by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
The Mesa High School basketball team had just flown across the country from Tempe, AZ to Philadelphia, PA. Problem was, however, that they were due in Binghamton, NY and not Philadelphia. With some help from the staff at the Binghamton STOP DWI Basketball Holiday Classic, Mesa made their way to the tournament after a rough travel experience. And it was a treat to watch them, thanks in large part to their 5-11 Arizona State bound lead guard Jahii Carson.
One of the most electrifying high school players in the country, Jahii provided a much needed positive charge to the sparse crowd in upstate New York on his way to 35 points (a loss to Thomas Jefferson from Brooklyn) and 38 points (a win over Davidson Day from NC) in the two days that SLAM got to check him out. Despite the cold weather, Jahii warmed up fast to the competition.
SLAM: So, first off, do you read SLAM?
Jahii Carson: Oh yeah, yeah. SLAM Magazine is big in Arizona. I remember, when I was growing up, Jerryd Bayless used to be in it all the time.
SLAM: Do you have a favorite article or anything?
JC: I don’t really have a favorite article but I just love the way the photos and the backgrounds are great. The articles give a little biography — not too much — about the players.
SLAM: Talk a little bit about what you do on the court. You’re a pretty dynamic player–who do you model your game after and why?
JC: I get out there and I try to push the tempo, you know. I’m a little guy, I got some speed on me and my team’s not really that big so I try to push the tempo. I try to get up on defense and make the opposing point guard uncomfortable. I try to model my game after Aaron Brooks a little bit because we’re the same type of player. I’m a little bit more explosive…
SLAM: A little bit…
JC: [Laughs] When it comes down to that type of player that I like to try to model my game after. When it comes down to a scoring guard, I model my game after Nate Robinson. He’s a little dude who can shoot the ball and dunk, of course. So Aaron Brooks and Nate Robinson are who I model my game after.
SLAM: Nate was more of a 2 guard until the NBA. So would you say maybe you’re a little ahead of where he was?
JC: Well I’m a little bigger but I’ve been playing the point guard position for probably my whole life. I think Nate was more of a football guy until he started getting more into high school, so I might have the edge there. I’ve been playing the position for pretty much my whole life so I have a pretty good feel for it.
SLAM: Talk about your athleticism. When did you realize that you could actually do all these dunks and that this could potentially be part of your game?
JC: When I was in about in the seventh grade — going into eighth grade, the summer — I had my first dunk. And it was hard for me to dunk at first and my dad told me, ‘You know what? You should just start bouncing because it’s easier for you to jump without the ball than with the ball.’ So I started bouncing the ball, and I couldn’t quite get it, but eventually I started dunking like that. So I said if I could ever get that down, it could be a huge part of my game because people aren’t used to seeing little people dunk too much. But I also don’t want people to think that my game is just dunking, so I stopped dunking a little bit in warm ups. I still keep it in my repertoire.
SLAM: Yeah, it’s a good thing to have, for sure. What’s your favorite dunk?
JC: My favorite dunk is when I throw it up and try to put it around my back — that’s the latest dunk that I try to do. But, of course, between the legs, I love to do that one. The newest dunk I started trying was the 360 windmill. I like that one too but behind the back is probably my favorite dunk.
SLAM: You’re a dynamic scorer but you also get your teammates involved. I assume at the next level your gonna try to get your teammates involved more?
JC: Yeah I’ma try to get my teammates involved more often. Right now I try to score so that they really cheat on my teammates. When I start scoring they gotta play me straight up — they can’t double team me or they can’t deny me on the wings. So I try to score first to make them be honest and then they help on me and my teammates are wide open so I start kicking it. When I get to the next level, it’s not gonna be as easy for me to get to the basket and score as much so I’m gonna get my teammates involved and when I get the opening to score I’m gonna take the opening and knock open shots down.
SLAM: And what do you expect to do at Arizona State where they’re kinda rebuilding now?
JC: Yeah, they’re kinda rebuilding now. They had a nice recruiting class last year. I just wanna come in and make an impact early. I don’t wanna go too much above my role — I just want to play my role and get my teammates involved because, right now, they’re having trouble at the point guard position and that’s a great opportunity for me to come in, get some good minutes, and get my teammates some open shots.
SLAM: Where do you see yourself in four or five years? What are your interests besides basketball, and what do you want to do if it doesn’t all work out?
JC: I see myself in five years — I’m actually trying to major in fashion design at ASU — and I like fashion design and I wanna try to have my own clothing line, my own business one day. And in four or five years I see myself graduating from college and if I’m not going to the NBA I can see myself going overseas and having the business also because that’s always been a dream of mine.
SLAM: So overseas is a viable option for you. Hypothetically would you ever consider going overseas instead of going to ASU?
JC: No because my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, and my father have high expectations of me getting my degree. I would be the first person in my family with my parents having a kid to get a degree so I just want to be the first one to do that. If the opportunity for the NBA comes then I’m gonna take it, but I’m also gonna finish my degree even if I go.