Worcester native Naadir Tharpe appears to be peaking at the right time. Tharpe, ranked as the Class of 2011’s eighth-best point guard by ESPN, is seeing his recruitment pick up since de-committing from Providence early last June and playing impressively this summer with the New England Playaz AAU squad.
He’s no summer sensation, either. Tharpe was practically a one-man show at Worcester’s St. Peter-Marian High before transferring to Brewster (N.H.) Academy two years ago and re-classifying. On the heels of a season in which the Bobcats took home a NEPSAC Class A title and National Prep Championship, Tharpe is seeing offers from the Pac-10, Big East and ACC, among others.
Tharpe celebrates his 19th birthday today in Las Vegas with the Playaz, as they compete in this weekend’s Adidas Super 64 tournament. ESPNBoston.com caught up with Tharpe for a few minutes earlier this week to talk about his game and his future.
Q:What’s motivating you this summer?
A: "Last summer, I didn’t perform as well because I was playing with a hurt ankle. I really didn’t have chance show all coaches just how well I was playing, I wasn’t 100 percent. Instead of resting I was playing through it, and it showed last summer."
Q: How difficult was that?
A: "It was hard. A lot of coaches want to see you play, and you want to play in front of the coaches. So instead of me just resting, getting my ankle back to 100 percent, I was doing the opposite, playing through it, and that’s what I felt brought down last summer."
Q: So what goals did you set for yourself this summer?
A: "Basically just get as many scholarship offers as I can, but also get out and have some fun, play my game, shoot when I’m open, hit my open teammates like I usually do, and win every tournament we attend."
Q: What goals have you set for yourself this year at Brewster?
A: "Just be leader like I was this past season, win back to back titles this year at the NEPSAC [Class A] and the National Prep Championship."
Q: How much confidence did winning Class A and the national title bring you this spring and summer?
A: "A lot. The NEPSAC is really a tough league. Every day, coach [Jason] Smith always tells us, every game we’re going to be in is going to be tough. There are no cakewalks. Brewster is a legacy school, with a lot of great players. Everybody wants to come at Brewster Academy, everybody brings their A-game."
Q: What’s your favorite move to pull on the court? And is there a finish out of that you prefer?
A: "My favorite thing on the court is to use the pick-and-roll coming from the right side. I’ll come with the left hand, usually I’ll do like a mid-range shot or a floater if I can’t get all the way to the rim. First things first, I’m pass first. When we pick-and-roll, I’m looking to score. But I’d rather make a nice pass to a teammate."
Q: Your first name is not commonly seen. What’s the origin?
A: It’s a Muslim name. My mom used to live in New Jersey, and my mother and father both are Muslim. I’m a Muslim myself, my family does it. We’re not into it deep, but everything we follow comes from the Quran."
Q: With that said, how much does the Quran inspire you on the court?
A: "Every game I know Allah is watching over me. This isn’t just about basketball for me, I’ve got to take everything seriously, nothing for granted -- school-wise, everything -- it’s all basically a blessing for me."
Q: Now that your recruiting has opened up again, how’s the process going this time around?
A: "This time, it’s much easier. I’m older now, my birthday is July 23 (he turned 19 today), and just from experience basically. More of me now just wants to go out and have fun, its seems like much more fun than it was before."
Q: Other news sources have described your recruiting right now as being “wide open”. But considering your relationship with former Providence assistant Pat Skerry (who took a job at the University of Pittsburgh), where does Pitt fall?
A: "I don’t know. I haven’t really heard from their coaches yet, nothing like that so far."
Q: Where do you go in Worcester to play ball?
A: "The place I usually go hang out around, when I was younger the Belmont Street basketball court, Plumley Village, Crystal Park, stuff like that, we’d hang around playing basketball. I usually only hang around five friends, so it’s basically the same people always."
Q: Where are the best games?
A: "Crumpton Park, the Greendale YMCA, and Main Street’s where a lot of the older guys play … basically, there’s a lot of high school kids around there that are pretty good, then you have a lot of older dudes try to come at you and stuff like that."