HAVERHILL, Mass. -- When last checked in with Haverhill's Noah Vonleh, he was just a shy, unassuming kid with Bird-like intrinsic motivation, practicing his dribble on the living room floorboards in the middle of the night.
That was before the 6-foot-7 swingman blew up this summer running with the Mass. Rivals AAU club. In a profile on Vonleh last December, his AAU coach Vin Pastore said "He's got a God-given talent". Last March, Vonleh was named to ESPNBoston's inaugural MIAA All-State Team. Earlier this week, ESPN's Joel Francisco said Vonleh "belongs in the discussion for being among the top players in the Class of 2014".
In other words, there's no looking back now, even as he transfers to New Hampton (N.H.) Prep, where he will repeat his sophomore season. This week, Vonleh and Georges Niang were back in the Merrimack Valley, helping run an annual youth basketball clinic put on by Utah Jazz scout Jeff Nelson at the Cedardale Athletic Club. Following this afternoon's session of week-long camp, which ends Friday, Vonleh talked to ESPNBoston.com about his explosive summer, and the future.
Q: What goals did you make for yourself going into the summer?
A: "Trying to prove I was one of the top players in the country for the Class of 2014, and I think I proved it. I wanted to develop a pull-up game, mid-range game, and make my handle a lot better."
Q: What do you think was your breakout performance this summer?
A: "My second game in Cali [the Double Pump Best of Summer Showcase, in Anaheim], I think we were playing D-One Sports [N.C.], and I went off on them for something like 27 points I think. A lot of the ESPN writers, the Rivals writers, were there, and a lot of college coaches came out to see me."
Q: Who was the best player you faced this summer?
A: "Probably Andre Drummond. He's a beast. He's so big, and there's no one to cover him. He can handle the ball, he can do everything, step out and shoot, all that."
Q: You've been under a microscope for a little bit now, going back to Haverhill. How has it been handling all the attention?
A: "It's pretty hard to handle. You've got a lot of people calling you, coming at you, saying all this stuff, what they can do for you. You've just got to listen to it, but don't pay much attention to it. Just get better each and every day, stay in the gym every day."
Q: What are you looking forward to most this year at New Hampton?
A: "To get my shot better, and to be a leader on the team. Zach Auguste is up there already, I know him. Jared Terrell's going to be up there, as well as Mike Auger, and the point guard Olivier Hanlon from Canada. We should have a pretty good team."
Q: What's your favorite move on the court?
A: "Probably isolate on one side, go between the legs twice and then come back at the defender with an in-and-out and go by, and try to dunk it."
Q: Who are the players you try to model your game after?
A: "Kevin Durant. He's my favorite player. I like Harrison Barnes from UNC, too. One of the assistants at UNC told me he's going to send me some tape of Harrison Barnes for me to watch, so I can try to add some of his stuff into my game."
Q: What's your daily routine right now?
A: "I start out with ballhandling, then I work my way to some shooting stuff, and then do some movement, working on my pull-up. I take a lot of free throws -- my free throws were not good in the high school season. I missed a lot. I practice at the Rockingham Athletic Club [in Salem, N.H.] with Scott Hazelton and Vinny Pastore. I'm in the gym probably 20 hours a week."
Q: What's the biggest motivating factor for you going forward?
A: "I want to be the best player in my class."
Q: What do you think you need to do to get there?
A: "Develop a pull-up, like I said. Make everything in my game better -- my handle, get better defensively, get quicker to be able to cover quicker guards. Stuff like that."
Q: From what I understand, you're a fan of old-school rap. What are your favorite artists and songs?
A: "I like 2Pac, Biggie, I kinda like Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross right now too. My favorite song right now would probably be "By Any Means", by Rick Ross."
Q: What's the top five in your iPod right now?
A: "Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, 2Pac and Biggie. And of course Nas is in there a little bit, too."
Q: Where do you go hang out back in Haverhill?
A: "Nothing really, I'm just always at the gym. If I'm not doing that, I'll just chill with friends, play video games or something, or go to the mall. That's about it."
Q: One word to describe this upcoming season at New Hampton.
A: "Experience. It will be an experience. I'll be going against kids bigger than me, stronger than me, so experience is probably the right word."