Aaron Bright: Interview with Joel Willits of The Bellevue Reporter

At the Slipper Still Fits, we try to provide in-depth coverage of Gonzaga and its recruiting. With reports that the Zags are interested in Aaron Bright, we decided to found out as much about this 2010 prospect as possible. Joel Willits of  The Bellevue Reporter was kind enough to answer some questions regarding Aaron Bright, and this should provide Gonzaga fans with a great background for this elite 2010 recruit. The Slipper Still Fits would like to thank Joel for this terrific interview, and we look forward to checking in with him throughout the season. 

The Slipper Still Fits: At this point what would you consider to be aaron's greatest strengths and weaknesses on the court?

Joel Willits: From my vantage point, Aaron's two greatest strengths are his shooting ability and his confidence. You don't average 16.7 points per game in the KingCo conference without both. Aaron has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble and has the confidence to take almost any shot. Last season there was much ado about his transferring from neighboring Issaquah High School to Bellevue, and in those games, the Issaquah fans packed the house and really gave it to him, worse than I've ever seen fans get on a single player at the high school level. In those three games, Aaron scored 17, 21 and 16 points, all with the fans on his back the whole time.
    As far as weaknesses go, Bellevue's team last year had problems down the stretch and sometimes Aaron would look hesitant at times, not knowing whether or not to take over the game, or defer to his teammates. As a result, he would sometimes look lost, taking shots he shouldn't or making ill-advised passes. That's something that has been worked on in the last year and we'll address that below.
    My only concern at the next level could be height - he's listed at 5'10'', but that's a big stretch. There's a big difference between being guarded at the high school level and at the college level by someone with height and length, but he is only a junior and his body is still growing.

The Slipper Still Fits:  Where have you seen the greatest improvement in Aaron's game over the past year?

Joel Willits:   Aaron has transitioning from a shooting guard to a true point guard this season. Early in the year he told me that it was "all part of growing up" and his goal is to get four or five of his teammates in double figures. With a talented surrounding cast that includes Detlef Schrempf's son Alex, Aaron's made a solid adjustment into his new role, while still averaging 14 points per game. He's making the players around him better, and that's a quality that college coaches love to see.
    He's also building a solid mentality for the next level. Look at how Jeremy Pargo has changed more into a true point guard this season and how Gonzaga has benefitted from it. That's what Aaron is doing this season at Bellevue.

The Slipper Still Fits: What area of his game does Aaron need to improve on the most before he gets to the next level?

Joel Willits: Shot selection. Like I noted above, Aaron has the confidence to take any shot. Sometimes that's a bad thing, depending on the situation. Bellevue got in trouble last year when Aaron's shot went cold but he'd still try to force it. Some of that has been erased this year by his improved passing and trust in his teammates.
    He's shown an improved ability to get to the basket this year, instead of having to rely on outside shots. That will be another skill he'll need to improve to be an impact player at the next level.

The Slipper Still Fits: Where does Aaron rank among the top juniors in the state?

Joel Willits: He's definitely up there at the top and after this season he'll start to get more press. Josh Smith of Kentwood (a 6-9 post player) is probably the top junior in the state.
    I'm actually surprised Aaron hasn't gotten more hype, but those who have seen him play know he has the skills for the next level.

The Slipper Still Fits: At this point, what schools are showing the greatest interest in aaron, and who is he most interested in?

Joel Willits: I've heard the same schools it seems you guys have - Stanford, Arizona, GU, Cal, San Diego.
    From my encounters with him, he's really close to his family and I think that could help Gonzaga as an in-state school. 

The Slipper Still Fits: What degree of interest has Gonzaga shown and do you anticipate them offering soon?

Joel Willits:    I'm not quite sure about how much interest Gonzaga has shown. Aaron's certainly a good prospect and will probably be a nice player at the next level, but I don't see the rush to recruit him as we've seen with other players in the state such as Peyton Siva of Franklin (Louisville), Tony Wroten Jr. of Garfield, and even Josh Smith.
    Gonzaga is in that elite category and can go nation-wide (not to mention internationally) with its scholarships. The question remains: will they take a chance on an in-state kid who (right now) isn't considered the best guard in Washington when they can afford to cherry pick their recruits?
    I will say this: if the Zags take a chance with Aaron, he has the skills to be a perfect fit in that offense (think a shorter Jeremy Pargo with a better shot).
    Bellevue is playing in the Maxpreps Torrey Pines national tournament during the break, so with a big performance there, he'll probably garner some more attention.

The Slipper Still Fits:   What current collegiate or nba player would you compare Aaron to?

Joel Willits: I like the Pargo comparisons, although Aaron doesn't yet get to the rack like Jeremy does. The way he's transitioned this year into a true point guard has really shown another level of maturity from the very soft-spoken kid. He's got a great shot, which makes him one of those guys thats a threat to score from anywhere. If he has a big year this season like he's started off having, he'll start to jump to the top of everybody's lists.

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