Print and Go Back Boston High School [Print without images]

Sunday, December 12, 2010
Player Perspective: Khem Birch

By Brendan Hall

Notre Dame Prep's Khem Birch made headlines last month when he confirmed to reporters that he is re-classifying to the Class of 2011 and had signed his National Letter of Intent with Pitt. But for those who aren't familiar with his game already, he will be a household name when all is said and done. The 6-foot-9, Quebec-bred Birch first made a splash last season at Winchendon, his first year in the states, and developed a reputation as an aggressive shot-blocker in helping lead the Green Wave to the NEPSAC Class A championship finals. Now 15 minutes down the road in Fitchburg, Mass., Birch is busy fine-tuning his high potential. He sat down with ESPNBoston following a preseason open gym, and a day before he initially verbally committed to Pitt, to discuss the upcoming season.

Q: What's the biggest difference you've noticed in culture, from Canada to the United States?
"The food. Everyone eats more fried foods. Everyone's...meaner (laughs)."

Q: You're generally regarded highly for your shot-blocking ability. What goes into developing that?
"I don't know, really, just timing is big. I'm naturally good at doing that, and that's something I've been good at doing for a long time now. It's just natural. I don't practice it, it just comes to me when I play."

Q: What's been the biggest motivating factor for you headed into the season?
"My friend (Christian Williams) passed away. I'm playing for him. And the fact that my mother's struggling a little bit now too."

Q: How close were you with Christian?
"I've known him since seventh grade. We were really close in middle school, and grew apart a little bit when I moved here. But, we were really close."

Q: You played with Team Canada in the Nike Global Challenge during the summer. What did you notice about the level of competition?
"It's way harder. Europeans play dirtier, with more elbow, way more than American players."

Q: What kind of goals have you set for yourself this season?
"To be a better all-around player, and to win a national championship."

Q: You're playing here with one of your former Winchendon teammates, Angel Nunez. How much of a joy is that?
"Very. We've been close friends for a year now, and when I heard he came to this school I was happy, because I wanted to be with somebody."

Q: What's on your iPod right now?
"Drake, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, The-Dream, Nikki Minaj, and that's pretty much it."

Q: When you're getting ready in the locker room, before tipoff, what's going through your head?
"What am I going to do in the game? And how am I going to help the team out? I usually like to listen to soft music, to cool me down."

Q: So how are your emotions?
"Like, I'm really laid-back. When people see me before a game, they think that I'm not ready, but believe me I am ready. I'm just laid back, to calm down."

Q: What would you say needs most improvement in your game right now?
"My lower-body strength, my hand, my shot, my post moves. Basically everything."