1-on-1 with Ishmail Wainright

Ishmail Wainright, one of UCLA's top targets in the class of 2013, was recently offered by Duke. Scout.com had a chance to sit down with the talented wing player at the second session of the Nike EYBL...

Your team has been in several of the most intense, hard-fought games here at this tournament. Watching you play, you seemed real calm in the heat of the game, what helps you keep your head in those situations?

Ishmail Wainright: I think it was because growing up, playing up three or four ages every single year, being like the 3rd grade and playing 6th grade, or playing up in the 17s when I was a freshman. It's just I'm used to playing in games like this and my dad always tells me, do not show any sign of fear, any sign of confusion, just play ball. If they find out if you aren't strong in the game, you'll get attacked.

You play such a versatile game watching, and you don't shy away from going down low and competing, is that how you've always played?

Actually no, i used to play the one, and I love to pass the ball, that's why I don't look to score the ball all that much. I remember being in the 5th grade and my dad drew up a play where the ball was going to go to my older brother and I was the youngest and I was assigned to pass him the ball but I ended up having to take the shot and I missed it so that's why I decided to make an impact through being a good passer.

Your parents sound like they have a big impact on you...

Oh yeah, I'm real close with my mom and my dad, that's for sure.

Coming from a grounded perspective, how are you handling your recruiting stock blowing up the way you have?

It's still exciting to me, but I've only read one article about myself and that's probably one article too many. I really don't want to stop being humble about this whole process because it is exciting, but I don't want it to go to my head.

Has it always come natural to you to stay humble or do you have to fight for it?

It's always come natural to me.

Watching your game last night, you had the cream of the college coaching crop with Coaches Izzo and Wright and Thad Matta and many others watching you play, what's that like for you?

I don't let it get to my head but I'll look over at them and give them a wink or something, so like if I drop a dime to a teammate I'll look at a coach nearby and be like, "Hey coach, how you doing (smiling)?"

How are your parents taking to this process Ish, are there any schools that have gotten your parents real excited that they are recruiting you?

Oh my gosh, my dad, he got a call from Coach K, he was like, "this is not Coach K, there's no way" and Coach K was like, "I'm quite sure the last time I checked this is Coach K", man, it was so funny hearing my dad tell me that. They had at least a thirty minute conversation which was great because my dad was straight confused for the first few minutes because he couldn't believe at first that he was on the phone with Coach K. When he said that he wanted to offer me a scholarship, my dad and I were like oh my goodness, this is just crazy, I've got an offer from Duke.

Tell me some more about what was said between your parents and Coach K when he was talking with them…

They were talking about my life, and he just wanted to know so much about me, and who I am as a person. We just talked and talked, he said he loved my game and he only saw me one time, so that was real humbling. He said that from now on at every one of my games, there's going to be at least two coaches there from Duke and he told me to call him all the time if I wanted to, just to tell me how things are going on and off the court.

How did your dad react to the conversation?

He called me in the middle of the night, like no joke, and he was like, I just got done talking with Coach K. I told my dad, dad, it's like 11 o'clock at night, what's going on ? He said Coach K wanted me to call him that night because he was real interested and I was like dad, what coach wants me to call them at 11 o clock at night and he was like, that's what Coach K said, it was so cool. My mom said she literally dropped the phone on the floor and was screaming knowing they were talking with Coach K, because it's really that awesome.

Does that mean that Duke's the favorite now or were they a team you liked growing up Ish?

I know for sure that right now, Duke is my mom's favorite without a doubt. She loves Coach K, he's a legend.

It's interesting you use the word legend. Is it hard to get comfortable with him having that thought in the back of your mind?

The first thing I said when I got off the phone with him was I can't believe I'm talking with a living legend, and that's just awesome for me. It's a real blessing, and I just say thank you God. Growing up I mean, I never expected, I grew up watching them all the time. Coach K, all the kids look up to him and one day I was hoping to get a chance to talk with him face to face and now that's an opportunity and it's still crazy to me.

Are you trying to line up a visit soon to Duke?

I'm looking at that for sure and Coach K has told me he wants me and my family to come check it out, but I've actually been on the campus before, for the Bob Gibbons, but I've never visited the team you know ?

Prior to Duke's offer, were there any other offers you've received that you are taking very seriously in terms of interest?

Oh yes sir, UCLA, they offered me sophomore year. I went down there for a camp, and one of the camp people told me they were having lunch and the coaches wanted to meet with me, so I sat down with all of them. Coach Howland was like, I don't care what anybody else says, we're recruiting you, and you've got an offer on the table right now. That's the first thing he said and I couldn't even eat my lunch then. Growing up, watching UCLA, that's a big school, I'm saying to myself I'm going to play at one of those types of big name schools.

