Prep Hoops: Bill Barton Interview
Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts is one of the best
prep schools in the nation. Coach Bill Barton has a knack for taking kids and
raising their basketball abilities in extremely noticible fashion. The team just
wrapped up their 2003-04 season, finishing with a 31-6 record. InsideHoops.com
met with Barton and discussed the team and a few of his key players.
InsideHoops.com: Talk about the season, review it, now that it's all wrapped up. How did everything go?
Bill Barton: Our team finished the season at 31 wins and six losses. We performed very well and won several tournaments this year. Our team was made up of a lot of kids that are talented but not high major players. We don't have kids that are going to the Big East or the ACC or the SEC. We have a lot of kids that really had something to prove. And game in and game out we were not the most talented team, but we worked hard and we played together and the kids got better as the year went along, and I was very pleased at this group. It was one of my favorite teams.
InsideHoops.com: How about the development of Kojo Mensah? He seems to have gotten a lot better at just about everything. The kid can really play.
Bill Barton: Kojo came out of New York City last year and he really wasn't being recruited at the level that he thought he would be and some people thought he would. He came here and he really is probably the hardest worker I have ever had here. He just took hundreds and hundreds of jump-shots, trying to improve his outside shot. He's lifting weights, he's running. He was a tremendous worker; he was voted captain, and thoughout the course of the year people really got their eyes opened by him. He changes the game just by his defense.
InsideHoops.com: And then we have Jamal Dart. He grabs a ton of rebounds considering he's a guard.
Bill Barton: Jamal Dart does the little things. He is the consumate team player. He guards the other team's best wing player, sometimes giving up four, five inches. We always count on him for 10 rebounds and 10 points. He always seems to be around the loose balls. Every team needs two guys like him. You got to have at least one. I just really appreciate his efforts. Hopefully things are going to work out for him. Many kids come out of New York City and they don't have the academic credentials to play NCAA division one basketball, and that was the case with Jamal. His high school guidance counseler or whoever didn't understand that he was not ready to go to college, and it's taken a lot of work, and hopefully we're going to get him into college. The New York City schools failed him, that's for sure.
InsideHoops.com: Shawn James is probably your most raw, physical talent. He's got crazy athletic ability.
Bill Barton: Yeah, Shawn James has unbelievable physical ability, but he hasn't been playing that long and he is very raw. Out on the AAU circuit last year, and in some of those camps, people were talking about Shawn James having ten blocks (in one game), Shawn James is busy learning how to play team defense. While I won't say the sky is the limit for him, he has - unlimited potential is a bad word - he has a lot of potential. I look forward to watching him play in the future. He has made great strides this year. He had some 15-rebound games, and an eight-block games. More often than not, he's had to work, and kids have been able to push him around in the post. He really needs to get stronger. And I have the fear that come April some big-time programs are going to remember seeing him block ten shots and offer him a scholarship, when the level for Shawn James should be a lower level than he wants to right now, because they'll let him play right away, and he'll learn to play the game. He hasn't played in that many games. So when people ask me where Shawn should play basketball, I think it shouldn't be St. John's or the Atlantic Ten, I think he should play at a place like St. Peter's, where they're just going to let him play and let him discover how good he can be.
InsideHoops.com: Talk about prep schools - of course yours in particular - and the main goal players generally have, and what they're looking to do.
Bill Barton: Well, we take a lot of kids that are academically ineligible for college because they don't have the high enough standardized test score, the ACT or the SAT. We also take kids that don't have enough core courses. We have fifth year seniors, people that just don't have the core courses, because either they didn't pay attention to the details or nobody put them in a position to get eligible for college. I see more and more of that, with the public schools, especially the city, people are just punching the clock, in and out, and they don't take the time to get it done. And I'm amazed that more coaches aren't on top of this for their ball-players. Someone's got to take an interest in these kids. So the prep schools are here for the academics, the deficiencies academically that the kids have to be eligible for college, and also we have a lot of kids who need another year. They may be a division two player and they think that with another year of maturity in their bodies and playing against good competition and another year of coaching that they may be able to go up a level. And we have division three kids who think they can become division two kids. The prep schools at this level, the competition is just insane. It is just so good. Some of these schools have nine or ten division one players. Some of the kids leave here and go play division one, and they'll never, ever play against the competition they played against here. I am convinced that some of the better prep schools, ourself included, can beat many division one schools. I'm not talking about the Dukes of the world, and I don't want to mention some names, but I've seen some bad America East games, and I'm convinced when we have a good team that we can beat those teams. I'm not talking about Vermont this year. But two years ago I saw B.U. play American when they the game was like a 52-50 game, and some of my kids fell asleep, and we came out saying we could beat these teams by 25 points.