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Paul Pierce is happy to have Rajon Rondo on his side.Oak Hill Academy (Va.) coach Steve Smith visited the area last week and ESPN Boston high school reporter Brendan Hall caught up with him to chat a bit about one of his former players, Rajon Rondo:
On Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, a 2004 graduate, and how he thinks Rondo has evolved in his pro career:
Smith: "I follow him quite a bit, obviously I'm close to Rajon. He came to Oak Hill from Lousiville Eastern High School in Kentucky, where he was not that well-known except basically in the state of Kentucky. When he got to Oak Hill played with Josh Smith, they developed a friendship, it was one of the best teams I've ever had. Rajon went from a guy not even ranked in the top 10, to one of the best point guards in the country his senior year, an undefeated season, and a McDonald's All-American.
"All the pro scouts were coming to see Josh Smith because he was a top high school prospect and had made known he wasn't planning on going to college, so they'd come to a lot of our practices and games. But a lot would come up to me and say 'Hey, your best pro prospect is Rondo, not Josh'. Josh at that time was a freakish athletic player more than anyone else country, while Rajon ended up signing late in the spring with Kentucky. In two years, I knew he'd be a great player, and I've had six or seven point guards in the NBA from Oak Hill, but most people thought I was crazy. But I didn't think he'd be that good that early, I thought it would take a little more time.
"He's a unique player. He's so long, with those long arms, and then on the offensive end he's different than other point guards. There's something different about him, the way he feels for the game. Most passes he makes, most guys dont want to attempt. He has a knack for making the right play. The other knock on Rajon is that he can't shoot the ball, but he can score when he needs to. He's a smart player, he knows when to take a shot and when not to. I watched a game where he had 40-something points in the playoffs, he can step up.
"One night we were playing in Barcelona, he stepped up for that. Josh Smith had three fouls in the first six minutes, and this is one of the best teams in Spain, with Sergio Rodriguez. Rondo comes over to the bench and sayd, 'I need to score'. For me that night, he had 55 points. He made shots from the perimeter, but he made most of his shots going to the basket, floaters, transiton points. The next night he had 17 in the gold medal game. He knows how to pick spots and when when not to, he knows how to get other guys shots. He's been playing the last few years with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, so he's got a good feel."
Could Rondo be a a great shooter?
Smith: "He's worked at it. At Oak Hill he changed his shot, at Kentucky he changed it again, and now in the NBA he's changed again. I think he shoots better than people think. Some nights you look at him and go 'Whoa'. He's developed into a better shooter. He's never gonna take bad shots, he's gonna take high quality shots, he gets to the rim and makes shots that way as well. I've seen nights where he's hit three or four 3-pointers in a game, and NBA range is much longer than college, so I know how much time he's put in. He knows the way people are talking bout him, but he works at it all the time."
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