For the past three seasons Dave Johnson of the Newport News (VA) has provided Friarbasketball with terrific updates on Providence targets in the Virginia area.
He shared insight on Josh Fortune when news was difficult to come by up in New England, and in 2011 Dave introduced us to Fortune’s teammate, then-15 year old sophomore Rodney Bullock, who he noted was an emerging talent the Friars were showing interest in (at the time he noted: Another sophomore I understand the Friars are recruiting is 6-7 sophomore Rodney Bullock, Fortune’s teammate at Kecoughtan. Bullock is still growing and could end up 6-9 or so. Has outstanding skills, both in the post and on the perimeter. He is averaging 19.4 ppg and roughly 12 rpg, with a nice three point shot…. he needs to get bigger (I’m guessing he’s 210 lbs) and stronger, but he’s only 15).
Nearly two years after Dave first mentioned him, Bullock became the first member of Providence’s class of 2013, committing this past October. Since committing to Providence, Bullock has had a very strong senior campaign, raising his stock in the eyes of many in Virginia.
He leads a district including stars like Troy Williams (Indiana, #33 in 2013 per ESPN) and Anthony Barber (NC State, 14th overall) in scoring and his Kecoughtan team finished the regular season first in the district with a 19-4 record.
I wanted to learn more about “Rajay” Bullock, so I reached out to Dave and he delivered with honest insight once again.
KF: We’ve been emailing about Rodney since his sophomore year. He was a 19 point, 12 rebound per game soph at the time, and one you described as having potential to become an inside/outside threat in college. You seemed high on him then. How has his game progressed since?
DJ: In my honest opinion, I thought Rajay’s game took a step back last season. He seemed passive at times and his scoring dropped to 14.3 ppg. As I recall, there were some minor injury issues, but mainly I thought he was relying too much on his perimeter game and not his post game.
This year, he’s changed that. He’s been more assertive with the ball and willing to take charge. His coach, Ivan Thomas, said that’s largely because he’s a senior now and in years past, he was deferring to the older guys. Whatever it is, he’d been a completely different player this season. He’s been the best player in the district, and perhaps the region, this year.
KF: Offensively, where does he do most of his damage?
DJ: He’s driving more, and with his size and ball handling skills he’s doing more of his damage there. He can still shoot the 3, but I don’t think he’s shooting it as much this year. He’s leading the district at 22 points a game even.
He scored 39 in a game this year, and I remember there was a stretch when he hit a 3, a power dunk, a hook, a turn-around 16-footer from the baseline, and a reverse layup in transition. Versatility is his big thing. Thomas even has him bring the ball up the floor sometimes.
KF: In regards to being ready to contribute in college, how does he compare to Josh Fortune when he was at Kecoughtan? What skills does he have that will translate early?
DJ: I think Josh was probably a bit more prepared because of the position he plays. Josh is a natural 2-3. Coach Cooley told me last month he doesn’t like to define players by position, but he compared Rajay to Ryan Gomes, who as I recall was sort of a stretch 4. Gomes was around 240, but Rajay is probably closer to 210. That’s what he’ll need most, in my opinion, is some added weight. (I have some extra pounds I’d be happy to donate, but I digress).
KF: Rodney seemed to be a high-upside prospect earlier in his career. Were ACC schools pursuing him?
DJ: I know Virginia Tech and N.C. State offered him. I think Virginia was close, but I’m not sure whether it did.
KF: Can you talk some about how Kecoughtan is playing this year, and in particular how Rodney and his team fared when going up against the likes of Anthony Barber (Hampton) and Troy Williams (Phoebus)? How far can they go in the playoffs this year – farther than last season?
DJ: Thomas told me before the season this could be his best team yet at Kecoughtan, but given he lost Fortune and his starting point guard to transfer, I was skeptical.
But he was right, this is his best team. Rajay has been terrific, Greg Alexander (East Carolina) has gotten better, and they have a really good sophomore named Marcell Haskett emerging at PG. They took Hampton two out of three (the third time coming in a playoff game for the PD’s No. 1 seed). Last year’s team made the state semis. I don’t know the rest of the state as well, but this team is better than the one that went to the semis.
KF: You had a great feature on Rodney earlier this year. Can you talk about his personality off the court and demeanor on it? Has he been more assertive as a senior?
DJ: Rodney isn’t the greatest of interviews, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. He’s very low key, doesn’t like talking about himself, and has a really quiet demeanor. There’s really nothing flashy about him. Really, he’s pretty old school. On the court, he doesn’t show a lot of emotion except for an occasional grimace when a call goes the other way.
KF: We’ve talked about him in the past, but can you provide some background on Ivan Thomas and talk about the type of coaching Josh and Rodney got in high school?
DJ: You should ask Coach Cooley that question, too. He loves Ivan. Thomas does a really good job on the court and off. His kids are always pretty disciplined. On road trips, they have a dress code of letter sweaters and ties, I think it is. No baggy jeans and hoodies. I never see his kids gripe at the officials (Ivan, well, he’s another story!). Before last year, Kecoughtan hadn’t been to the state tournament since 1995.
KF: Just how good of a rebounder is Rodney? The sense among many in Providence is that he’s a bit of a tweener who plays along the lines current PC sophomore LaDontae Henton – a 6’6 forward who rebounds bigger than his height.
DJ: It’s always hard to say comparing levels, but he’s a very good rebounder in high school – about 10 rpg. He’s tall and has long arms and very good timing. How that translates to the Big East, or wherever Providences ends up, is hard to say. Obviously it will be a huge adjustment.
KF: Are there any key games Providence fans should keep an eye on in the next month?
DJ: Kecoughtan has clinched a spot in the regionals again, so really what happens this week in the district tournament is irrelevant. But it’s always good theater when the Warriors and Hampton play, and that would be Friday night.
KF: Lastly, I was wondering how closely everyone is following Josh down there and if Providence can go on a run with Josh and Rodney together if you think that could have an impact to the Friars’ recruiting efforts in the area in the future.
DJ: I’d be willing to bet more folks tune in to a game when they see Providence on ESPN. As I’m sure you know, Providence doesn’t get a lot of exposure down here, but certainly PD (Peninsula District) fans are interested in their former players. Once Bullock gets up there, it’ll be interesting to see if the interest picks up even more.
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I want to thank Dave for not only taking the time out today, but providing me with occasional updates whenever Rodney and Kecoughtan have a game of note. With tournament season coming up, his work will be well worth monitoring for Providence fans. You can read more of Dave here.