Boston High School: Basketball

Player Perspective: Naadir Tharpe

July, 23, 2010
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. 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?
"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?
"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?
"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?
"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 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?
"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?
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?
"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?
"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?
"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?
"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?
"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."

Winchendon hires Quinn

July, 23, 2010
Former St. Thomas More associate head coach Matt Quinn has been named the new boys basketball head coach at Winchendon School.

Quinn takes over for Mike Byrnes, who stepped down this summer after 14 seasons at the helm. Quinn is a 2004 graduate of Bucknell University, where he was a four-year letterwinner and captained the squad his senior year. He is also the son of St. Thomas More head coach Jere Quinn.

Player Perspective: Pat Connaughton

July, 20, 2010
Editor's note: This is the first in a recurring series of Q&A's featuring prominent athletes in the area, talking about their talents as well as themselves.

Pat Connaughton
Courtesy of St. John's PrepSt. John's Prep's Pat Connaughton is one of the state's most prolific players on both the hardwood and the diamond. He is being recruited to play Division 1 for both basketball and baseball.
Few high school athletes have as much on their plate this summer as St. John’s Prep two-sport star Pat Connaughton. With an impressive shooting stroke and a fastball that clocks in the low-90s, the 6-foot-5 Arlington resident is all over the place - literally - traveling with both the East Coast Grays summer baseball squad and Middlesex Magic AAU basketball squad.

Connaughton’s next stop is Orlando, for this weekend’s AAU Boys Basketball National Championship tournament, before heading west for next month’s Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. Connaughton took a few minutes out of his busy day to talk to ESPNBoston about his travel, his coaches, his recruiting, and his hometown.

Q: How often are you able to kick up your feet and rest these days?
A: "Mostly once a weekend. I come here to Athletic Evolution [in Woburn] from 9:30 to 3 or 4. A typical day: 9 to 11, I do a two-hour workout that helps me in both sports; then, I’ll get lunch; then, 12 to 1, I’ll throw the baseball; and 1 to 3, I’ll play basketball with a weight vest on."

Q: So you must be drained by the end of the day.
"Usually [laughs]. But its good, I like the feeling afterward, so it’s good."

Q: You’ve often been described as a scorer in basketball. Where have you noticed the most improvement in your game this summer?
A: "Probably ball-handling. With my guard play I’ve built more strength and quickness, because of [Athletic Evolution] I’ve gotten a lot stronger, I keep up with more of the guard. I’m quick enough to hang with guards and big enough post them up, then when they stick a big man on me, I’m able to use my quickness to go around them."

Q: Baseball, same question. What are you looking to do to get better?
"I play a lot of positions in high school, but in the end I’ll probably be a pitcher. Over the winter, I had a very good basketball season, we got to the Boston Garden, so I didn’t work on my pitching as much. But my velocity got a lot better doing my workouts. I still need to be more consistent on my band work, strengthening my tendons and muscles, I need to be more consistent with that. I’m learning how to pitch … Usually I just throw hard, but now I’m learning how to pitch, use my mechanics and stuff."

Q: Travel-wise, how many miles have you put in so far this summer?
"A bunch (laughs). Georgia, I’ve been to Florida already and now I’m going to Florida again on Thursday. Then, I’m in California [Long Beach] at the beginning of August [for the Area Code Games]. I’ve gone all around, Connecticut, Maine, I don’t really know right now [laughs]."

Q: The recruiting process for a two-sport athlete in your situation, it can be time-consuming taking all those phone calls. How often do you find yourself getting stressed?
"A little bit. Yesterday was the best case of it. Yesterday, I had a golf tournament with my dad all day [at Juniper Hill Golf Course, in Northborough], did that from 9 to 3. Right after that, I leave to go to a baseball game at 4 [in Arlington], the game starts at 5:45, game’s over at 7:30, then I have basketball practice til 10 [at Babson College], so I go to that. I end up with 14 voicemails from coaches that day, and I have no time to get back to them. I didn’t have time to call them back last night, and I don’t want call wicked late because that’s rude. It’s tough … Some coaches call, it’s pretty tough having to call them back, coaches have a schedule and it’s important for me to take their calls, but I’m not near my phone when I’m playing a sport. It’s tough to keep track of it, but I try my best."

Q: What was Mike Crotty like as a person? (Middlesex Magic founding director Mike Crotty Sr., died last February)
"He was great. We had memorial game for him [two months ago, at the Boston Shootout], coach [Mike Crotty Jr.] asked me to give a speech. He was great. The best way to describe him, when you walked into the gym and saw the Middlesex Magic playing, he was the first guy you looked for. Such a like-able guy; he was always up front and would tell you the truth. He would come to the majority of my high school games, and even if he didn’t come he'd call me up before the game and ask me how I was doing, tried to take my mind off the game. He knew I play my best when I’m not thinking and I just go out and play. Last summer, was my first summer with the Magic, we went to Nationals. He had a big impact on how I am as a person on and off the court. On the court, he was serious to the point where he’d be yelling and screaming, getting your attention. Off the court, he was a laid back guy who really cared about all his players."

