Friday, January 13, 2017

Uno En Uno With: Nathanael Jack, Calusa Prep

ZS: It's clear that shooting the basketball is the signature component of your game. You've been able to become a 20+ PPG scorer with a majority of your points on three-pointers and deep jumpers. What do you attribute this to?

NJ: I Definitely attribute it to shooting the basketball every single day. At practice, outside of practice. Consistently. I was told by one source that I was the best shooter in Florida. That's a prestigious title given to me and I don't want to lose that title.

 I devote half of my practice time and training time to shooting. All types of different shots, situations, on and off the ball. Shooting is my strength so people often tell me to work on my weaknesses which I do and continue to do until they become strengths. Still, I always make sure I work on my shot above all to master it and make sure I never lose it.

ZS: How would you describe this team's identity? Molding 12 different personalities and guys from various countries on one functional unit, how do you guys all buy in?

NJ: I would say the theme of this team is character. Everyone has character, everyone brings their own unique style to the team and is accepted for what they can do on the court. There are no ego clashes or concerns over who gets more minutes or shots. Because we have this attitude, we bring a fully rounded team on both sides of the floor.

ZS: What are some of the key principles coach (Derrick) De La Grana has ingrained in you guys and how do you apply them on a day-in, day-out basis?

NJ: The principles Coach D has ingrained in us is: help side defense, communicating loud on both sides of the floor generally because we are too quiet at times. On offense, swing the ball and get a couple passes in the offense before attempting to score.  We find the right shot. Box out a body, grab the rebound and then push hard and get up the court fast to result in fast break opportunities.

ZS: What are the expectations for this year's squad? Where is the bar set? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish when all is said and done this season?

NJ:  Well what we hope to accomplish, and really the reason why we all play, is to win. No one plays especially competitive basketball at a high level wanting to lose or being okay with a loss here and there. That's not acceptable at this level. We hope to accomplish victory and eventually go deep into the playoffs and conclude it by winning the SIAA tournament.
So yes, the expectations are high. You've got one of best point guards in the 2018 class in Nathan Mepandy and one of the best big man in the country in 7-foot-2 Zach Brown and one of the best shooters in the country in myself. That's a deadly 1-2-3 punch. With all of the off-the-court incidents that happened with Zach, it now falls a lot on Nathan and myself to hold our team down and be the leaders.

ZS: You guys are a small team and a small school, I'm guessing you are extremely tight off the floor?

NJ: Our team is extremely tight on and off the floor, I feel like a basketball team had to be a family to be successful, I feel like it wouldn't work on the court if it didn't work off the court. Everyone has to feel like a part of a family when playing this sport, on and off the court. And that's one thing that our team excels at.

Our togetherness and brother-like attributes give us a bond that is very noticeable to anyone. Everyone is extremely close to one another straight down our roster and that's how it has to be. That's one thing that will never change at clausa, the family like setting and togetherness.

ZS: How do you and (23 PPG, 6 APG) Nathan Mepandy mesh on the floor?

NJ: Mepandy and I work extremely well together. Again, with him being one of the best point guards in his class and me being one of the best shooters in the nation, we feed off each other's success and energy on the court.

With his speed and quickness it allows him to get to the rim at will to either finish or kick out to me for the shot. We get each other going, and we know eachothers games super well, that we know where each other would be in certain situations and mis-matches and all the little things that go a long way. Mepandy is a next level guard with athleticism and basketball I.Q. And he has definitely made me better playing with him this year.

ZS: You be not be aware of this, but coach De La Grana was a tough-as-nails little guard at Florida Christian and then later at Reinhardt University and on the professional level. Does he ever lace the kicks up and jump in during practices?

NJ: He normally will get into the games and drills if there isn't enough players or a group is short on a guy he will step up and play that role for the time being. But yes, he definitely still has it. He will participate in shooting and ball handling drills with us sometimes and it's clear to see that his handles are still crispy and his shot is still there. He thinks he can beat me one on one though, so I'm going to have to show him out soon (laughs). But yes, he still has it no doubt.

ZS: Canada is making a major splash on the hoop scene in the U.S., especially here in Florida. You've got RJ Barrett (top-ranked Class of 2019 prospect) at Montverde Academy, Pitt-bound Marcus Carr at Montverde, Luguentz Dort (being recruited by Louisville, Florida, and Baylor) at Conrad Academy. When did this trend of Canadians coming to the U.S. start, assuming a young guy like you remembers Steve Nash or Jamal Magloire in their early days. How big is basketball in Canada?

NJ: I don't know who started the trend of coming to the States to play basketball but when I was younger and playing back in Canada I thought to myself, 'I could be good at this.' This is what I want to do with my life, I decided, and the best way to get to what I wanted to be was to come to the USA and play. There is more exposure for players and in some cases better education. And yes, there are a lot of basketball players in Canada not only coming to Florida but to multiple other states across the nation in pursuit of their dream. Basketball in Canada is definitely on the uprise.

ZS: How would you describe the team's relationship with (St. John's commit) Zach Brown and how did you all react to the news of his arrest?

NJ: Everyone on our team loves Zach and Zach loves all of us. He was very open with us and told us that he finally felt like he found a home at Calusa with us. From basketball and how we treated him, he felt like he was at home. He was obviously a huge addition to the team, which is why everyone was upset at the latest news heard about him.