game this season was different in terms of matchups. If we played a team that did not have players who could guard our two big men, I was counted on to get the ball to them. However, if the opposing team did have two talented big men as well to match up against ours, I was counted to be a scorer and passer as well. Bringing the ball up against great point guards, and guarding great point guards, has helped me become better prepared for my upcoming freshman season at Stanford.

The Bootleg: Do you have a greater comfort level in the scoring role of a year ago, or in the distributing role from this season?
Jason Haas: In my view of a point guard, the point guard will do anything he can to help his team win, whether it is scoring when needed or making plays happen on the court for his teammates. I feel that I am a point guard who can help his team win by either scoring or getting the ball to the right people at the right time at the best spot on the floor. A point guard should be able to know his teammates' abilities, and know where his teammates want the ball to finish the play. As far as comfort level goes, I feel equally comfortable in the sense that I will either pass or score on any particular possession to help my team win.

The Bootleg: How has your growth, both in size and weight, changed your role and abilities on the floor? For example, do you believe you can post up opposing points better now with your height? Or do you feel it's a little more challenging to guard quicker opponents as you get bigger?
Jason Haas: After this past season at Blair, my coach sat down with me and told me that the thing in my game that I have to improve on most was my strength. During my prep season this year, I played at 175 pounds and grew another inch during the season. After our season ended, I began a weight-training program, concentrating on getting stronger in my upper body to help me against more physical point guards. As a result, I have already gained over 12 pounds, setting me currently at 6'3" and 187 pounds.

This season I did not play a point guard that was taller than me. The most positive aspect of my height advantage was the fact that I was able to see over my opposing point guard, allowing me to see the floor better. As far as posting up goes, I do not see myself as a post-up point guard, especially at the Pac-10 level. Instead, I feel I am more of a penetrator, passer, and perimeter scorer. Furthermore, I feel that my height advantage will give me more of a rebounding advantage over opposing point guards. Guarding quick point guards is always a challenge regardless of your size, but I feel that my height, strength, court skills, and court intelligence will close any quickness gap, if any.

The Bootleg: Can you talk about your decision to take a year of prep school at Blair Academy? What were you hoping to get out of that, and how do you now see that you have benefited and/or changed?
Jason Haas: Prior to my senior season at Penns Valley, I began to explore the prep school route instead of entering college in the fall. Even though I was being recruited by Ivy League and Patriot League schools among others by the end of my senior year, I felt that I was not being recruited by higher Division I schools because I had not physically matured yet. Being a "late-bloomer" physically, I believed a year of prep school would give me time to develop physically and further my opportunities to play at higher Division I schools. Taking a postgraduate year at Blair Academy would also give me an additional year of great coaching, and the opportunity to play against some of the best prep players in the nation. I also realized at the end of my senior year that coaches at the high Division I level want guards who can come in a play right away. By going to Blair for a year before my freshman season, I would not only be more matured, but I would also be better prepared to play when I show up on campus.

I feel that I have benefited greatly in many ways from my postgraduate year at Blair Academy. One of the most important ways I have benefited is in the classroom. Academically, my teachers challenged me, working with me on my writing and reading skills for another school year. Another way I have benefited from my prep year at Blair was on the court. Both my coach and my teammates helped me improve everyday. More importantly, my postgraduate year gave me the opportunity to come in and take over a very talented ball team. I learned not only to lead a team against some of the best teams in the nation, but also to relate to and make my teammates better during practice.

The Bootleg: What would you say are your strongest attributes as a point guard on the floor?
Jason Haas: I feel that I bring many solid attributes to the floor as a point guard. As a player I excel in the open floor, seeing the court to get the ball to the open man, and being able to enter the ball into the post. I can also be depended upon as someone who can get the ball up the floor past pressure, and start the offense. And if the play breaks down, I believe that I can beat my man, penetrate, and make plays for my teammates. I also feel that once I start the offense, I am a player who can knock down the open perimeter shot as well as create my own shot. Defensively, I bring a rebounding presence to the court, and a perimeter defender. One of my more important attributes that I bring to the floor is my coachability. A point guard needs to be coachable to improve as a player, to help his teammates improve, and to execute Coach Montgomery's game plan.

The Bootleg: What are your challenge areas where you know you want to get better, to compete at a high level in the Pac-10?
Jason Haas: Obviously, the transition from high school to high level Pac-10 will be challenging, as the players will be much more physical and more talented. After this past season, I feel the areas where I need to improve most are my on-the-ball defense, lateral quickness, and upper-body strength. In order to compete for playing time next season, I am going to need to improve in these areas as well as all other aspects of my game.

The Bootleg: What are you doing this spring and summer to work toward these goals, to improve yourself before coming to Stanford in September?
Jason Haas: This spring I have been lifting with my Blair teammates four days a week, doing drills for quickness and skills, and playing full-court almost everyday. Now that school is over, I will be able to work on my ball handling and shooting skills everyday, lift four days a week, and work on my agility. I will also be doing individual workouts with my AAU coach, Rich Leary, who worked out Jason Williams before he went to Duke before his freshman year. Rich will work me out every weekend, helping me with my individual offensive moves, and with my defensive game. I will be working out with Rich all summer, but if I have the opportunity to come out west and spend some time with the team this summer, I definitely will.

The Bootleg: Is there a guard in college you've seen play who you feel has many similarities with you? Or perhaps someone whose game you are trying to approach in style and ability?
Jason Haas: In all my years of watching college basketball I have seen so many great point guards play. The only problem is, I cannot think of one particular point guard who I am similar to. I have some skills that are similar to some point guards, but I feel there is not a specific player who I play exactly like. In a similar answer to the first part of the question, there are many players who I would like to be similar to in style and ability. There are many great point guards in the college game who have terrific shooting abilities, dribbling abilities, defensive abilities, and so on. In preparing for my college career, I have tried to work hard on developing all of these great abilities of former point guards to become a well-rounded player.

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