ZS: How do you describe the feeling of to finally garnering a pair of offers? You’ve spoken with several Division-I coaches and generated a decent share of mid-major (and some high-major) interest since you first got to the United States in late November. How does it feel now to reap the rewards of adapting to the new environment?
MN: Wyoming was my first offer in May and now Stetson is my second offer. It feels as if I’m getting more exposure and that I’m getting the results of what I am working for. Since I’ve been here, I feel my game is getter really better. I have also been lifting more, becoming more of a ball handler, being able to score in different ways. I think this is a part of getting the right exposure. It is a good feeling to finally have the offers, but it reminds me I have to keep working.
ZS: At 6-foot-8, 200 pounds and some versatility to you, coaches are cognizant of the matchup difficulties you can potentially create at this level. Which aspects are you working on this summer? Which areas of your game can we anticipate improvement in heading into your senior year?
MN: Key things I’ve managed to improve on is my handle on the court. I’ve also been better at taking the right shots, not forcing shots. I’ve been able to work and improve at finishing hard and attacking the rim. Most importantly, I want to be the leader and have the toughness as a player. Really I need to show people that I can be a consistent force and have an impact in every game and stay focused. That would be key in getting to where I need to go. I also have become more vocal, communicating on defense and that’s a step in the right direction in becoming a leader. I know a leadership role is expected of me next year at Calusa Prep (Miami, FL).
ZS: With yourself, bullish guard Luguentz Dort, and 7-foot-1 Center Ari Boya, you guys have established a bit of a triumvirate. You guys are the team’s most experienced players and the most highly-acclaimed recruits. How do you lead by example and work together?
MN: I can say that myself and those two players, we talk more during the games and we know each other’s games and style of play best. That benefits us on the court. We try to make the job easy for us. Luguentz is great at setting Ari up with lobs and we all work together. Luguentz is a top player in the country, he’s ranked I believe no.24 on ESPN so it’s a great chance to play with a guy like that who has a number of things he brings that allows him to be so hard to guard. It’s been a blessing to be around them both and I try to learn what I can from them. Coach Derrick (De La Grana) has done a really good job of making us all mesh and helping us understand our role on the court. He knows so much and is always teaching me something new each day. I just try to soak it all up and get better.
ZS: Which programs have expressed interest in you and who have you been in steady contact with?
MD: FGCU, UMass, Murray State, Texas Tech, and South Florida are all schools that have been in contact with me. We will see where it goes from there and of course I’m hoping they offer soon. Stetson and Wyoming offered me after watching me play and they’ve shown a lot of love which I am grateful for.
ZS: What was the experience of playing in the CBA (Canaries Basketball Academy) in Spain? How did it prepare you for the speed and toughness that’s displayed every night in the SIAA in Florida?
MD: I was lucky to be around top players and learn from them. They pretty much made us work at all times. We practiced with the focus of a college team, we were on the same schedule as a college basketball team. There were plenty of superior, strong athletes all over. We put in a lot of work, early morning practices, early lifting sessions, so it helped me transition to high-level basketball in America.
ZS: You got an immediate whiff of high-level basketball when you got here to the United States, Madiaw. In fact, your first few games were in the Charlotte Hoops Challenge, a nationally recognized event in North Carolina. During that event you witnessed your teammate Austin Wiley (now at Auburn) score 20 points and grab 15 boards against Independence (N.C.). Then the next game, you witnessed Rasir Bolton scored 36 points and grab nine boards. How did those first two games show you what the level of play is like here in the states?
MD: It was really above what I expected so I had to adjust really quickly. One thing about me, I really don’t like to lose so I realized that I have to do everything I can to just help the team win. I've gotten more physical and put on weight. I've learned I have to always contribute given my size and length. That doesn’t always mean scoring. It means rebounding, negating who it is I am guarding, and doing the little details like taking a charge. So, I learned on the fly how to play to a quicker pace.