The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

For D.C. area’s top hoops prospect, start of recruiting included Duke, Kentucky and Team USA

Jeremy Roach is one of the most sought-after high school players in the Class of 2020. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Jeremy Roach sat in his parents’ Leesburg home at 11:45 p.m. last Thursday, his 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame splayed out on the family’s brown sectional couch, phone glued to his left hand, as ESPN highlights flashed across the television screen.

Hours later, Roach would be at Dulles International Airport with his dad, Joe, to catch a flight to Denver. The two would then travel to Colorado Springs, the home of USA Basketball, where the highly touted 16-year-old from Paul VI High would try out for the under-17 national team.

But first he had some packing to do and Fortnite to play and a late-night meal of pasta and pink lemonade — and most importantly, he needed to keep an eye on his phone. Once the clock turned to midnight, his college recruitment officially would be underway, and the texts and phone calls from coaches would begin to come in.

“This process is all new to us,” said Carole Roach, Jeremy’s mother. “We had heard about it with other kids, but now for it to be happening with our kid. . . . [To us, he’s] just Jeremy.”

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Since an NCAA rule change in 2012, college coaches and recruiters have been allowed to have unlimited contact with soon-to-be high school juniors starting at midnight on June 15 of each year. Roach, a point guard in the Class of 2020, is the highest-rated basketball recruit in the D.C. area (and No. 13 nationally), according to the 247Sports recruiting website. He holds scholarship offers from Villanova, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Miami and Texas, and he has received interest from a number of other blue-blood programs.

“This is all real big,” Roach said. “I mean, it is kind of shocking to know that I’m one of those guys who could play for the top schools.”

For Roach, his first weekend of nonstop contact from coaches coincided with one of his busiest weeks. Headed into Friday, he knew that if he made the USA Basketball team he would travel to Argentina the next week to play in the FIBA Under-17 World Cup. He was part of the 2017 U16 national team that won its fifth consecutive FIBA Americas gold medal last year.

“He doesn’t really get fazed by anything,” Joe Roach said. “He just wants to play.”

Roach didn’t receive any calls or texts at midnight, but he heard from his first blue-chip suitor early Friday morning. Jay Wright, coach of national champion Villanova, called a little after 6:30 a.m., before Roach boarded his flight to Denver. Wright, who has two D.C.-area players (Saddiq Bey of Sidwell Friends and Brandon Slater, Roach’s teammate at Paul VI) in his 2018 recruiting class and another (DeMatha’s Justin Moore) committed for 2019, stressed to Roach that he was an important part of Villanova’s recruiting vision for 2020.

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A barrage of texts and calls ensued after Roach got on his 8:30 a.m. flight. As Roach landed in Denver, an assistant from Maryland called. Then Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey. Then assistants from Virginia and Virginia Tech.

And in the middle of it all, he heard from the all-time wins leader in Division I college basketball history: Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The coach told Roach he was a high priority for the Blue Devils’ 2020 class and that they would be watching him at the influential Nike-sponsored Peach Jam AAU event in July. The Blue Devils haven’t yet extended him a scholarship offer, but they were adamant in getting Roach to Durham, N.C., soon for an unofficial visit.

Roach’s dad also heard from Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus, who asked permission to contact Roach later in the day. He, too, said Roach is a top priority for the Wildcats.

As the day turned into the late afternoon, Roach soon had to put his phone away ahead of the first of many tryout sessions for USA Basketball (the following Thursday morning, he found out he made the team). His high school coach, Glenn Farello, had suggested he turn off his phone the minute he got to Colorado Springs. His dad wanted him to do the same. But Roach said he knew he could balance both, with most of his focus and energy dedicated to making the team. 

And after the initial flurry, Pittsburgh, a relatively new team in Roach’s recruitment process under Coach Jeff Capel, was the one team to buzz Roach’s phone after the first session at USA Basketball. By Sunday, silence had again taken over.  

“It’s quiet,” he said Monday. “I guess for now.”

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