Ed Bright is the president and general manager of Sports University, a New Jersey AAU basketball program that produces players such as Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and many others at top NCAA Division I schools.
Wichita State made its first entry into Sports University’s talent pool when it secured a non-binding commitment from Markis McDuffie, a 6-foot-8 forward who plays at St. Anthony High in New Jersey. McDuffie holds a special spot in the mind of Bright, who founded the program in 2005.
“I've never had a player that is as coachable and is excited about being coached as Markis McDuffie,” Bright said. “His upside is unbelievable.”
McDuffie works the drills given by coaches, Bright said. He looks them in the eye and takes instruction. Then he executes the instructions.
Bright will go on about McDuffie, a senior at St. Anthony. He thinks he is an NBA talent, perhaps even a lottery pick. Is is fair to put that label on a 17-year-old? McDuffie doesn’t need to make the NBA to be a Shocker success story, but Bright is willing to set that marker to start.
Bright, given a chance to soften his high expectations, voices no reservations.
“None whatsoever,” he said. “Markis McDuffie is special. If his trajectory stays true, he is an NBA pro.”
Part of Bright’s confidence comes from McDuffie’s background. He benefits, Bright said, from the critical ingredients of a supportive family and an admirable home life. He is a 3.0 GPA student. His parents push academics. His parents, Derek and Sandra, are involved and provide a strong example. Derek McDuffie drives vans, checks curfew and washes uniforms. Markis’ older sister Sierra plays basketball at NCAA Division II Felician (N.J.) College and he has a twin sister named Mone.
Sports University, Bright said, wants to be more than a basketball program for its players. It requires them to take etiquette classes and instructs them on skills such as how to dress, how to shake hands and how to communicate responsibly on Facebook and Twitter.
“Derek has been the most helpful parent we’ve ever had in our program,” Bright said. “Sandra is a real mom. She wants him to get a degree. All of her children have made a promise that they will get a degree.”
Then, of course, there are Markis McDuffie’s basketball skills. Bright describes him as a wing player who can score from the perimeter and slithers to the hoop to score on acrobatic moves. McDuffie is 168 pounds, so gaining weight and strength is an obvious area for improvement.
“He’s crafty around the basket,” Bright said. “Great leaping ability. He can get his shot off from anywhere. He can handle the ball. He sees the floor.”
Defense? All you need to know is that he plays for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony.
“If you don’t play defense, you don’t play for Bob Hurley,” Bright said.