By Joe Henricksen
The Hoops Report took in the St. Joseph-De La Salle game this past winter and came away thinking, "OK, that Patty kid has a chance, but he has a loooong way to go."
Yes, A.J. Patty, the 6-8 junior from St. Joseph still has some ground to make up. But the strides Patty has made in just six months shows that wide gap between the labels "raw project" and "Division I player" has certainly closed. Patty is a no-brainer Division I prospect with a whole bunch of upside.
"He's come a long way," says Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins, who added Patty to his club program just this year.
North Dakota has offered Patty, while a surplus of others, ranging from low-Division I to high-major programs, have been intrigued by his size, upside and improvement Patty has shown.
Legendary St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore watched Patty stumble at times as a sophomore playing a competitive varsity schedule this past season. However, the struggles were no fault of his own. He was thrown to the fire with a young group of players at St. Joe's.
"He was young," says Pingatore of Patty's varsity season. "When it comes to A.J., a lot of it is just maturation and experience. A lot of that will come with age. And a lot of it [weight and strength] we may not see until he gets to college and playing at the next level. The key for him now is just being consistent, consistent in everything he does."
Patty's length, ability to run the floor and a surprisingly high skill level for a player his size and age instantly generates interest from basketball people. He has very "live" legs and good feet. Plus, doesn't have a superstar attitude. He has gained a workman's approach that is refreshing.
As you would expect from any young player, especially a young big man, Patty looks like a different player than six months ago. Patty is arguably the most improved player in the Class of 2013. He's still extremely slender and lacks ideal strength, but added aggressiveness and confidence has helped him take a big step forward. That aggressiveness and confidence has led to a considerable amount of productivity.
Patty has felt a difference this June with his high school team and this July with the Illinois Wolves. The long, slender and active Patty says he's "more self-motivated." He believes that's been the difference for him as a player the last six months and going forward.
"I think the biggest difference is my motivation and I'm working harder," says Patty. "My work ethic is different. I would go hard in spurts, but I have realized that working hard means doing it consistently. I want to get better. But I am definitely more confident than I was in January and February."
With the rapid improvement of Patty, the fortunes for St. Joseph this season have been enhanced. With highly-regarded sophomore Paul Turner returning, the Chargers should be a bigger factor in their second season in the Chicago Catholic League. Senior guards Reggie Johnson and Avery Harmon will be a key in helping a still young, but talented group, which includes up-and-coming sophomore Karriem Simmons.