Q&A with Mason Kelley


by Griffin Bennett, Staff Writer

With high school basketball no where in sight and football season a few weeks away, I thought that it would a perfect time to distract Seattle Times’ Mason Kelley away from his blogging efforts and ask him his Husky-centric questions. He was kind enough to oblige and help us talk basketball during the summer.
We hit him with the hard question. The ones that everyone wants answers to that only a true insider would know. You know, like what’s in the water at Garfield? How many Stewarts are there exactly? Why does Joshua Smith hate puppies? And what does Tony Wroten think of himself? Unfortunately he passed on those, but he still gave us some great answers.

MM: What is your overall opinion of the Terrence Jones saga? Should we expect more scenarios like these to come?

MK: I think Terrence Jones was just a confused teenager who made a quick decision and then was swayed a different direction. As long as kids can give an early verbal I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t continue. I think, for the most part, when a kid makes a public announcement like that, the people around him make sure he’s confident in the decision. But as long as there’s a way for kids to change their mind, they will. They’re teenagers and that happens.

MM: Where do you stand on the Gary Bell vs. Tony Wroten debate? Who do you think projects better to the NCAA level? 

MK: Well, first of all, I really like Gary Bell as a player. I only watched him once or twice during the season, but his game was incredibly polished for a junior last year. Now, I’ve only seen Wroten play in a Pro-Am game. I really like the way Wroten drives to the basketball and finds teammates. However, his jumper continues to be a work in progress and I don’t think that’s much of a secret. As of right now, I would say Bell is a bit more polished, but keep in mind Wroten missed a full year of high-school ball, so it’s hard to project one over the other at this point.

It will be nice to see these guys play for another year. It’s hard for me to grade any of these kids, considering I’ve only seen most of them a handful of times.

MM: Why is Tony Wroten playing so many recruiting games? Do you think he ends up at UW after all is said and done? How close is Tony with Will Conroy and former Huskies? 

MK: At this point I don’t know where Wroten will end up. I think his favorites remain Kentucky and UW. That’s what he’s told me. I think Wroten is close with a lot of former Huskies. Keep in mind he’s Nate Robinson’s cousin and you could see him talking to several former Huskies at the Pro-Am over the weekend.

MM: What is the latest on Hikeem Stewart and his recruitment? What kind of player is he? Is he better than Lodrick and Rodrick? 

MK: I’m still waiting to hear back from Stewart to catch up on recruiting, but from what I’m hearing he’s had a great summer. He had a nice junior season where he showed some impressive flashes of the player he could develop into and it sounds like he put it all together playing for Friends of Hoop this summer. I wanted to watch him at the Seattle Summer Pro-Am last weekend, but I had to leave before his game.

He has some good offers on the table, and I plan on talking recruiting with him before the school year begins. I didn’t get to watch Lodrick and Rodrick play much in high school, so I can’t really compare them, but I do know that Hikeem has the potential to be a special player.

MM: Of the 2011 seniors around the state, who is getting the least amount of recruiting coverage that you think deserves more? 

MK: That’s an interesting question, because there’s a lot of recruiting information out there these days. The big names are obvious with Stewart, Gary Bell Jr. and Tony Wroten Jr. getting plenty of attention. The other guy to really keep an eye on is Jackson’s Brett Kingma, who a light’s out shooter. He hasn’t gotten quite the attention of the other guys, but he’s had as good a summer as anyone.

MM: How is UW sitting with Brett Kingma? What could he bring to the team? 

MK: Kingma does have an offer from UW. Personally, I think he would be the perfect fit for UW. The Huskies could use a shooter. A lot of people compare him to Ryan Appleby, but Appleby was a streak shooter. Kingma is a scorer. With him it’s more a matter of when than if he’ll get going in a game. He’s worked to improve his ball-handling and overall game this summer and he keeps pulling in offers with almost 15 so far.

MM: Who are some up and coming youngsters of the 2012 and 2013 class that UW should have on their radar? Any potential All-Americans amongst them? 

MK: The top prospect among younger players would have to be Anrio Adams, who will be a junior at Franklin this year. He’s already made a name for himself nationally, participating at the LeBron James Skills Academy. Another local player who would have been one to watch out for down the road was Seattle Prep’s D.J. Fenner, the son of former Seahawk Derrick Fenner, but he has moved back to Washington D.C. after spending his freshman year with the Panthers.

As far as players that I’ve seen, Adams is the best of the young players coming through the ranks.

MM: What kind of a relationship does Romar have with Seattle Rotary? Could there be a future pipeline of Rotary players to UW? 

MK: I don’t know about Romar’s relationship with Rotary. I can’t even speak to that, because I haven’t talked to Romar or anyone associated with Rotary about their relationship. Obviously if Wroten ends up at UW there could be a pipeline. Since Rotary and Friends of Hoop are the premier AAU programs in the area, I can’t think of a reason why the Huskies wouldn’t be interested in the top local talent.

MM: What do you hear from coaches and players regarding UW’s reputation? Is it positive? Elite program? Not enough exposure? Etc. 

MK: I don’t spend a lot of time with coaches or players talking about UW’s reputation. For me, it’s more about the individual players and programs I’m covering. Since most of the players I cover at least consider staying home to play at UW, I would have to say the reputation is strong in the community.

Just look at the local guys who have come through that program from Nate Robinson, to Brandon Roy and Will Controy and Isaiah Thomas. I think, when guys leave, it’s more because they want to attend school away from home than they don’t want to go to UW. But again, it’s not something I’ve asked a lot of people about up to this point.

MM: What is your opinion on the Seattle/Tacoma fraternity of hoopers? What keeps them together long after they leave Seattle?

MK: I think it’s a special bond that is unique to Seattle based on the way it spreads to so many guys. It’s amazing how close these guys are and, for the most part, they’re just good people. They come home every offseason and give back. It happens all over the country, but not on the same scale as far as the number of people and their contributions to the basketball community.

Check Sunday’s paper for more on the subject.

Thanks again to Mason Kelley and everyone should check out his blog and follow him on twitter @masonkelley.