Dave Turco gets it. He realizes his prized player isn't quite on the same level as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kyle Anderson, the undisputed top high school ballers from New Jersey over the past two years. The St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) hoops coach also admits he's a bit biased when it comes to evaluating Falcons senior Quenton DeCosey.
But if there's one thing Turco does know, it's that when it comes to discussing the state's best players, the one they call Q has to be part of the conversation.
"Kyle's a great, great player and so was Gilchrist, and I know I'm spoiled because I get to see Q everyday," Turco said. "But Quenton is a phenom who can do just about anything on the basketball court. And he just turned 17 last August."
DeCosey's age isn't the only impressive number on his resume. The 6-foot-5 swingman led his team to its third straight Greater Middlesex County title on Friday, tallying 24 points and 12 rebounds in the title game to earn tournament MVP honors. For the year, he's averaging 21.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, making the 25-1 Falcons a serious contender as the state playoffs begin Monday. They enter the Non-Public, South A bracket as the No. 1 seed and riding a 24-game winning streak.
Three years ago, however, not even Turco knew who DeCosey was. That's because his parents had him try out for the freshman team so he would have more time to get acclimated academically to high school. But with Turco in the stands during one freshman game, DeCosey's athleticism and potential were impossible to miss.
"The ball got stuck between the rim and the backboard, so you know, in a freshman game, the refs and kids are looking for someone to go get another ball to get it out," Turco recalled. "But then Q goes up, taps the ball and dunks it, all in one motion. I got pretty excited when I saw that."
For DeCosey, the move was just a taste of what he'd gleaned from countless hours watching His Airness.
Around the age of 6, DeCosey discovered the movie "Space Jam." At first, the idea of aliens playing basketball against some of his favorite cartoon characters drew in the wide-eyed DeCosey. But the more he watched ("probably two to three times a day," according to his mother, LaWanda), the more he grew to admire Michael Jordan. Soon, "Michael Jordan: Come Fly With Me" was added to his daily dose of films and the journey to be like Mike officially began.
"I would watch it every day when I came home and just study the little things Jordan did," DeCosey said. "The way he took control and how competitive he was. I still watch it now to find things to put in my repertoire."
It shows, especially in the eyes of AAU coach Ed Bright. The founder and coach of Sports U/Team Izod couldn't believe his eyes when DeCosey came out for his squad two years ago.
"There was nothing he couldn't do in terms of his skill set," Bright said. "He could handle the ball, the shooting touch was there and when you see him in person, you realize how long of a player he is.
"His game compares to Kobe. I know some people will say, 'Shut up, that's holy ground.' But if you watch Q, he's that graceful out there on the court. He can literally do whatever he wants to do when he wants to do it."
True to form, DeCosey did exactly that as a junior for the Falcons. With the team hit hard by graduation, DeCosey exploded to average 23.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.
"Sometimes I'm probably unfair to him because we expect him to do so much that he never really comes out of the game," Turco said. "He's just that good."
DeCosey also did it for Team Izod this past summer. During the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Fab 48 against a tough Grassroots Canada squad, he dropped 25 points to keep his team close during an eventual loss.
And there's little doubt DeCosey will do it next year when he puts on a Temple uniform. In fact, Turco says some of the high-major programs that ignored him initially have been pushing for him to change his mind after realizing what a steal the Owls got.
But for a teenager who takes just as much joy in talking about basketball as he does business and accounting, Temple is right where DeCosey wants to be.
"I love basketball, but academics are first and foremost for me," said DeCosey, who stands to join a prestigious St. Joseph alumni list that includes Andrew Bynum and Jay Williams. "My main goal is to graduate with a diploma. I want to major in sports management and maybe one day be a coach or recruiter."
For now, though, DeCosey will stick to torturing opposing coaches in hopes of capturing the school's fourth sectional title and first state crown.
"To have a guy like Q who can carry a team is huge," Turco said. "However we end up, though, I know there are a lot of coaches who will not be sad to see Q leave."