Q+A: Dan Poneman
A conversation with the prolific, 20-year-old scout.
SLAM: Others have said that one of your strengths in being able to scout has always been your ability to have these kids you’re scouting relate to you and vice-versa due to your young age. Obviously, you’ll still be able to scout at any age, but do you ever worry as you get older these kids will no longer see you as one of their peers and won’t open up to you as easily?
DP: Well… college coaches always say that when I would talk about the kids, because I have that personality that allowed me to get to know them on a different level, so I have more insight. But I think that was also kind of more by default because the people I was spending my time with on the weekends rather than being with my high school friends were these players I was on the road with.
As I get older, I won’t change, but with my wealth of experience with spending time with so many kids and seeing so many kids go through the process, that a young high school basketball player goes through, I’ll be able to be a positive influence on the kids and have more insight that can help their careers rather than just giving them exposure.
SLAM: What is a typical day like for you these days?
DP: I really don’t have a typical day. Every single day is just different. I don’t make a schedule of the games I’m going to, but really how I decide which games to go to is based on who texts me or who emails me and what people tell me about what games. Every day I wake up, I’ll have about 10, 15 texts about basketball stuff. You know, a college coach asking me about a kid, you’ll have players saying “come to my game,” a coach saying “come to our game,” a parent, whatever. So I just take it from there.
SLAM: So we’re both huge Jabari Parker fans. I’ve personally gone back and forth with cats who say ain’t no way a junior is the best player in the country, and I tell them “believe it.” But in your words, why is he the best high school player in the country?
DP: Jabari Parker has no weakness as a player. He’s gotten better every month of his career. He’s the most dominant player on the No. 1 team in the nation, and he’s only 16 years old. How unbelievable is that? He’s going up against teams like Findlay Prep, who recruit five-star players from around the country to fill up their roster, and he goes to a public school as a 16-year-old, and they’re number one in the country. Against Brazil for the 16 and Under USA team in Mexico, he scored 27 points on 9-10 shooting. He was just named USA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.
Jabari Parker is the real life Jesus Shuttlesworth. He has no flaws, no weaknesses. And yet, this is the nicest kid you’ll ever meet.
Kind soul, with impeccable work ethic, who enjoys competition, who loves everybody, who loves himself and is completely focused. He’s the most focused human being I’ve ever seen in my life. He doesn’t make a show of it. A lot of athletes these days, you know, will talk about why they’re this and that, but Jabari is never a showman.
I did an interview with him when he was in seventh grade, the one thing he said was his dad told him “don’t be flashy, just do what you gotta do, just get it done.” And that’s what he does. He’s like Carmelo Anthony with Tim Duncan’s brain. He’s the evolution of a basketball player. He could be the anti-LeBron. The anti-ego.
SLAM: Chicago high school basketball lost a giant when “The Godfather” Mac Irvin passed away late last year. Can you touch on what he meant to you personally, and what he meant to the city of Chicago?
DP: The first time I met Mac Irvin was when I was 15 years old. I was in school, in PE class, I remember it vividly. We were outside playing kickball or something, but I didn’t wear my gym clothes that day. I got a phone call from Chris Colvin, and his dad Ike said, “Hey, the Godfather wants to meet you.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Mac Irvin. He wants to meet you today.” I didn’t really comprehend it.
He explained he had seen my website, I was writing about all these players, so I went over there on like, 89th Street by CVS High School. I met with Nick Irvin, and he had this notebook that had information about me—my name, my website. And I was just in awe that my stupid website had people I didn’t know, knowing who I was.
From that day on, every single time I saw Mac I was greeted with a smile and a conversation. He was just like me. I guess that’s what I’m gonna be years from now. Just walk around, let my sons do all the work, and just talk about high school basketball. That’s what he loved to do at age 74 and that’s exactly what I love to do at age 20. Talking about high school basketball and getting excited about all these great players in our city.
.Rigo Gonzalez is a blogger from Illinois currently residing in Alaska. He is the co-creator of NYILL as well as a contributor to ChicagoNow.com’s Chi-Hoops blog. You can reach him via Twitter at @_enigmatic1.