The 2011 recruiting class has obvioulsy been a hot button issue here for quite some time. With Gonzaga after a number of very talented players (and with two locked up), there is no doubt that Mark Few and Co. are aiming high for the class. One name that popped up over the summer was Antwan Space. Space, who plays for the DFW Elite AAU team, was one of the biggest surprises of the summer and saw his stock improve greatly. His outstanding performances all summer long have netted him a number of high major offers including one from Gonzaga, which happens to be in his final five.
Recently, we were able to catch up with someone who has been following Space's game for quite some time. Blue Zertuche is a writer for TexasHoops.com, a Rivals.com affiliate focusing on Texas Prep Basketball. Blue broke the news of Antwan trimming his list to five and has a tremendous understanding of the AAU game and is a wealth of knowledge. We've had some fantastic interviews in the past but Blue's knowledge of Antwan's game will undoubtedly give you a top-notch understanding of this Gonzaga prospect. Enjoy!
Slipper Still Fits: How would you describe Antwan's game? What are his greatest strengths on the court, and what area of his game needs the most work at this point?
Blue Zertuche: He is a power forward with the ability to be a two-guard. He has great range, he has good handles on the perimeter, and he is long and runs the floor well. He also has the ability to put his back against the basket and score in the paint. With his long frame, he is able to go up and grab a lot of rebounds and keep the ball alive.
His weakness would probably be his strength. If he were to get inside a little bit more, his ability to back a guy down with his body is probably a little bit of a weakness, although he will be playing primarily on the perimeter or with his face up game.
Slipper Still Fits: What position does his game best translate to? It sounds like he is PF size, but has a game more suited to be on the perimeter.
Blue Zertuche: I think it really depends what kind of system he ends up in. He has got that body, with the length and the skill, so he is going to stretch out the defense. His ability inside to rebound and his height will allow you to play him at the "four" and get a lot of mismatches. He can play the pick-and-pop role, he can spot up on the outside, and he is really good at draining three's.
I don't see him as a "two" guard, because I think you have to wonder, is he going to be able to guard the "two"? So with that, I see him at that "four" position, where he can play in the high-post area. He can drain 15 footers, pick-and-pop, and come off the swing and knock down the jumper. He can be your safety net as a PF, because he can get the reversal on an inbounds play, and bring the ball up and get the offense initiated.
continue reading after the jump for more on Blue's assessment of Antwan's game and recruitment...
Slipper Still Fits: What do you feel will be the key factors that Antwan will evaluate and make his decision based on?
Blue Zertuche: He is looking to make an impact. At the high school level he is a dominant player, and he wants to go somewhere he can instantly step into a role and help the team out. I really believe that is his goal. Antwan is a very intelligent kid. He really does know what is going on with his recruitment, from the standpoint of he knows which team has spots available and he knows where he will be able to step in immediately.
Out of those five schools that he mentioned (Gonzaga, Maryland, Missouri, Florida St., Arkansas), they are all pretty much selling him an impact role in their system.
Slipper Still Fits: Reports throughout the summer seemed to indicate that Gonzaga was a steady presence at Antwan's games during the entire AAU period. From what you have heard, how regularly was the coaching staff evaluating Antwan?
Blue Zertuche: At our Great American Shoot-Out, they (Gonzaga coaching staff) were there from start-to-finish. Gonzaga is one of those programs, a Top 25 program, where you can go out and just target certain kids. Donnie was at the Great American Shoot-Out, and I feel confident that Antwan was on the top of the list of the guys he was looking at. He was front-and-center for his games throughout the tournament.
Slipper Still Fits: Is there a certain system, or style of play, that you think Antwan would fit in with best at the next level?
Blue Zertuche: I think Antwan needs to be in a situation where he will be able to utilize his skill. I see him fitting in best with an up-and-down type program. However, watching him in high school, you are going to see more of him playing the "five". He is coached by Chris Dyer, who is one of the top coaches in the state of Texas. If he is not the best coach in the state of Texas, he is in the top two or three.
He utilizes Antwan differently than they do in the summer. Kids make their names known in the spring and summer circuit, so Antwan kind of got the taste of being in an up-and-down tempo. But when you watch him in high school, he is more of an interior presence, playing in the high post. They haven't really looked for him to step out and shoot the three, because he plays in a very systematic program. They have kids year in and year out going through the program that have kind of earned the right of being the star. Hopefully this is the year that Antwan can kind of open it up a little bit more.
They have a chance to win state every year. It's Dyer's system and Dyer's way, which is why you might see Antwan being down at the five. That is how they are going to play and that is how they are going to beat you. With that said, I still think Antwan is best suited for an up-and-down system. But he is so well coached that I could see him play at some place that has a motion type offense.
Slipper Still Fits: Just to go a little more in-depth with the potential fit at Gonzaga....how do you think Antwan would fit in with the flex offense and system that the coaching staff utilizes?
Blue Zertuche:, I mean, he is not going to get there and play 32 minutes a game, because there is always that learning curve at the collegiate level. I think he could probably get some playing time his freshman year no matter where he goes. I would then think with his ability and how well coached he is at the high school level, that will translate into him really stepping up his sophomore year.