by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
Over the last few years on the AAU scene, almost nobody improved at a more rapid pace than Kadeem Jack. Jack is a power forward with amazing footwork, awesome length, added mass, and a versatile game, which is why he models his game after players such as Scottie Pippen (favorite player), Kevin Garnett, Lamar Odom and Carmelo Anthony.
With the ability to step out and hit the mid-range jumper with increasing consistency, excellent timing when blocking shots, and soft hands around the hoop, Jack has all the tools to make an immediate impact on the next level, and beyond. Kadeem knows that it might sound cliché, but he “wants to take basketball as far as any one man can take it,” something that he understands will take tons of hard work and sacrifice to achieve.
He has only been playing basketball since the age of 14, but one thing is certain: Jack has shown that he has the sheer determination of a winner.
SLAM: How old were you and what was the adjustment like when you first moved here from Jamaica? Why and how did you move here to begin with?
KJ: I was born in Jamaica, Queens and moved to Trinidad when I was 3 because my mother was too young and couldn’t take care of me so I stayed there until I was 12 and moved back up here to Lefrak City with my mom as soon as her life kinda got stable enough to take care of me. The adjustments for me would have to be the food and the fast lifestyle. I was kinda going crazy on how everything was right there and the freedom kids at my age had.
SLAM: What was your learning curve like with regards to first, life here in the States? What were some of the things that you immediately took a liking to and what took some time to become acquainted with?
KJ: I didn’t really have a huge learning curve because I had been up here to the states on previous occasions so it wasn’t that hard. I did take a liking to pizza and the first month or two it was all I ate. It took me some time to get acquainted with the attitudes of New Yorkers [laughs].
SLAM: It is well documented that before you moved here you paid much more attention to the game of soccer than you did to basketball. Why was this the case and what was your original impression of basketball?
KJ: I played soccer because it is the main sport in Trinidad and it was fun. At the time basketball seemed boring and pointless.
SLAM: You played for one of the best high school coaches in the country in Maurice Hicks at Rice High School. I know that he enhanced your development in numerous ways. What areas did he impact the most and how?
KJ: Coach Hicks deeply impacted my concentration to defense he made it fun to the point where it helped me set the tone of the whole game. He also brought me around great players such as Kemba Walker and Durand Scott and it definitely gave me the work ethic and the attitude I have on the hardwood.
SLAM: When you were going into your sophomore year is about the time when I met you at the Gauchos gym. I saw the fluidity that you had for the game of basketball and was impressed, but was even more impressed with your work ethic and willingness to take criticism. How did you develop such a willingness to listen to the people around you?
KJ: It was easy to want to learn because I saw what all these top players around me was getting and I understood my potential so I knew if I just kept my mouth shut and ears open and worked hard I could one day gain the recognition of the players I saw in front of me.
SLAM: Also at this time, your game was beginning to be noticed by all the scouting services. You struggled at times; you still had a lot of room for improvement, and you knew it. What areas did you know that you had to improve upon and how did you do so?
KJ: I knew all areas of my game needed to be improved because I felt disappointment when I wasn’t playing but when I did I couldn’t produce in the way I wanted to. So defense was the first area I focused on and everything came after.
SLAM: You started to show strides in your junior season. What was it like playing against such high caliber competition in NYC and other areas of the country as your game was still developing?
KJ: It was all great in molding me into the player I am today because much of my season was up and down. It’d seem like I turned the corner one game and the next game it’d seem like I was back in the funk and it helped that Coach Hicks put that pressure on me showing no compassion for how long I had been playing the sport for he made me step up a lot. Then playing guys all across the country, that basically made me feel like I didn’t belong on the court with them and just helped my drive to become better
SLAM: During AAU season after your junior year is when even more schools took notice. What was this period like for you and how did it feel that your hard work was paying dividends?
KJ: When I finally started getting some of the recognition that craved it felt great but it wasn’t even close to what I truly wanted so it motivated me even more because I got that taste of what hard work does. Then when I had summer school when AAU season started I tried to find the positive in all that and I did I stayed home and worked out at least 2 times a day, ran the track in my neighborhood, got up a lot of shots, and just waited for my senior season to start.
SLAM: Next up is your senior season. You were being recruited by a lot of high major schools but then schools like Kentucky and UNC jumped on the bandwagon and things really heated up to a different degree. Rumors were everywhere about you committing and everybody wanted to know what was going on. What was that like for you?
KJ: My senior season I started getting recognition for what I did during the summer but I went into the season planning to do a prep year… but then I just started doing things even I didn’t know I could do. Things started becoming second nature and I was finally playing up to the level I wanted and almost every school came knocking but I still had prep school in mind because I was playing off of athleticism and less skill so I felt like one more year would give me that extra part of my game. But then UNC and Kentucky came in and it showed me I was truly ready to play on any level I chose to and it made my drive even stronger because I knew with one more year to get more acquainted with basketball I could be going into college ready for anything.
SLAM: On September 3rd you committed to Rutgers University and Coach Mike Rice. What do you see in the future of this program and why did you commit there?
KJ: I committed to Rutgers and coach Mike Rice sold me on what he was trying to do which was turn the program around and he felt I was the kind of player to be a centerpiece to what he was trying to do and I decided that I wanted to be a part of that plan.
SLAM: How do you see yourself contributing at Rutgers and do you see yourself as an impact player right off the bat?
KJ: I can only go to Rutgers to work hard and try to get better every day I’m there and when the games start me and my teammates go out and leave everything on the floor. As far as my impact I think if I keep on the track that I am I can make a huge impact with this team right away.
SLAM: You recently left South Kent. You told me on the phone that you were having trouble adjusting up there. It’s not for everybody and it clearly wasn’t for you. What are your plans for the rest of this year?
KJ: I decided to enroll at Rutgers in January then red shirt and prepare for the year me and the freshman coming in have ahead of us.