This isn’t how this was supposed to go.
I had a plan.
This wasn’t part of my plan.
Growing up in Hazard, Kentucky, I developed a love for the game of basketball.
My goal was to use basketball to get to college and further my education. Sure, I was hopeful – I still am hopeful – to become a professional after college.
But first and foremost, I wanted to use basketball to get into college and get an education.
Through my junior year of high school, I knew I was going to be able to play basketball in college. I had scholarship offers, but I also realized that while still in high school, I had a chance to move away from home and get more prepared for college.
That led me to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia.
Some people in my hometown thought I went to Hargrave get a high major offer, but that wasn’t the case. It was to get out of my comfort zone and be more prepared for when I went away from home for college.
Military school was definitely a new experience for me. It couldn’t have been more different than anything I had ever experienced. Every morning, waking up at 6 a.m., marching in formation to breakfast. You marched in formation to all three meals every day. Your whole day was planned out, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. when lights went out. No TV, no wifi after 10 p.m. No napping or even sitting on your bed during the day. If they caught you, you’d get in trouble.
It was difficult, but it definitely prepared me for life and made me live a more disciplined life. I had study hall every night five times a week, 7:30-9:30 at night. It helped me really put my focus on setting time aside every night to make sure I was on top of my academics. And I stayed on top of my academics, I did such a good job progressing through my post-graduate year that I was able to graduate in March, instead of May.
Hargrave was voted the number one school in the nation for developing character. The whole school is all about high character and having your priorities straight. It was great because it helped me mature as a person, as a man. It helped me get my priorities right. It helped me make better use of my time. It was definitely a huge help.
The first year I was at Hargrave, Ohio State was recruiting one of my teammates and they got to see me. I had talked to Coach (Thad) Matta and he told me how much they liked me. That was a huge thing. Growing up, you would see Thad Matta on television all the time. They always talked about him on ESPN and how great of a coach he was. It would be really hard for anyone to turn down the opportunity to play for him and the great coaching staff he had under him and all the success he had.
I signed with Ohio State in the fall of 2016.
In January, I started hearing rumors regarding Coach Matta’s future at Ohio State. He had struggled the year before and people started to say to me that they thought he might be gone by the time I got to Ohio State. I was always quick to say to them, ‘No way.’ I never believed that they would fire him. They were having a down year again though, and I kept hearing that it was possible. It was something I started to worry about and think about from time-to-time, but I wasn’t too worried about it because it was Thad Matta. He’s been to Final Fours and won Big Ten Championships. He’s not going anywhere. Then Ohio State released the statement supporting Coach Matta and saying was going to be there and I thought to myself, ‘I have nothing to worry about. He is going to be there.’
I went ahead and enrolled in Ohio State in early May. The only reason I was able to enroll at Ohio State in early May is because I had graduated from my post-grad year at Hargrave two months earlier in March. If I had stayed my whole post-grad year at Hargrave, I wouldn’t have been able to enroll at Ohio State until June.
I’d been at Ohio State for four weeks when I went home for the weekend for a family event. I came back on Sunday and shortly after getting back to Columbus, I got a text from Assistant Coach Chris Jent saying we were going to have a team meeting tomorrow and they would let us know what time in the morning. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I really didn’t think much of it.
On Monday afternoon, they brought us in and told us there was going to be a coaching change. Coach Matta wasn’t in there, but all the assistants were. The assistants hadn’t known what was going on until that morning.
The day Coach Matta was fired was the day I originally was supposed to enroll at Ohio State. That is the day the other freshmen in my class enrolled.
Everybody loved Coach Matta and loved playing for him. It was a tough situation especially being a freshman and coming a month early. You think everything is fine and then out of nowhere, it’s like, ‘where did this come from?’
I kept going to class for two more weeks after Coach Matta was fired. Everybody at Ohio State was great and incredibly supportive. They understood the situation and told me they would back me in whatever I decided to do. After two weeks, I decided to ask for my release. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t think it was going to be the best place for my career.
Once I got my release, I went home to Kentucky and over the next four-to-five days after I was officially released, colleges started calling me and recruiting me. NC State contacted me about five days after I got home and started the recruitment process.
Towards the end of July, I decided to come to NC State.