Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Angel Nunez hasn’t played a minute of AAU ball all summer, yet he still picked up a scholarship offer from UConn head coach Jim Calhoun on Wednesday.
“Calhoun said he’d seen me play twice and both times he had that same feeling he had when he saw Ray Allen and Rip [Hamilton] and them, like ‘This guy has a chance to do something good,'” Nunez, a Harlem native, said by phone.
A source close to the UConn program confirmed that Calhoun called Nunez earlier Wednesday and made the offer.
“They know enough about him,” said Eric Martinez, Nunez’s mentor. “They know so much about him.”
The 6-foot-8, 184-pound Nunez is a rising junior wing at the Winchendon (Mass.) School who recently transferred from Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx.
UConn has also offered Maurice Harkless, a 6-6 junior small forward from Forest Hills (N.Y.) High School.
Nunez previously held offers from Arkansas, Arizona, Louisville and Rutgers.
“I don’t have [any] favorites but every school that offered I’m considering,” Nunez said.
What’s unique about this offer is that Nunez hasn’t been in Las Vegas or Orlando on the circuit. He’s up at Winchendon taking two courses in math and English and getting academically ready to qualify.
“Instead of going around playing AAU basketball, we want to make sure his classes are in order so he’ll be cleared by the [NCAA] Clearinghouse,” Martinez said.
Nunez said when he first arrived at Winchendon, where he is rooming wtih Khem Birch, a 6-9, 175-pound forward, he felt homesick and wanted to return to New York.
“The first two weeks were crazy. I wanted to go home,” he said.
“My mom used to do my laundry and clean my room and now I’ve gotta do everything by myself.”
Transitioning from the busy life of New York to the solitude of a prep or other school is often tough. Other players from New York, including Kevin Parrom and Omari Lawrence (South Kent) and Doron Lamb (Oak Hill), have encountered similar issues.
“All we do up here is sleep, play basketball, lift weights and go to school, nothing else,” Nunez said.
“It is a huge change of scenery for him, but he is slowly making the adjustment,” Winchendon coach Mike Byrnes wrote by text.
In Byrnes, Nunez now has coach who is a tough-minded taskmaster known for getting kids ready for college.
“He’s tough,” Nunez said. “I know he’s tough. Everything he says, we do. Everytime we’re in the gym, everybody’s quiet.”
Nunez said he eventually realized why he needed to be at Winchendon.
“Once I started to think about it, I’m out here to get my grades up and to get better as a baskeball player and get stronger,” he said.
Nunez also has interest from a number of schools, including Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Wake Forest, Miami, UMass and Indiana.
Martinez previously said Arizona was in a good position, in part because of its location and in part because of assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson, a New York native.
“He likes a Arizona but right now the process is still early as far as committing to a school,” Martinez said. “He likes the school very much. The Hispanic community is good.”
Kentucky has an in, too.
Both Nunez and Martinez are Dominican and so is Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua.
“We’re all Dominican, Orlando, me and Angel,” Martinez said.
As for Louisville, Martinez also mentored former Louisville player Francisco Garcia, another Dominican.
“I was his mentor when he was growing up in the city,” Martinez said.
Nunez could grow to be 6-9 or 6-10 by his senior year, making him even more attractive to coaches.
“I hope I grow two or more inches,” Nunez said.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.