June 30, 2013

Meet Marquese Chriss

Kevin McCarthy

Sacramento isn't going away. The current basketball hotbed continues to churn out high level prospects and 6-foot-8 Marquese Chriss of Pleasant Grove High, make that state champion Pleasant Grove High, and the Norcal Wildcats Elite, is the latest.

photo of Marquese Chriss

But before detailing his on-the-court virtues, it's important to note that this is a young man who is polite, speaks well and has not allowed himself to be distorted by the praise that is already coming his way.

Here's Wildcats Elite Assistant Coach Philippe Doherty about Chriss the individual: “Marquese is a great kid who is very coachable, dedicated, intelligent and has some fire and competitiveness to him. He has a very high ceiling because he is only 15 and wants to be great. He has an outstanding support group with his parents, high school coach, and our staff so there is no reason for him not to reach his goals.”

When asked what he views as his best basketball skills, Chriss modestly answered “my coaches tell me that I'm real athletic, I have good timing on my shotblocking and I'm a good rebounder.”

Conversely, the areas he is focusing on the most to improve “are my dribbling and my shooting.”

When some are only willing to details their superlatives, his grounding and directness is a breath of fresh air.

Doherty's take is “Marquese is extremely long and athletic wing who can be one of the better wings in the country if he continues to focus and work. He can block shots, finish in transition, is a great rebounder, an unselfish passer, and he can shoot out to 20 fee”

He added, “As soon as Marquese joined the Norcal Wildcats Elite, we explained to him that we will be developing his overall game, especially from the wing position, because in the future, that is where he will play. He has played in the post a lot during his high school career and over the past three months we have played him facing the basket. He has adjusted very well and had a great spring. Marquese has been dedicated at getting better at shooting and handling the ball. He will breakout this summer.”

Wildcats Elite Head Coach George Sousa offered, “Marquese plays the three and four for us, facing the basket because he'll be a three man in college. That's different from high school and a huge adjustment but he has a huge upside. He looks you in the eye when he is listening and then tries to do what he is being taught. Already he's a great shotblocker and dunker and he also has a nice shot and can handle the ball. Marquese really only started playing in the eighth grade.”

Consider that last line vis-a-vis the progress Chriss has already demonstrated.

The 2015 prospect already sees himself evolving in his basketball mindset -- “Before, I would be laid back but I don't like losing and I've gained a lot of competitiveness.”

As for his preeminent basketball influences, Chriss expanded that query to a broader, “My mom and my grandpa push me to work hard at whatever I do.”

Chriss' mother, Shawntae Wright, did her research before giving the go-ahead for her son to join the Wildcats Elite.

“I liked the organization and the structure as well as the character of the men [the Wildcats braintrust]. The training and rigor of the program is impressive. They've sent us information about nutrition and how rest is important. What a dream it is for Marquese to have a chance to go to college and play basketball.”

She added, “We appreciate the recruiting that is going on now because this allows us time to get to know them. We want Marquese to be in a good environment when he leaves home.”

In looking towards the future, Doherty offered, “Marquese has a chance to be one the better players to come out of Sacramento recently and one of the better players on the West Coast for 2015. He can make an impact immediately in college if he focuses on eating correctly, resting, shooting, developing a great handle and improved weight room work. The sky is the limit with this humble and hard working kid.”

With recruiting despite his entering his junior season in the fall, Chriss is hearing from a number of prominent schools and, at this point, he said, “I'm open to the best opportunity.” He is looking at majoring in engineering.

There's a bifurcation of sorts in his roundball roles between AAU and high school participation. In the latter, it's “I need to be much more of a leader and be a facilitator” as a trio of Pleasant Groves seniors, the top three scorers -- Malik Thames, Matt Hayes and Cole Nordquist -- are graduating. As for the former, “We have so many good players so we all try to play together as a whole team.’”

That's certainly what also took place with Pleasant Grove this season as the unheralded Eagles took down Piedmont Hills 60-36, then De La Salle 68-51. A 73-60 victory over Deer Valley resulted in a state championship matchup with Santa Monica and Coach John DePonte's group nabbed the top spot with a season-concluding 73-57 win.