Give legendary Norcross High School head coach Eddie Martin the opportunity and he may talk for hours about senior forwardAl-Farouq Aminu, his team leader both on and off of the floor. After all, Aminu helped lead the Norcross Blue Devils to a state title a year ago while playing the part of role model amongst his teammates and fellow Norcross classmates.
"The thing about him," Coach Martin said, "is that as a person everyone looks at him at 6'9 and may say ‘Hey, you're an unbelievable player' and he is, but what really makes him special is that he's a humble kid and so unassuming. By the way he plays, he puts himself in the limelight, but you would never know it by watching his actions. He's very humble and down to earth – he's just a special kid. He'll never speak about how good he is. He'll speak about what he wants to do but never how good he is."
"Really, two things truly stand out above everything else on Al-Farouq," Coach Martin continued. "First, how often do you see a 6'9 kid that can play anywhere on the floor and if you didn't know he was a basketball player by his size, he's just your normal student? The second thing that you probably don't know is that I get mail from kids across the country. California, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee…They send pieces of paper asking for an autograph. How many high school kids are going to do that, take the time to get it back in an envelope, and get all of them mailed? Farouq does that with every piece of mail he gets in and that tells you something about his character."
In addition, Aminu impressed his head basketball coach in the weeks following Coach Prosser passing away. A week before Coach Prosser's tragic death, Aminu had committed to Prosser and the Wake Forest program. "[Schools] were calling [a week later] asking if Al-Farouq was going to change his mind because of the situation at Wake Forest. In today's world, a lot of people are about me, me, me and not about others and the team. Al-Farouq and I sat down and talked about it a little bit and I'm sure he did with his mom and he never wavered. He had a lot of respect for Coach Prosser and respected him as a man and a coach. But, he also respected Wake Forest. He chose the school on what they could do for him academically and athletically after he got out of high school. That right there, the fact that he held firm to a commitment and never wavered from his commitment, to me that exemplifies the kind of person he really is. He's not in it just for himself. He's in it for his team."
Other administrators have seen Aminu's demeanor and the effect Aminu has had at Norcross. "Here's an example of what happens when you do what you're supposed to do, when you do the right thing," Gwinnett County School athletics director Mike Emory said. "When you are academically strong and understand the importance of that and when you handle yourself in the manner that we expect, not just when people are watching, but when you could go the other way. [We're all] proud of Al-Farouq."
Perhaps Aminu's attitude comes from his family. His brother, Alade, is a junior basketball player at Georgia Tech who helped teach Al-Farouq the game of basketball and kept his brother in check growing up. His mother Anjirlic, a teacher, meets everyone with a smile and a hug and poured out her thoughts and heart at Al-Farouq's signing day press conference, reciting a poem she wrote about her three sons.
"He and his mom and his brother are as real and down to earth people you'll meet," Emory said of the Aminu family. "There is nothing pretentious about them. There is nothing fake about them. What you see is what you get."
According to coaches at Norcross, Aminu and Wake Forest will be a perfect match over his time in Winston-Salem. "The one thing I can tell you is that if Wake Forest does as good of a job taking care of Farouq as they do bothering me every day, he'll be in great hands," joked Norcross assistant coach Kennan Temple who handled a majority of Aminu's recruitment. "This is a coaching staff at Wake Forest that will treat him like one of their own, like their child. He's going into a great situation. An incredible head coach and a great group of assistants that will take care of him."
With the support of the staff at Wake Forest, expect Aminu to take care of business on and off of the floor at Wake Forest in the coming years. "He's turned into the whole package as a person," Norcross' final assistant coach, Jesse McMillan, said. McMillan, who has watched Aminu grow in the classroom as well as taught Aminu in 10th grade and again this year, believes Aminu will show the nation the kind of person he is in the coming years. "The fact that [he] can sign with a school as well known as and with as high standards as Wake Forest shows [he is] more than just jump shots and lay-ups and dribbling – [he is] a fine young man in athletics and academics."
"Now you can do it all," McMillan said to Aminu. "You can do it in on the floor and in the classroom. Go up there and be an Academic All-American too. Be Academic All-ACC – and of course, ACC Rookie of the Year."