Updated: Jun 11, 2022
When Mike Krzyzewski announced his farewell season on June 2, 2021, it was natural to wonder what was next in line for the Duke Basketball program. With Jon Scheyer set to take the helm, he has major shoes to fill in not only college basketball success, but in recruiting NBA-level talent. At the end of July, Kyle Filipowski became the first domino in what is shaping up to be the nation’s top recruiting class in the class of 2022.
While Filipowski’s play at Wilbraham & Monson had him in the general consciousness of the recruiting world, his play in multiple tournaments and in the EYBL with the NY Renaissance shot him up to five-star status in recent months. At 7-feet with a tremendous inside-out scoring package, he is now considered a mortal lock for postseason all-star games. Duke may be going through a major change in regime, however, they definitely will maintain their level of competitiveness in 2021-22 with Kyle Filipowski adding his scoring acumen, playmaking and court sense.
In this interview, Kyle Filipowski sat down with Pro Insight Director of Scouting Andrew Slater to discuss his growth over the last few years, his relationship with fellow Duke recruits, his time with USA Basketball, his goals for his senior year, his time at Wilbraham & Monson, his family life, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Kyle Filipowski, from Westtown, New York:
Pro Insight: Can you touch on your growth as a player?
Kyle Filipowski: This year, I’ve just been focusing on getting my body right, trying to get in the best shape possible for next year when I get to Duke. I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve got to focus on is just getting a lot more mobile and a lot stronger. Other than that, I’m just working on all aspects of my game, getting my shot more consistent, getting my handle tighter. That’s really what I’ve been focusing on, growing this year.
PI: Maybe you can take it back a little bit to the initial public school or Fordham Prep to now. It’s kind of amazing.
KF: I know.
PI: It’s inspirational to somebody else.
KF: I know. My going from public school to Fordham Prep, I really just didn’t know…I mean, I had dreams and aspirations of playing at the highest level, but I didn’t know my potential, so I’ve just been taking it year by year. I’m still waiting to grow a little bit more and develop into my body. I was just kind of playing the game of basketball and taking things step by step. Then, once I got here, my first year here, that was really my breakout year, my sophomore year.
PI: I remember you had credited Coach Mannix.
KF: Yeah, cause he just put me in great opportunities with players to succeed, with a key role on the team and a chance to win the championship. I really think that was the year I took off and then I started realizing my potential. That really got me focused on what I had to work on and get to the next level.
PI: Was there a turning point within that year? He was saying right out of the box, you were getting twenty-seven or twenty-two.
KF: Yeah, my first game I had twenty-five points and twenty-two rebounds. I don’t know what it was.
PI: Beginner’s luck?
KF: Right. But it really just kept like that. The only thing I can credit to that is that Coach Mannix put me in the right position with my teammates and I just kind of steadied and grew throughout the year.
PI: How big were you when you got here?
KF: When I got here, I was 6’8”, 185. I had a lot of growing, still.
PI: It seems like today, you’re a more vocal leader. Touch on that issue.
KF: Yeah, absolutely. That’s one thing I’m working on with the team this year, too. I’m still trying to learn in any way possible, cause now I’m the oldest guy on the team. I’ve got to lead by example and represent the right way. Set a tone for the rest of the guys. That also starts with me being a more vocal leader. That’s one thing I’m trying to improve on a lot. I want to be a really good leader for the guys.
PI: I’ll give you credit also for the Rens. I thought you really took on that role, which most big guys don’t.
KF: Yeah, without a doubt. With the Rens, it’s a great bunch of guys. The opportunity was there to take a stand, to say something, and the guys, we just all get along. Everyone just started buying into what the vision was and listening to what everyone had to say.
PI: When did you guys realize you could really theoretically win it all? April?
KF: Yeah, right around when we first started playing our first tournament. Our first tournament was in April, I think. So, we saw the potential we had and we knew we didn’t have five stars, we had ten stars. That’s how deep we were. It was just unfortunate what happened at Peach Jam.
PI: I really do believe you guys would have won the whole thing if not for health. Can you touch on your relationship with Dariq Whitehead?
