Player: Arden Begaj
School: United Scholastic Academy
Phenom Hoops continues to bring talent from up north, this time catching up with a 2024 7-footer in Arden Begaj. The big man has been catching some eyes with a few programs, as he holds a few offers and recently took a few recent visits, including one to Princeton lately. We dive into more about his game, how he likes to operate on the court, and what has been going on with his recruitment as well. See what he had to say.
Phenom: How has everything been going in your eyes for you?
Begaj: I think the season has been really good, we just came off a big win against Bishop Walsh, beating them by 20 points in one of our best team performances so our team chemistry is getting stronger and better. We are second in the OSBA right now which is not where our standard was set at the beginning of the year but with all the injuries we’ve faced as a team, second is a great place to be right now. Individually, my season has been tremendous too. I’ve been receiving a lot of offers and interests from a lot of high-major to mid-major programs. I’ve gained weight this year and have gotten stronger which was a huge goal for me at the start of the season. In September 2022 I was 188 pounds, now I’m in the range of 195-197 pounds. I’m still trying to gain weight however I have seen the results of the work I’ve put in to get myself stronger on the defensive end a lot from being able to get more rebounds and being able to take more hits. All and all, the emphasis on strengthening my body and gaining weight this season has helped me in all aspects of my game through being able to jump higher for blocks or being able to move my feet quicker and further improve my mobility as a 7-footer. My main takeaway this season individually though is how confident I’ve become on the court from trusting the work and the hours I’ve put into making myself better.
Phenom: How would you best describe your game?
Begaj: To best describe my game in a couple of words I would say I’m an athletic skilled big. I have great mobility and athleticism for my size that allows me to be a great rim protector that blocks shots and gets rebounds, along with guarding every position 1-5 on ball. My main strength is my shooting ability and being able to stretch the floor. I’m great in the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll which gives me the ability to read situations on the floor and pick which one is best for the play at hand. I’m also great at catch-and-shoot and shooting off the dribble. I have a great handle for my size and most of the time I like to push the ball off of a rebound possibly going coast to coast or making the extra pass downhill for an assist. I’m a great post player as I can face up and shoot the ball over smaller defenders or I can use my height, size, and footwork to get deeper into the paint for a hook shot or layup. Lastly, I’m very fast so I rim run often and get easy dunks and layups as the first big down the floor.
Phenom: How has everything been going for you as far as recruitment? What has been the latest?
Begaj: As of right now, I have five offers to Holy Cross, UTEP, Milwaukee, Old Dominion, and Princeton. I’ve had a lot of interest from many programs but the ones I would say that has been very interested are Mississippi State, Richmond, George Washington, Ohio, Marshall, and Rhode Island. This year, I went on four unofficial visits to Ohio, Richmond, Old Dominion, and Princeton.
Phenom: What have those schools been saying they like about your game?
Begaj: A lot of schools have said they like that I have the ability to space the floor and play on the perimeter in a 5 out type of play style. Schools have also appreciated that I’m a great student as well.
Phenom: How was your visit to Princeton recently? What all stood out?
Begaj: The unofficial visit to Princeton was great. I’m very thankful to Coach Skye and Coach Brett for setting up the whole thing. What stood out a lot in my eyes is how different Princeton is than schools outside of the Ivy League. The campus was outstanding, there’s really nothing like it. I loved how close the residence was to the gym as it is very easy to walk over and work out at any time every day. I watched Princeton practice prior to one of their game days and what really stood out to me from the whole visit was how welcoming the staff at Princeton was. After practice, each Princeton player came over and met me and my dad along with the head coach, Coach Brett and Coach Skye. This gave me the idea of how welcoming the environment is at Princeton based on how kind and polite everyone was.
Phenom: Any other upcoming visits you have planned?
Begaj: Not any at the moment no. I used the month of January when we didn’t have as many games, so I could go on visits.