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Malik Zachery is a young player we haven’t been shy about praising in the past. The other day, I reached out to Malik about talking to us to get an update on how his season is going, and what’s going on with his recruitment. Obviously, since Malik is still a sophomore recruiting has taken a bit of a backseat since coaches aren’t allowed to start really pursuing him until this summer, but as expected he’s been hearing from a variety of schools while leading his Nottingham squad to a hell of a strong start.

Before I dive into the Q&A portion, let me take a moment to mention something I found interesting in my exchanges with Malik. I mentioned offhanded that my all-time favorite Syracuse player is another local legend, Lazarus Sims. Lo and behold, Malik’s dad and Lazarus are such good friends that he’s known as “Uncle Z.” On top of that, Malik is trained by Billy Edelin, the former SU point guard who helped bring home the 2003 championship.

I’m just going to throw this out there: if you’re a rising point guard prospect, you could do a lot worse for mentors than two of the best passing point guards in Syracuse University history.

But enough from me, let’s hear from Malik himself…

Some people may not have seen you play yet. How would you describe your game? What’s your strongest asset?

MZ: I like to describe my game as being very smooth and deceptive. A lot of people also say that I’m crafty. I consider myself as a play-making point guard that will do what ever it takes to compete and win games. A lot of people also say that I’m very calm, or they use the word poised and under control with a high IQ. They also say that I never get sped up. I like to think that my game changes depending on the situation. If my team needs me to set others up I will. If they need me to score I will try to score, or if they need me to get stops I will try to get stops or create turnovers. People say that I’m pretty long so I just try to play the passing lanes and get steals. I believe that my strongest asset is the ability to control the pace of the game and make smart plays.

Building on that, obviously every player has strengths and weaknesses. What’s one area that you’re working hardest at to improve as you move forward?

MZ: The area that I’m working the hardest to improve on is just becoming more athletic. I’m already getting over the rim and I can dunk, but I want to work on becoming a freakish athlete. I think that will be my next progression.

The “real” recruiting stuff won’t start for you until the summer since coaches aren’t permitted to go wild yet, but obviously you’ve been hearing from schools. So, which schools are you hearing from the most?

MZ: I have heard from some schools and have been fortunate enough to have some interest at an early age. So far my dad talked with a George Washington and High Point University assistant coach within recent months. A Marist and Colgate assistant coach were at the second Corcoran game. I have also had some form of interest such as getting mail, or getting invited to camps from some schools as well. My coach also told me he spoke with some schools.

I had a really good interest from Boston College, and my dad spoke with the assistant coach a lot. I was supposed to go on a visit but they ended up changing the coaching staff. My coach also told me he spoke with an Ohio State assistant coach a while ago. I received mail from Kansas. Middle Tennessee State has shown love. My uncle (ED: the awesomely named Tommy Gunnis the third all-time leading scorer at Middle Tennessee State and I’m trying to get down there to visit. I had a visit to Penn State University already. They have a very nice coaching staff and campus. I have also been invited to the Syracuse Elite Camp twice so far, once at 14 years old and back in August at 15 years old. I think that’s pretty much all that I know about. My coach, my dad, or my trainer Billy Edelin would know more about that stuff.

Is it too early for you to have favorites, or leaders, at this point? Or are you just kind of taking it slow still?

MZ: As of now I have no favorite, I’m just hoping that God blesses me with the opportunity to get a scholarship. I know I have to keep working hard and hopefully one day I will be blessed enough to earn an opportunity to receive a scholarship somewhere.

You and Nottingham are kicking some ass right now in CNY. What are your goals for yourself, and for the team, as you start nearing the playoffs?

MZ: My team goals are to, first, finish out the regular season without losing. We are currently 9-2 right now and in first place in our division. Then I’m trying to get a sectional title and then move on to win the states. As far as my personal goals are concerned, I just want to do whatever it takes to make my team and myself better. I want to do whatever it takes to win games and be successful. Hopefully at the end of all that I will have an opportunity to one day play basketball in college.

Finally, who’s a player at the college or pro level you love to watch? Is there anyone whose game you try to model yourself after?

MZ: Players that I love to watch at the college or the pro level are Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Tyler Ulis and Tyler Ennis when he was in college. I also like Derryck Thornton who is still in high school at Findley Prep. I think he is two years older than me but I just think he has a smooth game and he always seems to be under control. All of these players have very high IQ’s and they are all pretty smooth.

***

And to cap things off, Malik threw in a video of himself with my favorite, Lazarus Sims. Enjoy.

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including Cracked.com, Spike.com, TheSportster.com, Gunaxin.com, and TopTenz.net, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He's got a wife, and a toddler he's brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff's a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish