RECRUITMENT: Washington Supreme Basketball Helping Poquette With College Recruiting
By Matt Baide
Summer league basketball has risen in popularity throughout the years, and AAU teams give players a chance to continue to improve their skills even in the so-called “offseason.”
For Matt Poquette and Washington Supreme, this summer has been filled with a lot of traveling to play basketball against the best high school players in the country.
Washington Supreme is an Under Armour affiliated AAU team, one of 28 UA AAU teams in the country. The team started playing games in late April and concluded their UA schedule last week at the national tournament in Atlanta.
“I usually come off the bench and I’m asked to guard one of the two best players on the floor and get it done and do my best,” Poquette said. “Offensively, I score when I’m open but my job is not to force anything, and I just try to crash the glass as much as possible.”
Poquette has been playing on this team for two years, and it’s a big change from Central 2B League ball in a Morton-White Pass jersey.
“It’s a lot different from my high school team where I have the ball in my hands a lot and I’m asked to make plays for myself and other people,” Poquette said. “Coming to this team, I have a lot of different roles to play defense, rebound and be tough and things like that. I’ll do whatever it takes for the team.”
Poquette plays with some of the best high school players in the Northwest, including Timberline’s Erik Stevenson — a Wichita State commit — and Richland’s 7-foot-4 Riley Zorn.
“They definitely help me a lot, we’re always competitive and we always get after it, so the practice helps just as much as the games,” Poquette said. “Guys like that, players that are just freak athletes and going to whatever school they want to, things like that help a lot.”
Poquette gets to play, and guard, some of the best players in the country, including Cassius Stanley, the 16th ranked recruit in the class of 2019.
“It definitely helps a lot, going up against the best players in the country on the circuit, just traveling and playing all the top players and learning how to score against them and how to defend against them,” Poquette said. “Just playing against the athleticism, it helps a lot transferring over to the high school season. it’s just a completely different game.”
Washington Supreme coach Carl Howell put together this team. He saw Poquette play and thought he would fit right in.
“I thought he’d be a great role player, I thought he’d just come in and he was really physically tough and he was athletic. I just thought he would fill a role for us, filling in and giving great energy,” Howell said. “He’s just a great teammate. I was a college coach for 20 years, and (Poquette) is one of my all-time favorite guys to coach. Great team guy, great attitude, he’s a pleasure to have.”
Howell is a native of Morton, and has helped Poquette continue to perfect his game during his two years on the team.
“He’s an energy guy for us, he plays great defense, rebounds very well and finishes around the basket,” Howell said. “His perimeter shot has developed to where he’s knocking down 3s. I think that’s the one thing for him at the next level to be able to stretch out the defense and be able to make 3s. That’s not the focus of his game, but he’s so aggressive in all the other parts of his game, he needs to continue to knock 3s down.”
Howell has been a college coach at Tacoma Community College and Eastern Washington University, but he still comes back to his roots in Morton.
“I went and watched him play in a football game last couple years, I went to one of his regular season games last year and watched him play in summer league last year in Tumwater,” Howells said. “I still got some friends that I went to school with down in that area, so I’m still fairly in touch with that. I’m still tied into Lewis County.”
Washington Supreme just wrapped up the UAA National Tournament in Atlanta, but was unable to win any of its four games. But Howell said it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“I don’t think we played badly, I thought our effort was outstanding. I just think with the kind of team we have, everybody has to be on their game to beat those kind of teams,” Howell said. “We have a couple guys on, a guy or two off, got into a little foul trouble. I was not disappointed with our effort at all.”
The team faced the Florida Vipers, the No. 2 team, and fell 65-56, with Poquette grabbing four rebounds in 7 minutes of action. The team had to face Team Rio out of New Jersey next, a team with two top-10 players, and fell on a last second 3-pointer, 85-84. Poquette had five points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.
The team played their final game against the top team in the country in Team Breakdown, and fell 72-59.
“Personally, I think I played pretty good, played good defense and rebounded well, which is my role on the team,” Poquette said. “I think I brought a lot of energy, just wish that we could have got a couple wins out of it.”
The team has one more tournament, July 26-30 in Las Vegas, to wrap up their season, and Poquette is going to enjoy one last tournament with his teammates.
“It’s honestly, probably the best experience I’ve ever had just playing the game that I love with all,” Poquette said. “I’ve grown really close with all my teammates and just traveling the country, get to see different places, it’s great. I love it. I’m going to miss it a lot, I love traveling the country, hanging out with everyone, just being on the big stage. The atmosphere is just crazy, when you see all the college coaches come down from the stands, it’s something that you’ll never forget.”
But those college coaches are a big reason why the AAU basketball has become so popular. With the difficulty of recruiting during the high school season, most coaches will do a majority of their recruiting in the summer watching AAU teams.
“It’s kind of changed from years ago where they get all of their notice now. The way the recruiting rules are and stuff, it’s hard for coaches based on rules to get out and watch one kid at one high school event like it used to be,” Howell said. “You used to be able to watch a kid all you could. Now what they do, they use this to identify kids and then they’ll come in, the schools that are really serious, they’ll come in and see the kid with his high school.”
All of the players on Washington Supreme have at least a Division II scholarship offer, and Poquette is trying to get some attention of Division I coaches.
“If he’s 2 or 3 inches taller, he’s a sure-fire Division I guy. He’s caught a little bit in that tweener position with his size for Division I schools,” Howell said. “We’ve had some smaller Division I schools call on him and they’ve watched him so he may get something Division I at the end, but it’s safe to say his parents won’t have to pay for school with a Division II scholarship.”
Poquette has enjoyed the Under Armour circuit and the recruiting process. Big names pop up in the stands at tournaments — Cam Newton, Raymond Felton, Josh Jackson and Lamar Odom, to name a few — as well as big-name coaches.
“My recruitment has definitely picked up and I think it’s because playing with this team,” he said. “I’m starting to get known a little bit more, it’s been a good process.”
That’s what it’s all about, Howell said.
“We want to win and we want to play the right way, but at the end of the day, what we really want is every kid to have a scholarship,” Howell said. “That’s the one thing I can say, if we ended right now and didn’t play the rest of the summer, every kid on our team has a full scholarship, so that’s a good deal.”
Poquette will be entering his final year of high school and last season of prep basketball.
After MWP’s finish in last year’s district tournament and Poquette unable to play due to injury at the end of the regular season games, he’s itching to get back on the court for the Timberwolves.
“I’m really excited for the high school season, my teammates and I, we’ve all been in the gym a lot, getting better,” Poquette said. “Last year, we kind of made an early exit we’re looking to bounce back and hopefully we make it back to state and hopefully we go out on top. We’re just taking it one step at a time and trying to get better each and every day.”
And Howell believes that Poquette will be even more of a monster on the court than he already was last year on the prep basketball scene.
“The level of competition they play against, they’re not going to see anybody like that in high school around here,” Howell said. “I think it really prepares them for that from that standpoint. I went and watched a high school game with him playing last year and he is just a monster.”