The other day, I mentioned on Twitter that my upcoming player features would start to center on unsigned high school seniors. February starts up next week, and I think it’s honestly still incredible how an ample amount of 2019 talent in the Richmond, VA area remains uncommitted to next-level programs. Yes, I understand that it takes a lot to play at the collegiate level, no question. If one took a look at my list of unsigned seniors, they’d notice the lengthy amount of names I marked down. This might lead to an assumption that I feel the process of making a roster spot on a college team is easier than it actually winds up being. Honestly, that’s far from the truth; I just truthfully believe Richmond has a handful of talented 2019 prospects this year. Other surrounding peers/scouts in the area also determined this school season as having one of the biggest ranges of talent in the last several years. I hope opportunities will continue to emerge for the seniors as weeks continue on; a great portion of them deserve a shot. One guy has caught my attention ever since I first got on board with Phenom Hoops this past fall: Jalen Hargrove ’19. I’ve yet to see anyone else in the 804 with a better motor than him.
One of the few seniors on Matoaca High School’s (Chesterfield County, VA) varsity squad, Hargrove has relished a role as the team’s ultimate energy bug. Entering his senior season, he especially knew that particular trait would become important to give the Warriors a boost after they went through a less-than-satisfactory 2017-18 season. They finished 10-12 overall last winter, but have made solid strides in their current 11-6 record. Hargrove can note a different type of approach within this year’s group.
“Work ethic definitely has improved. You can see that everyone is starting to care more, as a whole. I think we lacked effort at times last season. Now, we’re starting to work together more and better. That’s been the biggest improvement, in my opinion.”
During my ‘open gym tour’ stop at Matoaca last October, I remember head coach Michael Knight explaining to me how missed free throw attempts hurt the Warriors’ chances of finishing games last season. He had a clear disapproving tone in his voice, as he felt they could’ve turned around that 10-12 record to 17-5 if they didn’t leave so many games at the free throw line. While still a bit of an issue, free throws thankfully haven’t hurt the team’s opportunities at winning in a drastic way compared to last year. Still, Hargrove acknowledges that area needs polishing.
“Yeah, we have that same type of issue at times, just not as much. We make some and miss some, so obviously we can get better. I guess you could say we make the ones that count though.”
Regardless of what could use fixing, the Warriors have stood out as a balanced team within Chesterfield County. Back in this past September, they alerted audiences in the potential damage they could create after capturing a Sunday championship down in Norfolk, VA at Christopher Newport University’s annual Fall Team Camp. Hargrove noted that particular moment as probably his favorite one so far in this school year. Standing at 6’5,” Hargrove plays as an athletic swingman who gives Matoaca a boost in their fast break game. His athleticism is always on hand, shown by how effortlessly he runs the floor and can rise up quickly for dunks. Once he has a look at the rim, he can finish with either hand; his soft touch helps make him efficient. Defensively, he arguably impresses even more considering how effectively he blocks shots for his size. Hargrove brings a versatility on both ends that makes him a tough matchup. As I touched on earlier, I still feel that his motor truly sets him apart. I’ve seen this guy play over 5 games; he NEVER lets up in his effort. As a result, whoever’s attempting to guard him gets fatigued. This especially comes from a certain piece of his game that he prides himself the most.
“Rebounding. That’s definitely what I focus on more than anything; both sides of the floor.”
It’s hard to argue which end of rebounding Hargrove stands out more in. Personally, I think he makes the biggest impact with his offensive rebounding because he’s very good at completing those such plays in a blink of an eye. Matoaca never has to worry about collecting second-chance points whenever Hargrove takes the floor. Even with his athleticism and motor fusing together nicely, he’s also acknowledged another skill has taken a leap this season, compared to the past.
“I think my shooting ability has looked better. I’ve been shooting the ball outside the paint a lot more. Just trying to continue in strengthening that.”
Hargrove might have developed that goal of becoming a reliable shooter from watching his favorite NBA player.
“Paul George is definitely my favorite player. I like to watch the way he plays and try to take something from his game. He’s doing pretty well this season.”
As one can sense by now, Hargrove brings a lot of value to the court. He’s pretty much a coach’s dream by having a disciplined/focused approach and demonstrating several things that cannot be taught. Honestly, he had me sold from day one as a player who can go on to find success at the next-level. Bluefield State College has been the sole program to extend an offer, currently. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore stopped by town earlier this month to watch Hargrove play against Prince George High School. He’s handled the recruiting process well; making sure to stay in the gym and not let it distract him.
“Things are going good. I’ve had more schools reach out to me lately. California University of Pennsylvania and Chestnut Hill College are two schools that stand out right now.”
When he, hopefully, finds himself within a college program, Hargrove simply desires for one specific value held amongst the team.
“I just want to be somewhere that has a group of guys all with the same goal of hard work. Of course, I always want to be one of the hardest workers, but I just don’t want that to be looked at as… different, if that makes sense. I hope to find myself in a program where everybody pushes each other daily. Just being around a team full of winners.”
This final stretch of the regular season seems to near closer and closer… before we know it, the postseason will arrive. Heading into that time of the year, all teams must start showing their best basketball if they want a chance at making a significant playoff run. Teams may get away with some small mishandlings during the regular season, but playoff time has proven as an entire different level. A mere second of mental lapse could determine a win or loss. As a veteran leader, Hargrove already knows what Matoaca must fix up to get ready for February.
“Consistently playing good defense is what we lack. Sometimes we play amazing defense, but other times we catch ourselves watching the ball too much. Offensively, I think we’re good. That attention on defense can step up though. I try to make sure to help guys out in practice if they don’t understand how to execute something. Or, if I notice the team starting to slack off, I tell everybody to pick it up. We can’t afford anything like that in the (state) tournament, and it starts now.”
Hargrove’s mindset undoubtedly exemplifies how a senior’s attitude towards practice should appear. He clearly has his priorities straight. When he’s not on the court, one should easily discern his calm demeanor. Like most guys in his class, the senior shares the simple goal of making it through the final year of high school without any major headaches.
“The school year is going well. My grades look good, so no issues there. I’d say it’s been chill, as a whole. Except for this Anatomy class… that’s killing me right now. But, I’m making it through.”
If one hasn’t had a chance to watch Hargrove perform on the court yet, I more than recommend it. He’s been posting double-double numbers all season long and can get a crowd on its feet with his highlight plays. With him continuing to lead and spark Matoaca, I look forward to seeing how the team does in February.
One more thing. Where does Jalen Hargrove see himself in ten years?
“A goal of mine is to own a business. I know that probably won’t happen right away, but I’m trying to get to that point somewhere down the road.”
Keep it up Jalen; a true ‘warrior’ for Matoaca.
More unsigned seniors features to come!