Out on the leafy St. Thomas More campus in rural eastern Connecticut lies one of the nation's premier basketball players -- literally. 6-foot-10 Andre Drummond, the No. 1 Class of 2012 prospect in ESPN's latest rankings, has drawn heavy interest from every major Division 1 college in the country, thanks to a remarkable level of athleticism and lower-body strength for someone his size. Not only does Drummond excel around the rim, but is versatile enough to play anywhere on the court and provide highlight-reel play on the break.
Drummond sat down with ESPNBoston an hour before Saturday's 77-64 win over Winchendon -- and before he took off to the hospital with two teeth knocked out -- to talk about his game, staying focused, and why he smiles so darn much.
Q: Since we're about an hour from tip-off here, let's start with your pregame routine.
A: "Usually when I go into the locker room, if I don't have my headphones, to get mentally focused and ready for the game, I'll bring the stereo downstairs to the locker room to get everybody ready for the game. We get focused that way, and then coach Quinn comes down. Then we get ready for layup lines, and I say a quick prayer right before we play."
Q: Are you more inclined to just get loose or amped up?
A: "Get loose. I'm not really the [kind of] person to get amped up. I mean, I get amped up right before the game, I get excited, getting everybody ready to play. But other than that, I just get mentally focused and think about what I've got to do for the game."
Q: What's your favorite move to do on the court, first in the post?
A: "I like to back them down, back down and turn to my left or right, finish with my left or right hand."
Q: And what about on the wing?
A: "Quick jab-step, or a quick crossover, drive through the lane, try to finish."
Q: You're obviously a familiar face on the circuit, with your ranking and whatnot. How do you stay focused amidst all the attention?
A: "To tell you the truth, I don't care about the whole ranking thing. I really don't look at that stuff. I mean, people tell me, 'yeah, you're No. 1 in the country', and that's great that people feel that way that I'm the best player in America for my class. But honestly, I haven't done anything yet. That's just what I could be, or what I could do, and the thing is if I don't work on my game, it's like the worst thing you could have at the end of the day is potential."
Q: So are you comfortable with the way people describe you?
A: "Honestly, I don't read the evaluations that are online. I'm really a humble person about this stuff, I don't really get into things like that. I mean it's cool, alot of the kids that are on campus come up to me and tell me, 'Oh, there's a new article about you', I mean I just don't get too big-headed about those things. I just want to maintain my composure and become a better all-around basketball player and person."
Q: What's the biggest thing you've taken away from Jere Quinn's lessons here as a coach?
A: "To be a skill player. He says it all the time, 'I'm going to drill you to death. I'm going to make you a skill player, an athletic player. You're going to be able to play the three, four, five.' So he wants me to learn how to handle the ball, how to shoot the ball, be able to take my defender from the wing, be able to square up off my shooting in the face. He wants me to be an all-around player, basically, instead of just a big man."
Q: And off the court, as closely involved as he is with the kids, how is he as a teacher?
A: "Oh...(laughs) he is the funniest guy in the world, man. I had him for algebra last year as a sophomore, and it was just nonstop laughing. Like, some of the stuff we do out here he'll bring back into the classroom and make comparisons, like with a math problem or something like that. He'll use me as an example, or we had a kid here last year that we'd use as an example too. It was just a fun experience. Algebra I was just one of my favorite classes I had last year. This year, I've got Algebra II which is one of my favorite classes. I'm really a big math guy."
Q: You say you're always smiling. Why is that?
A: "Just a happy person, to tell you the truth (laughs). You'll never know when I'm upset, man, I'm just always smiling. That's how I am. Always have a smile on my face."
Q: Just loving life?
A: "Yeah, it's not even that. I just like to smile. I'm a happy person, that's all I can tell you. I'm just always smiling (laughs)."
Q: So what would it take to tick you off?
A: "(Pauses) Takes alot. Coach will tell you himself, it takes a lot to get me mad. I'm always smiling, but once I'm angry, then I start playing even harder. I mean, I always play hard, but once I'm angry it's just I have that extra mass that comes. But other than that, I'm always smiling when I play. I smile when I score, I thank the ref at the free-throw line -- 'Thanks Ref' -- every time I score I hand the ball to the ref. Or if someone misses a free throw on the opposite team, I hand the ball to the ref -- 'Here you go, Ref' -- I don't know, I'm just a real happy kid. That's all it is (laughs)."
Q: So have you ever gotten that angry on the court?
A: "Oh yeah, I mean when we're losing, I mean that mentality, that killer instinct of mine, just kicks in. But then I just smile again, shut things down and start to play."
Q: Who do you try to emulate?
A: "When I was growing up, I always wanted to be like Kevin Garnett. Always wanted to be like him, because he has it all -- he can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball, take his defender off the dribble, pull somebody up, beat them right, beat them left, square somebody up and shoot in their face, everything."
Q: Who is the unsung hero on this team?
A: "I'd probably go with Roy Maybrey. You look at him, 'Oh, look at this kid, he's a 6-1 whiteboy, can't jump', and by the end of the game he has 31 points and like six assists. He gets all the scrappy buckets -- you know, backdoor cuts -- shoots the three, all of it. He's probably the main x-factor for our team."
Q: You're going to be here through next season, too, so what kind of goals are you setting for yourself this year and next?
A: "Just becoming an all-around player, bettering myself as a person, and getting the grades to get into college. Well, keeping my grades up actually (laughs), I actually have real good grades. So just keep the grades that I have, and get ready to play college basketball."