C.J. Leslie sat quietly as Word of God coach Erasto Hatchett launched into a tirade in front of the media.
Hatchett had just watched his highly gifted team pushed to the limit in a 75-71 win over a modestly talented but cohesive Apex team in the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational.
Leslie, the senior forward from Holly Springs who's ranked No. 12 in the nation by scout.com, had scored 31 points. But Word of God's performance hasn't come close to matching the sum of its talented parts this season, and the Apex game pushed first-year coach Hatchett over the edge.
He said the constant media attention sets a tone for players to carry themselves in a manner that's unacceptable. He said he has the most talented team in the country but charged that his players feel like they should be given things and have things come easily because of their skills.
Hatchett chastised the four players he'd brought to the interview room with him, beginning with Leslie.
"Hiding the truth is not something I'm good at doing, by no means," Hatchett said. "C.J. Leslie is the most talented high school basketball player in the entire country. C.J. Leslie can also self destruct."
During the news conference, Leslie was asked how it felt to have his coach give such a scathing assessment. He mumbled a "no comment."
Afterward, he was asked if he would be able to pick himself up and get the team moving in the right direction.
"I'm not going to give up on my team, for sure," Leslie said.
Hatchett isn't exaggerating when he talks about Leslie's skills. He is 6 feet 9 and strong enough to play power forward in college. He is quick enough to guard wings.
In the final minutes of the tight game with Apex, he got to the foul line, made four of six free throws and hustled across the baseline to swat away a 3-point attempt that would have tied the score.
"I can do a little bit of everything," Leslie said. "I've got to notice wherever my team needs me and play that, whether it's been outside and taking my man in, or whether it's been inside, posting up, or blocking shots on the other end"
Leslie was named the most outstanding player of his bracket at the Glaxo, but his team lost 71-59 to United Faith of Charlotte in the championship game. He promised reporters that he would narrow his list of college choices soon - he once was committed to N.C. State and still is considering the Wolfpack but also has visited Kentucky.
Meanwhile, his coach is trying to get his players to perform as a team before they get to college.
"This basketball is going to stop bouncing at some point in time," Hatchett said. "And if we don't find a way to reach these kids, we're all accountable. We're all accountable."