One of our favorite people to hear from is Sam Dower's old AAU Coach Marquise Watts. Coach Watts helped us out a lot back in the Kennel Report days and our correspondent was able to catch up with him and ask him a few questions about Sam Dower and a new prospect on Gonzaga's radar, Joe Hanstad. Coach Watts always has a weatlh of information to share with us, hope you enjoy...
The Slipper Still Fits: From when we talked at the beginning of Sam's season, up through today, where have you seen the greatest improvement and growth in Sam's game?
Marquise Watts: I would say that he, more than anything, became that guy who could put a team on his back. He got them to a state title game which no one thought would happen with the talent across the state and he did it scoring over 20 points and 11rebounds a game. In his championship game against Hopkins with guys going to Notre Dame and Minnesota, they didn't get the ball to Sam as much as they would have liked but he still got 15 points and 16 rebounds against very high level guys. Overall though, it has to be his mental toughness and ability to put a team on his back.
SSF: Sam led his team Osseo all the way to the state championship game, but they fell to an ultra talented Hopkins team. How did Sam play against Hopkins, and how did he do against the top competition in Minnesota throughout the year?
MW: At his position and with the things he does there is no one like him and he really rolls to the big occasion. It's always difficult for a big man to get compared to others at this level because you know that he has to have the ball to produce. (Eventual state champs) Hopkins would front him and have two guys on his hip right when he got the ball. He still found ways to score, however, and he got stronger all year. The fact that he got 16 boards against Hopkins means that he is chasing the ball, finding ways to get rebounds, and is getting a lot stronger.
continue reading the rest of the interview after the jump...
SSF: What area of his game do you think Sam needs to work on the most before he plays his first game at Gonzaga?
MW: Weight room. His skill set is there and the guys at Gonzaga will continue developing him and he just has to be dedicated and getting after it which I know he will. He's going to take a week off just to settle down but then he will be back to work again. Besides the weight room, there isn't much. He's almost 6'10'' now and almost 220 pounds. If he is 228 when the season starts it just means that he will be able to take much more contact and he will be longer and just ready for the college game in general.
SSF: When we last spoke, you mentioned that you think Sam would shoot up the national recruiting rankings. Based on the season he had, where do you think Sam will end up ranked nationally?
MW: I guess, and I'm biased on this one, but I think at his position, he's a top fifty to top 75 guy in the country.
SSF: Sam was rewarded for his terrific season by being named one of five finalists for state POY. How would you compare Sam to the other 4 guys, and what chance do you give him of winning?
MW: They came out with the AP All State list last night or yesterday and he was first team. I would say that out of the five finalists, Raymond Cowels (Santa Clara commit) is a guy that everyone knows since he has been playing at a high level for Hopkins for a while now. But out of that first team, Sam and Royce White are the two best in terms of upside. It is an outstanding list all together but you take Sam and Royce who are 6'8"-6'10" and everyone else is a smaller wing/guard prospect. Sam is bigger, longer and he is actually probably the best three-point shooter out of that list aside from Ray. It's a great list but I think that Sam individually has tremendous upside and he just keeps getting better and better.
SSF: What type of role do you think Sam can have next year, and ultimately, what type of career can Sam have had at Gonzaga? Does he have the ability to play at the next level?
MW: Again, me being biased, I think if Sam keeps working, and I know he will, he will have an extremely bright future. You look at the fours and fives that Gonzaga has had, Turiaf, Batista, Austin and the guys they have now, that is a main reason why he wants to go there. They do a great job at developing players, just look at how many pros there could be on the current team. They have around five guys who could be pro at any level. If Sam keeps working, he's a kid that can have a future in the NBA.
(As far as his Gonzaga future is concerned) In every level that he has been on, Sam can just score and shoot the ball. No matter if he is in the high post or from thee-point range or down low. He can score against anyone and he can find the way to do so. He's super long and can run the floor as well. When he gets on the break it is a thing of beauty. More than anything he is just a hard working kid and it is hard to put numbers on a freshman. I know that he is going to show up, work his butt off and play for some great coaches and a great bunch of teammates.
SSF: From what we understand, Joe Hanstad recently began playing for Net Gain. What is your initial take on his game, and what type of role do you think he will have for Net Gain?
MW: I had him in town this weekend when he worked out. I tell you this; my first reaction was all smiles. I have seen him workout before and have seen a bunch a tape. He is a guy from North Dakota who was Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore and his team wasn't expected to do anything but he led them deep into the state playoffs. What I love about Joe is that sure he can score all he wants and shoot it but he is so unselfish. He is able to make the right plays and gels very well with his teammates since he is so cerebral. He's 6'3'' with very long arms and I think he has another 2-3 inches to grow with those arms. So you are looking at a very big guard who can play a number of positions and could be a great wing player. Honestly, he plays kind of the way that Matt Bouldin plays. Different body type but he can just make plays and do it all.
SSF: What schools have been showing the most interest in Hanstad, and do you expect his recruitment to soar this summer?
MW: I think he will have a number of big schools recruiting him. He already has high major schools calling and he has visited Minnesota unofficially. He has got potential and I have friends that go and watch him and they all say he is high-major material, no doubt.