KF: I’ve known him since we were little kids. I think our first AAU team together was in fourth grade and we stuck around together till seventh grade. Oh no, fifth grade till seventh grade. So, I’ve known him since we were little kids.
PI: How on earth did that happen?
KF: I know.
PI: It’s staggering odds.
KF: Yeah, I know.
PI: What was the name of the team you played on?
KF: We played on a couple: Playtime Panthers in New Jersey and Court Masters Elite.
PI: People will go back and look for a picture. It’s staggering.
KF: Without a doubt.
PI: The other one was Dereck Lively. When did you guys first meet? How did you navigate that whole relationship?
KF: I think the first time we met was when we played one another, Rens against Final in Albany. That was the first time we really met in person and the next time we saw one another was on the visit. We were already talking via text, just getting to know one another. It just kept going from there between me and him. We knew how good each of us was and the different players we were.
PI: That’s the thing. People put you all together like you’re in one box, but you’re not.
KF: I think it would shock everyone next year when we have one of the best, if not the best, frontcourts.
PI: Right, kind of frightening.
KF: Right, so I’m looking forward to shocking people.
PI: For fans who may not know their games, can you describe what they bring?
KF: Dariq, he’s a lockdown defender. He’s one of the best defenders in the country. Great dude. Plays very well. Is unselfish. Can really knock down the threes. Very versatile and athletic. And with Dereck, he runs the floor extremely well. He’s a huge shot-block defender and rim defender and can finish anything. He can get the ball from anywhere on the court. He’s starting to knock down that three too, which is very impressive.
PI: Kind of like you in that respect.
PI: And as a passer.
KF: Yeah, he’s starting to develop as a passer extremely well. It’s going to be a scary sight.
PI: Let me get to the Peach Jam. You guys were killing it until you got sick.
KF: Right, and we made it to the semis.
PI: And that’s without you.
KF: Yeah, and then we played Final. I just wish I had my shot with both teams going at full strength.
PI: With USA Basketball, you won the gold medal (in 3x3 U18 World Cup). Was that your first time going to Europe? What was that experience like?
KF: Yeah, that was my first time going to Europe. That was my first time representing Team USA. We ended up winning the gold medal. That was an awesome opportunity to represent the USA and bring back the gold medal.
PI: Had you ever done anything with three-on-three before?
KF: No, I hadn’t, but it kind of fit my game because I’m versatile.
KF: Yeah, we all got along together very well. We had a lot of time together off the court.
PI: Did you guys get to see anything?
KF: Not really. We tried to stay in the bubble. I was actually invited for USA U19 National Team Tryouts. I think the first step is the Hoop Summit in April.
PI: That’s huge.
KF: That’s the first step.
PI: That’s always a major one. I always make sure I’m at it. I want to touch on your passing ability. Where did that come from? The first time I saw you, I think you were about 6’4” and had guard skills. I thought you could maybe be a small forward, then you just grew.
KF: (laughs) Yeah, cause both my parents were and my twin, I think it was just playing a lot with my twin. Always having the ability to look for him. It’s always made me keep things in the corner of my eye. I think that’s one of the things that helped me here. And my IQ, also.
PI: So, that was always part of your game?
PI: Let’s talk about your athleticism. I think it’s an underrated aspect.
KF: I think so too with how I present myself. I think that’s one thing I shock people with. That’s one thing I’m focused on this year, just getting mobile.
PI: Was that just by maturation?
KF: Yeah, I think it was just by maturing. Last year, it’s when it really started taking off. Then I started getting bigger and better and eating better. I started focusing more and maturing, so I really took off in that aspect. That’s definitely one of the things that’s underrated.
PI: The other thing that I think is underrated a little bit is your toughness. I think you have that tougher, physical aspect to your game. You’re ready to battle.
KF: I think this league is definitely stacked. Coming in here, I was 185. Even though I was doing very well, I knew that I had to battle.
PI: Who do you model your game after?
