T.J. Warren's recruiting stock keeps rising with help from NBA All-Star David West
There's Hollywood and then there's Raleighwood. One's known for turning out stars on a daily basis. The other, well, it's been a good run for the capitol city of North Carolina the past few years. From Chris Wilcox, who won a national title at Maryland, to John Wall, last year's No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Raleigh's kicked out its share of players in the last decade.
One NBA all-star grew up just outside of Raleigh in Garner, N.C., and he's helping usher in the next round of prime time performers. David West of the New Orleans Hornets is affiliated with the Garner Road AAU program and for the past few years he's helped small forward T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Word of God) with the nuances of the game. Warren was a star last season at Word of God, the Raleigh program that also produced Wall in 2009.
West was in attendance at last weekend's Tournament of Champions and watched Warren go for 41 points in a pool play game.
"It's about that time for him," West said of Warren. "Things are starting to click in terms of his mindset and he's gotten a lot better. He's worked on some things we asked him to do and he's going to continue to get better."
Ranked No. 39 (and rising) in the ESPNU 100, Warren's spring play has been spectacular. He's been a big scorer largely due to his 3-point stroke. However, his AAU coach, Dwayne West (David's brother) says his star forward has been more than just hot, he's been efficient.
"He's shot at least 60 percent every time he's had 40. He's very efficient," said Dwayne West.
Prior to the spring, Warren was a fixture in most Top 100 lists, though he rarely cracked the Top 50. His superior wing size and stroke were always calling cards, but there was something holding him back; something missing from his game. Dwayne West credits Warren's awakening to his newly minted mindset.
"In the past, when he was challenged he used to get angry," Dwayne West said. "Now he becomes more aggressive and proves what he can do."
After every game last weekend, Warren and David West seemed to hold a debriefing session. David West is visible with Garner Road, engages with the players and Warren values the relationship.
"I spend a lot of time with David, he's like my mentor," Warren said. "He tells me what I need to do, what to work on; he's a real good guy."
Warren is the son of a former NC State player, Anthony Warren, who played with the Wolfpack in the late 1970s. T.J.'s never actually seen his dad play, but understands his pop had a big reputation around town as a player in his day.
"When I hear people (talk) they say he was the man back in Raleigh," T.J. Warren said.
T.J. will have a chance to be the "the man" for NC State because he too has been offered by the Wolfpack and new coach Mark Gottfried wouldn't mind T.J. following in his dad's footsteps. But the Wolfpack has company. Florida, Kansas, Ohio State, Miami, Texas and Georgetown are also in the mix. Warren's been to see the Hoyas and he's been on NC State's campus as well. He has plans to see Florida at the end of the month.
Ohio State is an interesting school on his list. David West was recruited and coached by coach Thad Matta at Xavier. West enjoyed his Xavier experience so much that he skipped out on the NBA to return to school. Now Matta is the head coach at Ohio State and he's got his eye on Warren; recently the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship.
"Ohio State's been following me for a long, long time," Warren said.
With a mentor who played for Matta, a father who ran with the Wolfpack and a jump shot that could work for anybody, T.J. Warren is his own man. In the fall, we'll see where his path takes him. For now, he's on the rise and making the most of his chances to carve out his own niche in Raleighwood and beyond.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.