Courtesy of the Connaughton FamilySt. John's Prep's Pat Connaughton, seen here leading the Eagles in the Division 1 North final at TD Garden, is one of the state's best in both basketball and baseball. He is being heavily recruited in both sports.
Q: What do you miss the most about him?
"I miss him being around, really ... talking to him. He was a teacher on and off the court. He taught me so much about life and basketball. He always had your attention, everything he said had a purpose. He’d always steer me in the right direction to help me make the right decisions on and off the court."

Q: With that in mind, what has this AAU basketball season meant to you?
"It’s meant a lot. In memory of him, we have our “MC” jerseys, we lay it all on the court. My favorite saying Mike always said to me was, 'You’re gonna pass out before you die.' If you get too tired, you’re not going to die from it, you’re going to pass out. I can just go til I … I’ve never passed out, but I’ve always got something left in the tank, you keep digging deeper until the other guy quits. As long as you keep pushing, 90 percent of the time you’ll come out on top."

Q: You’ve seen the exodus of players to prep schools in the NEPSAC. What’s kept you competing in the MIAA?
"I love St. John’s Prep as a school. I like the people there, it’s a great school. There’s so many connections through there. My dad always loved it, it’s a big reason why I went to St. John’s. I’m hoping I don’t need to prep a year. It’s good because I like being able to say I’m age appropriate. I don’t mind prep school kids, I like playing against them and they play better competition, but I like being like, 'I did what I did without staying back a year.' It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do."

Q: Where are you leaning towards for college plans?
"This will be big for me. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved North Carolina, so I’m very interested in them obviously. I’m not leaning towards anyone yet. I talked to the baseball coach [Mike Fox] the other day. I want to play basketball in college and pitch, too. Last summer, I got an offer from BC’s baseball coach [Mik Aoki], who’s now the Notre Dame coach. He said if I played basketball at the school I’d pitch, too. I’d probably pitch once a week after basketball practice or a game. Bullpens take half an hour at most, I’d be able to handle that. I’d be pitching when it comes down to it, but I want to take my basketball game to the highest level I can and pitch for that school, too. Scott Forbes, the pitching coach at UNC, said ‘I’ll speak to the basketballl guys for you, too. We know you want to be a basketball player.' Then, he sent me an e-mail saying they’re coming down to watch me at Nationals. That’s really a dream school. When you think of a reach school, that’s a dream school. That’d be a dream. I want to see if I can play in the Big East, ACC, Pac-10, and pitch, too. People keep telling me: ‘You’ll have no social life, blah, blah, blah.' Well, I like sports, so I can find time for other stuff later."

Q: Given what you just said about UNC, how much is that motivating you for Nationals?
"A lot. It makes it that much more important to me. I’ve always done good stuff for baseball, it’s always come easier to me, but basketball, I never got my name out quickly. Last summer was my first time at Nationals, getting exposure for the first time, no one really knew about me. I want to take the most of it. My dad always says: 'You may not be this 6-8, gifted, huge kid; you’re a guard. You’ll always be a 6-5 guard that needs to become a better shooter, quicker, but coaches know toughness.' I pretty much use all the talent I have and add toughness. That’s what has helped me succeed so far."

Q: You played football when you first got to St. John’s Prep. How inclined are you to pick up a sport this fall?
"Me and my dad always have this conversation. We’ve talked to a bunch of the football coaches, a bunch of my friends who play want me to play. I love playing football, it’s really fun. One of my older cousins talked to me about it. Most likely this will be my last chance ever to play organized football ever again. Really, I’m in the middle, straight up, trying to figure it out. It really depends on what happens. If I commit to a college at the end of the summer, it’s a better possibility that I’ll play. If I don’t, it depends on if I have to do other stuff in the fall in order get colleges to look at me -- having to play in front of them it’d be tough to play football. I don’t worry about getting hurt like everyone assumes, I just don’t know if I’d be able to with time management and everything."

Q: What are the places to be seen in Arlington? Any places to eat?
"Definitely, in Arlington Heights, the Blue Ribbon BBQ. The Arlington High School basketball courts, on my nights off I’ll go and shoot with my friends. Papa Gino’s, there’s a bunch of good places, but definitely the Blue Ribbon BBQ. I know there’s others [around the Boston area], but I’ve never seen another one."