Jalen Lecque: The Prep School Odyssey

Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Jon Lopez/Nike

By David Cordova

The advent of the prep school scene has risen over the past two decades. As far back as the 1980’s and 1990’s, going to prep school was only for those who struggled as far as grades or needed another opportunity to attain a high SAT score in order to qualify for a Division I scholarship.

In the present day, there are prep schools popping up everywhere in different parts of the country. Some are academically-elite institutions that cost the same as college tuition, and then there are the schools that are unaccredited and are nothing more than basketball factories.

But one thing is for certain. The prep schools have outlasted traditional high school programs as destinations for the best prospects in America. Gone are the days when most players stay home to be the man at their local high school. For many of these youths, the prep school scene is a chance to gain plenty of national exposure, improve their game and get their grades right.

Lecque tries to get past his defender. (Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography)

One talented player who has transcended his game after moving on to the prep school scene is Jalen Lecque. In the last couple of years, he has showcased his highlights through various mixtapes and can be seen dunking on opponents and just showing off his athleticism. Currently, the 6-foot-4 guard from The Bronx who now lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, is rated at No. 23 nationally in the Class of 2019 by ESPN.

He, too, was a city kid who made his move to the prep school route. Just two years ago, he was a junior at Monsignor Scanlan High School in The Bronx, doing the same things he is doing currently. But at the time, he was beginning to gain recognition for his prowess at the rim.

That spring, he made some noise on the Nike EYBL circuit with Southern Stampede, and blew up on the national stage. From there, he and his family made a decision. He wound up leaving the tri-state area to go to the Christ School, a private Episcopal boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina. Since 2005, the program has sent more than 20 players to Division I programs and also has three players who have played or currently played in the NBA: Miles Plumlee (Atlanta Hawks), Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets) and Marshall Plumlee (Wisconsin Herd).

When asked why he decided to head to the school in the Blue Ridge Mountains, he replied, “This decision of going to prep school was just [to play against] the best competition. I’m playing against guys that guys that play really hard and go at it and are just having fun.”

Did the prep school experience help him out? “Definitely, because I was a little immature back in the day and now, I’m just being more mature, staying serious and focusing on my goals,” said Lecque.

Last season, Lecque led the Greenies to a 23-13 record and a second-round appearance in the NCISAA playoffs while averaging 20.1 points, 9.3 assists and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Lecque makes a move to the basket. (Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography)

When asked about that experience on & off the court, he replied, “Christ School was a great place to play and just be a man. Like, they teach you a lot about being a man and, like stuff off the court, and stuff to help people like community service. It taught me a lot and I love Christ School, I still love the guys over there. They’re my brothers.”

Overnight, he went from an unknown to a sensation on social media, as his dunks are constantly shown by many mixtape outlets throughout the nation. But although he’s getting notoriety now, he doesn’t let that faze him or distract him from the goals that he is trying to accomplish. “I mean, I don’t really, I just talk to my friends. I don’t really have a lot of friends, I keep my circle tight, and I just talk to people I like. I talk to people I like, and when I’m not playing basketball, I don’t think about basketball. I work out and get it out the way, then I just focus on having fun and playing with my friends and playing with my brother and enjoying [time] with my family,” he said.

Another thing about Lecque that makes him interesting is that he is often compared to NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook, due to the fact that both are athletic guards that bring excitement to the game whenever they get on the court. Because his play is somewhat similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder star, Lecque has earned the nickname, “Baby Westbrook.”

When asked about the comparison to Westbrook, he added, “I mean, it’s a great thing to be compared to an All-Star & an MVP, but you know, I’m my own player. But I think that, if I had the opportunity, that I could be as good or better than him.”

Over the summer, he once again played on the Nike EYBL circuit, this time with the New York Rens, with whom he averaged 14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while leading them to the Peach Jam.

“AAU was a big thing in my life, I love AAU. I’m just gonna miss it a lot because AAU is where people get their names up, that’s where I got my name at, and I’ll always appreciate it,” he said.

This year, he’s playing his final year, a postgraduate year, at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. The Bobcats, who are coached by Jason Smith and have a track record of sending players to Division I schools and alums that eventually have gone on to the NBA, have played in a lot of big-time venues, such as a trip to the Bahamas, the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Connecticut in November and most recently, the John Wall Holiday Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lecque goes up for a two-handed dunk at the rim. (Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photograpby)

When asked about going to Brewster, he replied, “I was being recruited by Terrence Clarke and Joel Brown and Jason [Smith] recruited me very heavy and he loved me, and he told me that if I wanted to be a pro, to come there, and I want to be a pro and a solid player on the college level.”

On October 2nd, after a long recruitment, Lecque decided to commit to North Carolina State. When asked what the Wolfpack fans can expect this season, he added, “They can expect, just playing hard, scoring, getting everybody involved and just being the best I can be as a [member] of the Wolfpack.”

Although he is now a fifth-year senior and a year removed from his original graduating class, Lecque is eligible for the upcoming NBA Draft in June. Because of the media speculation on his future, he maintains that he has no plans to turn pro this year and has made it clear that he intends to play college basketball in Raleigh, North Carolina next season, when he signed his national letter of intent on November 21st.

Next season, NC State head coach Kevin Keatts will not only be getting a thoroughbred of a player, but also a young man with a vibrant personality and someone who has a great endearing quality. The Wolfpack fans can also expect someone who is likable and a hard-working player.

Lecque stands next to the New York City crowd. (Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography)

On December 9th, Lecque and the Bobcats made an appearance in Brooklyn, New York in the inaugural Battle in the Apple Classic in the Barclays Center. against St. Thomas More, a rival program from the New England Prep Schools Athletic Conference (NEPSAC). Although he scored 11 points in his homecoming, he gave the crowd what they had been missing, a couple of dunks that made the crowd go crazy. After the game, he signed autographs and posed for pictures for plenty of youths in the crowd.

Just to think, a couple of years ago, Jalen Lecque was a youth that was trying to make a name for himself on the basketball circuit. Today, he’s a sure fire Division I prospect that will be tearing up the competition in the ACC next season, and after that, will probably be competing against the person that he has often been compared to in the NBA in a couple of years.

Who knows, without him stepping foot at the Christ School or Brewster Academy, would all this have been possible? Maybe or maybe not. But what is sure is this. He is destined for great things in the future.

Highlights of Jalen Lecque:

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of SLAM.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.

Courtesy of SLAM.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

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