One on One with Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs
October 26th, 2007
After watching Tilton workout on Wednesday, the New England Recruiting Report sat down with two of the nation’s best players in the class of 2009.
Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs have been practically inseparable in recent years. The duo first got together four years ago when they joined forces to play for the BABC. Two years ago they led BABC to the 15 and under AAU National Championship. Later that summer they both offered verbal commitments to the University of Connecticut, despite the fact that they still had three years remaining of high school. A month later they enrolled at the Winchendon School and now they are set to begin their junior seasons at the Tilton School.
NERR – You guys have done virtually everything together in recent years. From BABC to UConn to Winchendon to Tilton…has it intentionally been a package deal or has it just worked out this way?
Alex Oriakhi – After we decided to go to UConn together, that’s when it pretty much became a package deal. We just figured why not stay together for the next seven years.
Jamal Coombs – We had both kind of decided to go to Winchendon on our own. But this [coming to Tilton] was something we decided together.
NERR – You have been at Tilton for about two months now. How do you like it so far?
Alex Oriakhi – It is hard work just like Winchendon was. We are up working out at 6am every day and we’re lifting 5 days a week.
Jamal Coombs – It has been good. Coach O’Neil gives us constant feedback and doesn’t allow us to cheat on anything, so it has helped us a lot.
NERR – I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people say you don’t belong in Class B. What do you have to say to those critics?
Alex Oriakhi – We still play Class A schools and we have a 35 game schedule.
Jamal Coombs – Yeah, we play 8-10 class A games. Plus we’re the two main guys on this team so it puts more responsibility on us.
NERR – What are your goals for this season?
Alex Oriakhi – Win the Class B Championship.
Jamal Coombs – And beat St. Mark’s
Alex Oriakhi – Oh yeah…for sure.
NERR – What was it that made you commit to UConn so early in your high school career?
Alex Oriakhi – That he [Coach Calhoun] has sent more players to the league then anybody else…he just produces players.
Jamal Coombs – Plus he builds players. He makes them better then what they were when they came in. I think Rudy Gay was the only guy they got coming out of high school who was already considered to be that good. Everybody else has just gotten better there, like Jeff Adrien.
Alex Oriakhi – And Hilton Armstrong, Coach Calhoun made him into a lottery pick.
NERR – When you guys committed, Coach [Tom] Moore had a big part in your recruitment. With him moving on to take the head coaching job at Quinnipiac, do you feel as comfortable with your commitment now as you did then?
Alex Oriakhi – Oh yeah
Jamal Coombs – Definitely
NERR – What has Coach Calhoun and the rest of the UConn coaching staff told you to work on during the next two years?
Alex Oriakhi – They just tell me to play hard every time out and run the floor.
Jamal Coombs – They talk to me about keeping my follow through up on my jumper, staying low when I attack the basket, and working on my left hand. Coach Sellers said he wants me to do everything with my left hand…eat, brush my teeth, everything (laughing).
NERR – The upcoming AAU season (spring and summer 2008) will be your last playing for BABC. How do you guys feel about that?
Jamal Coombs – I just want to make sure we win everything, like we did two years ago.
Alex Oriakhi – Yeah, just win every time we play.
NERR – How important have they [BABC staff] been to you?
Alex Oriakhi – Well if it weren’t for them we probably wouldn’t be going to UConn, because we would have no place to showcase ourselves.
Jamal Coombs – They have just given us so much more exposure then we would have gotten otherwise. Plus they have already had a name for themselves and a long tradition.
NERR – You guys have played all over the country by now, and against some of the nation’s best young players. Who has been the hardest player you have ever had to guard?
Alex Oriakhi – Samardo Samuels and Greg Monroe. Samardo is so big and strong, you can’t get around him. Greg is 6’11” and he’s quick with handle.
Jamal Coombs – Tyreke Evans…he’s tough. I’m longer than most guys I guard, but not him. He’s quicker than you think too. Plus he would tell you he can’t shoot, but he makes shots.
Alex Oriakhi – Oh and Mike Beasley. I forgot about him.
Jamal Coombs – He [Beasley] scores every time he touches the ball.
NERR – How about the other end of the floor? Who is the hardest guy to score against?
Alex Oriakhi – Papa Lo who was on our Winchendon team last year (Papa Lo is currently a freshman at the University of Massachusetts). He blocks everything. You can’t bring nothing in.
Jamal Coombs – Mike Ringgold (also a member of last year’s Winchendon team, currently a freshman at Rider)…he’s tough. He’s long, strong, quick, and just a physical kid. He’s got a lot of heart and goes hard every time out.
NERR – Guys thanks for your time and good luck this season.
Alex Oriakhi – Thank you.
Jamal Coombs – Thank you.