KF: For me, it’s a lot of different guys. For some of my guarding aspects and just bringing it down the court, I love watching Kevin Durant. Just how he does that like a tall guard. And then I also love watching Anthony Davis, just him being a very versatile power forward.
PI: Another guy who had a growth spurt.
KF: Exactly. And him expanding his range with the ball more. So, those are two main guys I love to watch.
PI: When you were in middle school, were they the guys you watched?
KF: Middle school-wise, it was more Kevin Love. More like a stretch-four who could pass. That’s kind of who I modeled my game after, but then I started shooting the three a lot better and handling the ball more.
PI: What about your ability to defend the pick-and-roll?
KF: I can either switch or stay. If I switch, I can switch onto the smaller guard.
PI: I think that’s one thing you showed really well in EYBL.
KF: Yeah, exactly. With just being able to play with guards, the perimeter guards that are much quicker than me and shoot the three, I think that was one thing I did well.
PI: And some hyper athletic threes, as well. You were able to hang with them for two or three minutes.
KF: Exactly, exactly.
PI: Would you consider yourself goal-oriented?
KF: Without a doubt. I know every year, every day, I just try to go out with something to accomplish. I love going out every day, even when not a lot is going on. That betters me on and off the court. I don’t have much to improve this year with my abilities, but I have a lot to improve on with who I am as a person and who I am as a leader. I can still learn and prepare for Duke. When I get to Duke, of course, I’ll have goals like a National Championship and stuff like that.
PI: A lot of the successful players over the years have been very goal-oriented.
KF: I think that kind of sustains you. I have been trying to find that inside of me and I think Kobe’s been an inspiration for generations and I think having that part of me, to find the good and the bad and learning from those life lessons makes me who I am.
PI: It kind of differentiates guys who may be around your talent level. You didn’t get satisfied and they did.
PI: How would you rate your work ethic and has that improved? Can you cite an example?
KF: Yeah, so like I said, I’ve been trying to find something to do every day that will have a positive impact on me. With the Mamba mentality, I never feel satisfied. I can always improve in some aspect of myself or my game. Just this year with my work ethic, I’m getting in the weight room every day and just stretching and focusing on my body. I’ve been improving a lot with that. From when I got here to now, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in that aspect of myself. I’m just never satisfied with where I’m at and I know I can always do something to better myself.
PI: Are there numbers in mind that you have in the weight room or on the court?
KF: I know going around the court, I want to get more consistent with my jump shot, for example. So, I would go to the seven spots for twos and threes and if I could make four in a row, I would move onto the next spot. If I missed two in a row, from that spot, I’d have to go back and start from the beginning. I do that all the way around for twos and threes. That really gets my jump shot improving.
PI: Do you have any advice you could have given your younger self as a player?
KF: That’s a good one. I think I would probably just say stay motivated, stay patient. I know growing up and going into middle school to the beginning of high school, I was always kind of, I knew the potential I had but I was always underrated.
PI: I know they were shocked when I showed up to Fordham to see you.
KF: Right, exactly. Wow, that is a throwback. (laughs) But I think that’s one thing that I’d try to tell myself, to just stay patient, your time will come. You’ll get that chance to prove yourself and when you do, you’ll make the most of it.
PI: How has Matt helped push you? I wanted to give him credit, as well.
KF: Right, right. He does. I think growing up playing with him, he’s really made me be able to step into more of that guard position. I wasn’t the tallest one on the court, so I didn’t have to play the center.
PI: That’s a tremendous advantage compared to 99% of society.
KF: Exactly. So, not only did that force me to play more like a guard, it also forced me to expand my IQ and look for him and learn how to play with a big. That way, I’m now going into college with that. And also, I could help him with his guard parts of his game and he helped me with the inside footwork. We really complement each other.
PI: What advice has Coach Scheyer given to you?
KF: He’s just told me to play with freedom going into this year. Obviously, I’ve got a lot to work on for next year, but just stay hungry, stay positive, and look towards the future because the future’s very bright. That’s very much what he said. Never be satisfied by where you’re at. You can always improve.
PI: Did Coach K give you advice as well?
