Not all that long ago, Voyager Academy boys basketball coach Mike Huff believed that the likely basketball path his son Jay would take was one that would lead him to a mid-level Division I college program.
And then things changed last fall.
“All of the sudden last October, we’re getting calls from Virginia, Notre Dame, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson and all these kinds of schools,” Mike Huff said. “And I’m thinking ‘Wow, this is crazy.’
“To not only get it out of the way, but to go to a program like Virginia, where the fit for him with the coaching staff and the connection is very good, I think it’s unbelievable.”
The 6-foot-11 center made his verbal commitment to the Cavaliers back in May. Jay Huff had started to garner attention from big-time Division I schools after an appearance a year earlier at a Phenom Hoops event in Greensboro, and the attention continued to build as he proceeded through his junior season at Durham’s Voyager Academy.
Through it all, the process did not change Huff the person one bit, even though his fortunes were about to significantly.
“It never struck me as a burden, honestly, it was kind of fun,” Jay Huff said. “The whole recruiting process, it’s interesting. During games where coaches were coming to watch, it never changed the way I played, but it certainly gave it a little added excitement.
“Now I get to have my team not worry about it, and let them (concentrate) on their future scholarship opportunities.”
This season, Huff is averaging 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game for Voyager Academy, strong numbers produced despite sitting out the fourth quarter of most games as the Vikings have rolled to a 12-1 start.
That start included an 81-65 victory over Apex on Saturday in the David West bracket first-round game at the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational. In that one, Huff had 18 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks and helped limit George Mason-bound forward Ian Boyd to 5 of 21 shooting.
Voyager will meet Ravenscroft – the only team to beat the Vikings thus far this year – in a semifinal game 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Watching Huff play, you see the tools that had Division I coaches salivating.
There are the ball-handling skills of a guard, the impressive shooting range from long-distance as well as from inside, all while moving around on the court absent the awkwardness many his height endure.
Huff understands he is still a work in progress. In particular physically, as Huff knows he will have to bulk up to handle the rigors of Division I basketball.
“I’ve put on 15 pounds since the end of last season, and I’m looking to put on more,” said Huff, who weighs 195 pounds. “There’s no definite goal where I need to get to weightwise, 210, 215 would be good.”
In the meantime, Huff and his Voyager Academy teammates will concentrate on matching, if not surpassing, last season’s 29-3 campaign that culminated with an appearance in the NCHSAA 1A Eastern regional final.
It’s a quest that is bittersweet in some ways for the elder Huff.
“There’s part of me, I don’t want to let him go and I try to enjoy every minute we have together,” Mike Huff said. “Then there’s the other part of me that sees what he has in front of him, and knows how much he is going to grow there and develop, and that part of me is ready to send him off, because he has such a tremendous opportunity.”