An Interview with Jon Mandeldove

On a crisp New England day, the National Tip-Off Prep Showcase in Barrington, RI saw two UConn recruits match up against each other. It was Jonathan Mandeldove and his Hargrave Military Academy teammates against Ben Eaves' Worcester Academy Hilltoppers.

It didn't take long to realize that Mandeldove, much like other young big men, was much further along on the defensive end of the floor than on the offensive end.  Against the Hilltoppers, Mandeldove pulled down five rebounds, and blocked four shots. 


Although he rarely looked for his offense, he battled hard for post position, showed soft hands catching the ball in traffic and did a nice job of passing out of the double team. Mandeldove displayed some decent foot work for a big man in preventing his man from getting past him in the post, but he clearly needs to get stronger and more assertive in order to be an offensive force. 


When asked about his height and weight, Mandeldove said that he was 6-11, 233 pounds but that he would like to get up to at least 242 by the time he arrives at UConn next fall. He explained that he's working very hard in the weight room, eating right, taking some protein shakes to put on some extra pounds.  His body type is reminiscent of Josh Boone; at the same stage, both had frames that looked capable of carrying a lot of extra muscle.


While he would appear to be more of a defensive force at present, Mandeldove is proud of his offensive prowess. He explained that with Georgetown-bound super prospect Vernon Macklin on the Hargrave squad, the team usually looks to Macklin for interior scoring. Although he did not show much offense in the game against Worcester, Mandeldove said, "I got a couple moves I can go to.  I know they are money moves and they'll get me to the foul line." 


When asked who he modeled his game after, Mandeldove said, "I try to take a little bit from everybody --Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan -- all the good dominating post players in the NBA and in college." 


On one play however, Mandeldove more resembled Dennis Rodman than any of the players he listed. While trying to establish inside position on offense, a Worcester defender bent him over with a couple of hard shoves to the back. 


On the trip back down the floor, the Worcester player went in hard at Mandeldove to gain position near the basket, but found Mandeldove's extended forearm instead and was sent crashing to the floor. Clearly, Mandeldove is not easily intimidated.


Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts had this to say about his senior center, "Jonathan Mandeldove has a chance one day to be one of the best big guys in the country because he's big, athletic, runs the floor and knows how to score inside.  Big guys get better every day and I think Jonathan's best days are definitely in front of him.  He understands how to play as a big guy and never takes a shot outside where he's not supposed to.  A lot of big guys play the game just because they're big, but Jonathan plays the game because he loves the game." 


When asked what he likes to do off the court, Mandeldove said, "I basically don't do much, but play basketball…on the court that's where I want to be."  Clearly, his enthusiasm for the game has not escaped his coach's notice.


Next fall, Mandeldove will that enthusiasm to Storrs, Connecticut. When asked what the tipped the recruiting scales towards UConn, Jon replied, "I like the way their program is set up.  They work well with their big guys.  They produce a lot of big men in the NBA." 


He stated that Tom Moore was the UConn coach in charge of recruiting him and he laughed when he described how Moore first contacted him via his mother's fax number. Mandeldove was excited when he described what he said to his father after his first phone conversation with Moore, "Dad that was UConn on the phone!"  Mandeldove committed to Connecticut on his official visit to Storrs.


He will be one of six recruits in UConn's stellar 2006 recruiting class.  When asked what he thought his fellow incoming Huskies, Mandeldove said, "These guys are great athlete -- put them together and we're going to make a run for the championship in a couple years. It's going to be exciting. I can't wait!" 


He's not alone.



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