Pittsburgh Sports Now recently spoke with Fairfax (VA) Paul VI guard Aaron Thompson. He provided an overview of his senior year and future with the Pitt basketball program. We recently caught up with another class of 2017 addition, Phoenix (AZ) Hillcrest Prep wing Shamiel Stevenson (6-foot-6 inches, 230 pounds). Stevenson, originally from Canada, has a well-muscled frame that appears ready for the rigors of an ACC schedule. North Pole Hoops publishes their yearly preseason top 25 national player rankings. Stevenson was ranked 10th on their 2017 list. His team, Hillcrest Prep, was amongst the best teams in the nation and featured No. 1 ranked DeAndre Ayton (Arizona signee) among other high-major talent.
Give Pitt fans a recap of last season. How did Hillcrest Prep do and how do you feel you performed on the court?
My final record, I can’t really remember to be honest with you exactly what it was. I think we had eight losses, nine losses last year. It was definitely, I think, 28 or 29. 28, 29 and 8, if I remember correctly. I think, this season I played well, I mean our team was really kind of stacked, so there was a lot of sharing of the ball and a lot of people, cause you know other teams. You know you’re the guy and you can do your own thing, but our team is really talented guys have to basically sacrifice that. So this season I played well, I played well for that. I did my part really well. I think the season went well.
You were in a unique situation, Hillcrest Prep had a loaded roster. Do you think playing with and against so many high major players improved your game?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it helped me get better because we were all so competitive. You always want to be around the best and play the best, and that’s what we did, so it helped a lot.
If you had to assess your performance, what did you improve on throughout the year? How has your game improved?
I feel I improved on my leadership role, being a leader on whichever team. I improved on my overall understanding of the game. I think I found myself be more of a guard like in terms of pick and rolls or finding others and stuff. Also, I improved by becoming a smarter scorer, again playing with higher level players, you got to find more ways to better your craft. I improved in all those aspects.
You played a number of positions for Hillcrest Prep. Do you think the position versatility helped your game?
Yeah, I played primarily the wing. There were times when DeAndre (Ayton) was out and we would have to play a smaller lineup. I would play the four (power forward) when he was out. There were times when I played the one (point guard) and I had to bring the ball up the floor. Playing all of them helped me.
What are your thoughts on next year, your first season as a Pitt Panther?
Next year, I’m looking to come in and make an immediate impact. I mean, all the stuff we talked, whether I’m starting or coming off the bench. As a freshman, I’m looking to really put my name out there and show everyone what I can do. I want to get Pitt back on the map. I want to make my case for the NBA as well.
What have the Pitt coaches conveyed to you about next season?
We speak often, but they haven’t said anything specific yet. They just expect me to come in and be one of the main guys. They want me to be a ‘go to guy’, one who plays hard and is a leader, you know, someone who they can really trust on the court and off.
What are you currently doing to keep yourself in shape? Are you working with a strength and conditioning coach?
Right now I’m working out every day. My schedule right now, work out from Tuesday till Saturday. Sunday and Monday off. Some days I work out twice a day. I really have to work on my game, my skills, like fine tuning them. Whether it’s my jumper or making my handle tighter. I’m really trying to mold my game. I’m trying to make myself into a future all-conference player. I’m working really hard right now, that’s what I’m doing.
When you look at programs like the University of Oregon, a great amount of their current success is directly link to their Canadian pipeline of basketball players. It’s no secret that Pitt may be attempting to do the same. Do you feel that you and fellow Canadian Marcus Carr will carry the Canadian torch and recruit for Pitt? Do you want to assist in opening up a Canadian pipeline to Pittsburgh?
Yeah, definitely, it kind of makes a circle. All of us really good hoopers, we all know each other. I know guys like Ignus (Brazdeikis) and Simi (Shittu) on a personal level. I’ve already talked with them about Pitt. Any recruits in general, I’ll be selling Pitt. I even reached out to Mbacke (Diong) before he committed to UNLV. Any recruits looking at our program, especially Canadians, I will try to get to them to Pitt.