High School Basketball

Louisville native D'Angelo Russell on Cats' radar

DeAngelo Russell
DeAngelo Russell

WHEELING, W.Va. — Montverde Academy basketball coach Kevin Boyle isn't one to mince words. He was born, raised and educated in New Jersey, and he spent more than 20 years coaching there before taking the top job last season at Montverde, a boarding school just outside of Orlando, Fla.

Louisville native D'Angelo Russell transferred to Montverde at the same time, and he got a taste of Boyle's brashness as soon as arrived on campus.

"He told me from the start that I'm smooth," Russell said. "But he don't like smooth guys."

Boyle remembers it the same way.

"I told him when he first came in — I thought he was too nonchalant, too smooth. He's a smooth player. And I'm not a smooth person," the coach said in his thick Jersey accent, pronouncing "smooth" as if it were a curse word.

"I like guys who are diving on the floor and in your face and getting through screens and intense," he continued. "And I think some of that is rubbing off on him."

Russell knows that if he doesn't heed his coach's words, he'll be out of a job.

And he's not going to let that happen.

The junior shooting guard left Louisville Central after his freshman season to attend Montverde. He was already a highly touted basketball prospect, but his father said at the time that he wanted his son to have a more focused academic experience in high school.

Off the court, Boyle said Russell has been a model student. On the court, no one draws the coach's ire more.

"I think he's tougher on D'Angelo because he knows what D'Angelo can do, especially on the defensive end," said Montverde point guard Kasey Hill, who will play at Florida next season.

"If you're not playing hard, he'll go to another level."

Russell doesn't mind the extra attention. He said he likes "high energy" coaches, and few bring more energy to the sidelines than Boyle, who's constantly moving and screaming instructions to his players during games.

"If we're playing against a middle school team, Coach Boyle is going to act like we're playing against the Miami Heat," Russell said. "He treats it like every game is a big-time game. That's what I respect the most about him.

"His personality never changes. He's always high, intense. If you watch him before a game, he's picking up trash. He can't stop moving."

Russell said learning from a coach with that style should serve him well in college, and plenty of schools have already expressed interest.

He ran off a list that included Louisville, Ohio State, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgetown, Arizona and Florida. Several of those schools have already offered scholarships, including Louisville.

Russell said he has a "great relationship" with Cardinals assistant Kevin Keatts and talks to Rick Pitino "every once in a while."

One school he hasn't had much contact with is Kentucky.

John Calipari and Orlando Antigua watched Russell play Saturday, but they were also there to see his teammate, Dakari Johnson, who committed to the Cats later that night.

UK has offered scholarships to eight juniors, but Russell — considered one of the top two shooting guards in the class — isn't one of them.

He's not taking it personally.

"I heard they pay attention a little later (than other schools), so I'm not surprised," he said. "I feel like I still have to prove myself to any coach. I don't want anything handed to me."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader