Vonleh tired, but still impressive on first day of Adidas

INDIANAPOLIS — Noah Vonleh was nothing short of totally exhausted and it showed.

After a four-day performance at the Lebron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas that was widely acclaimed as one of the best of the 80 top-ranked high school players at the event, the 6-foot-9, 222-pound target of Indiana and just about every other top program in college basketball flew to his home near Boston and then flew to Indianapolis, arriving at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

About 17 ½ hours later, he played in his first game in the Adidas Invitational on the first day of the July evaluation period. That wasn’t quite enough of a rest period.

Vonleh still scored 12 points for the Mass Rivals 17 and under squad in a 71-63 loss to the vaunted Atlanta Celtics, but he was hopelessly off-target from beyond the 3-point arc — missing at least a half-dozen from there — and seemed to be dragging his legs everywhere he went.

“He just looked tired,” Rivals coach Vin Pastore said. “When you’re tired you don’t make shots. Every part of the game was a little bit less than he’s capable of doing.”

But he still showed enough for the college coaches in attendance to know that his game has so many parts.

Vonleh’s size and frame make him more than capable of mixing it up in the post. He could use some extra bulk in his upper body, but he has tree-trunk legs that have enough spring in them to make him a fearsome shot blocker. There is room in his game for more post moves, but he’s capable of being dominant on the low block.

His game, though, is far from inside-only. For much of the game, Vonleh actually brought the ball up the floor. His crossover is about as wicked as a 6-foot-9 human can have. He can even defend on the perimeter, which he showed by guarding the Celtics’ Brannen Greene — the Kansas-bound small forward who is ranked No. 31 in the class.

And Wednesday’s performance not withstanding, he can hit 3’s in bunches.

“He’s a kid that doesn’t have any kinks in his armor,” Pastore said. “He plays hard. He’s got unbelievable skills. Length and size. He’s 6-9, he’s got a 7-4 wingspan. He can shoot. He’s got great touch. He didn’t shoot it well today, but he does shoot it well. He puts it to the floor great. He’s unselfish. He’s mean on the court, but he’s a sweetheart off the court. He has all the intangibles. Anytime you get a coach a kid like that, once-in-a-lifetime kid, he’s that good.”

College coaches have been able to tell that since he was Vonleh — freshman in high school three years ago. Vonleh reclassified when he transferred from Haverhill High School in Massachusetts to New Hampton Prep School in New Hampshire — he is 16 now, so that actually means he’s with his age group — and he’s had scholarship offers in hand since Syracuse and Pittsburgh since before that reclassification.

Now, Vonleh is the No. 3 ranked player in the Class of 2014 according to Rivals.com and he has 13 scholarship offers according to that website. That includes, among others, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UCLA. Connecticut and Kentucky have also shown heavy interest.

He’s getting so many calls and texts since the NCAA removed most of the limits from college coaches on communication that he simply doesn’t respond anymore.

“Everybody’s really equal right now,” Vonleh said. “…  I really don’t have any time to talk to them. The first few days I tried to answer every texts, but after that I didn’t pay too much attention to them.”

The only visits he’s taken have been to local schools in New England, including Massachusetts, Boston College, Providence and Connecticut. He said he’s considering visits to several schools, including Ohio State, North Carolina, UCLA and Indiana, but that those won’t happen until at least August.

But for now it’s just about improving his game and trying to emulate his idol Kevin Durant, the 6-foot-11 star for the Oklahoma City Thunder who also combines perimeter skills with lots of height. Vonleh isn’t nearly that polished, but he is stronger at his age than Durant was.

“He’s really shot the ball great this year,” Pastore said. “He’s been doing that very well, which really makes him unguardable. The next part of his game is to develop a mid-range game off the dribble where he can make some shots. The bottom line with him is that he’s going to play somewhere, some position, but it’s gonna be on the court no matter where he goes to school.”

And that could be wherever he wants.

One comment

Comments are closed.