In the class of 2025, the state of California is loaded with talented players including Elzie Harrington, Tounde Yessoufou, Brayden Burries, and Jovani Ruff among others. Ranked as a top-20 sophomore nationally, Ruff plays for Long Beach Poly (CA) and Team WhyNot (CA). Last season, the 6’5” guard earned MaxPreps Freshman All-American Third Team honors. This year, he has expanded his game by taking on floor general duties while staying consistent as a multi-level scoring threat. As the AAU season approaches, Ruff should undoubtedly add to his offers list and be closely tracked as one of the top long-term prospects on the west coast.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Ruff talked about his grandfather’s positive impact in his basketball journey, his recruitment update and openness to alternative routes, his skills as a jazz pianist, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2025 prospect Jovani Ruff, from Long Beach, California:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today? Talk a bit about your background and family.
Jovani Ruff: I got two younger brothers. My dad actually played basketball. He went to Colorado. He played overseas. My mom played in high school. My grandfather played different sports, but I really got into basketball at like four or five years old. I started playing at this park league on the little rims. And yeah, that's pretty much where I got started.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
JR: When I was four or five years old, I played soccer and flag football. I was nice at soccer, actually.
PI: What made you decide to focus on basketball?
JR: Well, my grandfather really got me into basketball so I thought it was a way for me and him to connect more so we always went outside in the backyard and played and I just found a passion for it.
PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and playstyle?
JR: I'm more of a combo guard, really. I'm strong off the ball, but recently I've been working on the ball so I can become more of a point guard in a way. But I'm really strong at getting to my spots, pulling up in mid-range, just getting to the basket, defending. I've been working on my rebounding. That's really just effort. But yeah, I'm really a very skilled offensive player.
PI: Who do you model your game after or study on film?
JR: Devin Booker. Bradley Beal. A little bit of Jayson Tatum, but I want to become a point guard so I've been watching a little bit of Luka Doncic.
PI: What have you been working on to become a point guard?
JR: Of course my ball handling and passing, but I feel like I've always been a good ball handler and passer. It's really just becoming a leader. This year at my high school, I've been forced to kind of become a leader and become a point guard so I've just been working on that.
PI: What type of leader are you?
JR: I'm more leading by example. I'm kind of getting there vocal-wise, but I'm more like, “this is how to do it. Watch me do it. I'm gonna show you the right way.”
PI: What are your current measurements?
JR: 6’4”, 6’5”. I think I have a 6’8” wingspan and I'm 180 pounds.
PI: Besides doing well in CIF, what are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
JR: Of course, yeah like you said, I want to win the championship, finish out strong. AAU is coming up so I want to go far. And just really it’s about getting better because junior is coming up and I just really want to blow up junior year.
PI: Who will you be running with for AAU this summer?
JR: As of now, Team WhyNot.
PI: What’s your training regimen when you’re getting shots up?
JR: Yeah, I always start off with form shots. I always get shots up first. Then I'll get into my moves, getting to my spots. That's really second. I always do ball-handling last and conditioning at the end.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?
JR: So you know who Spencer Freedman is? In 2020, I was working out with him. We played one-on-one after every workout. He was crazy. Aside from him, someone in my grade, probably Darryn Peterson in EYBL. He was tough to handle. I’d also say my dad. My dad's tough. He still got it. Those three guys have really pushed me.
PI: You have offers from LMU, Long Beach State, and San Jose State — what is your recruitment update? Who would you like to hear from?
JR: Yeah, those are my three. My coach and my parents have been telling me they’re hearing from UCLA, Illinois, Stanford, Arkansas, Arizona. Yeah, those are some schools, but some schools I want to hear from are Baylor, Houston, schools like that.
PI: Did you have a dream school growing up?
JR: Yeah, growing up it was always USC and UCLA because that's my home school so they’re always on TV. I used to go to the games and stuff, but now it's really just whatever fits me best.
PI: Was there a SoCal hooper you grew up watching?
JR: Probably like DeMar DeRozan. We actually played against his high school. He went to Compton so they're in the Moore League, so we always play against them every year. Him.
PI: There are a lot more post-grad options available these days with G League Ignite, OTE, and NBL, among others. Have you and your family done research or heard from those opportunities?
JR: Yeah, we've heard from OTE, but I'm always open to stuff like that.
PI: What will ultimately be your deciding factors when making your choice?
JR: It's really how the coach coaches. I want them to push me and stuff and I want the practices to be competitive, so obviously a good team so we could push each other.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
JR: Man, I used to play the piano actually. I was nice. I stopped that a couple years ago. I play with my brother. We get on the video games playing Madden. I hang out with my friends, sometimes. I don't really go out like that. I'm working out or just chilling, but yeah.
PI: What genre did you play for piano?
JR: I did jazz, because I would take lessons. I had basketball practice so I had to lowkey cut off the piano.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
JR: Right now — Babyface Ray, King Von, Destroy Lonely.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
JR: #Poise, because I feel like I'm determined at whatever I do.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
JR: I'm gonna bring my mom. I need my mom. I'm gonna bring my Bible. I’m very religious, and I'm gonna bring some cards or something to play like UNO or something, you know.
PI: How important is your faith to you?
JR: It's very important. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for God. He's gotten me through a lot of tough times. So you know, it's very important in my opinion.
PI: How have you been involved with your faith?
JR: Here and there. This school I went to for my middle school, it was a Catholic school, so we're all still connected. But if I'm in town on the weekend, I'll pull up.
PI: You mentioned you would bring your mom to the deserted island — what’s the best advice you’ve ever received from her?
JR: Yeah, she recently told me this. She said to do it for me. Don’t do it for her, my brothers, and my family. Just do it so I can make myself proud.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
JR: I’d want to be a teacher — a history teacher.
PI: What sparked your interest in history?
JR: This year, my history class is my favorite class, my favorite teacher, so he just makes everything fun and I feel like I can see myself doing that if I wasn’t hooping.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JR: Hmm, just when people talk too much. Like when they just start talking about random stuff.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
JR: That means that I've accomplished what I personally set out to do. Not what anyone else thinks. But if I'm happy, you know happiness.
PI: What is something that most people have no idea about you?
JR: I don't think a lot of people know that I’m religious like that, you know. I don't think they know that off the court, I'm probably a cool guy even though I chirp on the court here and there. But off the court, I'll be a friend. I'm a chill guy off the court. On the court, I'm different.
PI: Besides the NBA, where do you see yourself in five years?
JR: I just see myself happy. If I'm in the NBA, I'm gonna have some money, but I really just want to give back to my family, my high school, my middle school, stuff like that. I want to see everybody living well and happy.
PI: Besides community initiatives and giving back, do you have a dream NIL deal?
JR: Probably like Gatorade or something. I haven't really thought about that, but probably Gatorade.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
JR: Talented, selfless, determined, and humble.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
JR: As a person, I want to be someone who is lovable, just cool to be around. On the court, I just want to live up to what people say because I have a little reputation here in Long Beach right now. I just want to live up to what people are saying about me. You know, just playing in the league, having a good career, hopefully being an All-Star. That's the goal. Go to college first, win a national championship, but as a person, just be someone that was helpful, and yeah.