What do you think of the new recruiting class they have coming in?

It's a monster class for real, it's awesome.

Are you looking at coming in with a big class yourself or going into a place where you know guys?

Yeah, it's a part because I want to go to a place where I don't have to make all new friends again you know ? If I've already got a relationship with guys going to the same spot, they can tell me things about the school that I maybe don't know, that's a benefit.

How much do you know the new guys going in as freshman this year at UCLA?

Actually with Tony Parker, our parents go way back and I didn't even know that until last year.

Really, what's the connection there?

Best friends, my uncles are best friends with his dad and I didn't know that until my dad was like, do you know Tony Parker the basketball player ? I was like yeah, Tony Parker, he's six eight, he can ball, and my dad was like did you know that your uncles know his dad real well? So now whenever I see Tony I'm like what's going on big fella?

You sound like you know what's happening in the recruiting world. What did you think about Tony's recruiting process and how he handled it?

I think he had a lot of help, his parents, his whole entire family was in there helping him, that was the biggest decision of his life, he had the best schools, the top schools recruiting him for him to choose from, it was a big decision.

Do you have close relationships with any other guys at the next level

I have cousins who play in college, like Trevor Releford who plays at Alabama, Travis Releford at Kansas, I know Marcus Denmon at Missouri.

How about with high school players?

I have a close relationship with Kasey Hill and Julius Randle, those are like two of my best friends, we talk everyday.

Julius is a beast, man. Have you ever played against him?

Oh yeah, I first played him when I was in the fifth grade, he's just a monster man, he's just everything.

Have you talked with him about your recent Duke offer?

Yeah, actually he texted me at like two o'clock in the morning and he was like "Dude, you got the offer! I'm so excited for you, now we both got Duke offers, its so cool man."

He was telling me they had told him earlier in the day that they were going to offer me and I was like wow. Matt Jones knows too and he's been talking to me about Duke for a bit too, he's always like come on to Duke man, every time I see him, he's like come to Duke big fella, come with us.

How do you handle all that attention? Being recruited by the cream of the crop of college basketball and not make a rush decision.

Just staying patient you know ? Somebody told me I have five official visits I can make and I didn't know that until the middle of this school year, so I'm not even going to look at visiting before August.

What goes into deciding what schools you are going to evaluate or where you are going to visit?

Really, I've played with so many coaching styles so I'm used to being able to play in any kind of system. Like with Team Takeover, we get up and down the court, but like in high school, we can get up and down the court, but we'll run set plays too, we can run half-court sets. I can adapt to whatever, whatever the coaches want.

How much do you look at past players that school have had at your spot?

Yes sir, that's something I do look at, I can't remember his name right now but the guy at Syracuse last year, he played a similar game to me

Are there any schools that are doing their own comparing of you to former players in their programs?

Yes sir, Duke actually compared me to Shane Battier. Battier played everything, he just did everything.

One of the things that Battier was known for was his intangibles, and for being a vocal leader. Do you approach the game in a similar manner?

Yeah, I had a guy with the Team Takeover who pulled me aside and was like, I've never seen a player like you who cheers his teammate on after making the game winning shot and was at the younger guys game the very next game. That's just me though, I don't script anything out like that, I just want to be genuine with my teammates.

Moving forward with your process, do you see yourself waiting until the spring signing period to sign?

Yeah, actually I got mad with Kasey Hill because him, me and Julius were supposed to wait until the last second to decide and he messed that up.

So you guys were seriously talking about waiting until the spring, is that correct?

Yeah we've been talking about that seriously since 8th grade, so when Kasey made the move to commit, I told him if that's the best move for you, you gotta do that, what's best for you.

Do you think it's "best for you" to wait until the spring?

I'm going to do it late, that's what I'm thinking.

How do you think you are going to narrow it down? What's your thought process going to be?

I am going to be sitting down with all the people advising me, my family, coaches all that, just like Tony did, we're going to do the same exact thing.

Do you think you're going to play things out in the public profile the way, similar to what Tony did?

It's going to depend on what my dad wants to do with all that, because he loves talking with the coaches. My mom is the same way and we're just going to keep some of it on the low and also put some of it out there too.

How major a factor do you think your parents reaction to coaches is going to play in your decision?

It's going to play big-time because it helps me see their reactions and see how strongly they feel about coaches like Coach K and Coach Howland and others, I'm looking at that for sure.

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