KF: Coach K said some stuff to me too, just with how special of a player he thinks I am and how I could maximize my opportunities a lot more than I am in some situations. Like, if I get in the high post area, he tells me that if I get in there and I go and make the most of that, I don’t shy away from that. I make the most of it. So, he knows the potential I have. He knows that I have the ability to be a great player.
PI: What set Duke apart from the others?
KF: I mean, they check all of the boxes, with academics, too. I think my parents want me to have academics, too. There’s no team like it in the country. And also, the relationship I developed with Coach Scheyer, his vision for my class and myself, he fits the expectations I have in a coach and a college. When I took my visit, it just didn’t feel different, like how kids go on visits and they get this different feeling. It just felt normal to me, like home. And I felt like I fit with the people. There’s never a day that goes by where you can’t have fun, but also become successful.
PI: I wanted to talk to you about Donda Academy. I know they approached you as well.
KF: I didn’t know what to expect with what they had to offer. All I know is that this has been my home for the past two, almost three years. Just living here and playing for Coach Mannix, I couldn’t ask for a better place or coach.
PI: I remember in April or May when you were up in Albany, you said he’s family. There’s some guys who say it and I’m like ‘oh,’ but to me, I thought there’s no way you’re going out there. You wouldn’t have left the family.
KF: Like I said, I feel like I’ve been undervalued growing up and that people underestimate me, but Coach Mannix took a chance on me and gave me a great opportunity. That’s just loyalty right there. I couldn’t thank him enough for where he’s gotten me. I just want to enjoy this final year playing for him.
PI: What are your goals for this season?
KF: Goals for this season, definitely winning another NEPSAC Championship. I think going out your senior year with a big bang, we didn’t get an opportunity to do that last year unfortunately, but if we did, we could have definitely three-peated, which is something. I think that’s a big team goal.
PI: In terms of your relationship with Coach Mannix, I wanted to touch on that as well. Maybe just a quick comment.
KF: So, I mean, coming here sophomore year, like all relationships, it was a bit awkward and hesitant at first.
PI: Do you remember the first day you guys met?
KF: Yeah, I do. We were actually going back home from a visit at a different prep school and he was very serious and intimidating then and I think in the first couple of months. But just from our conversations off the court, we tried to get to know one another a lot better. That really developed our relationship and that trust. Now, he’s my family on and off the court about life issues. I’m his guy on the court, if he needs me to tell the guys something, I’m there for him. I’m the captain. It’s been a blessing. A lot of guys in high school don’t have that.
PI: I think that’s one advantage that people don’t get about boarding school. There’s a major relationship difference between player and coach.
KF: Right, exactly. Because that’s part of your parent structure.
PI: What are some interests you have away from the court?
KF: I’m a pretty low-key guy. I just try to hang out with friends, play some pool in the common area.
PI: Have you guys moved through the years?
KF: Yeah, we just moved floor to floor in the same building. I just love being around the guys and hanging out with them. Like I said, playing pool and playing video games and we usually go on some night walks just to have some emotional relaxation.
PI: That must have helped during COVID last year.
KF: Yeah, that helped a lot.
PI: Can you talk about your parents a little bit and their influence on your life?
KF: My parents are both very athletic. My mom was a great All-American. She played D-I at Cal State Long Beach. My dad played D-II football and basketball at Slippery Rock. They met in high school, at Warwick Valley High School in New York in Orange County. So, they ended up coming back together. My mom, she’s incredibly tough on the refs. We learned to take it as positive criticism and take what she had to say with a grain of salt and just try to look at it in a different way, look at it in a positive way, instead of feeling bad about it. My dad’s more of an easy going guy. He’s always there to listen. They both taught us a lot growing up. My dad taught us how to be a respectful young man. My mom raised us to be disciplined. They both have had a great influence on us growing up. They tried showing us their game, my mom tried to train us occasionally here and there, but kids are rebellious with their parents, so it was kind of hard at times.
PI: Was there a moment when everything changed with your game?
KF: Yeah, so I think there was a major leap going from Fordham Prep to my first year at W&M and that’s just what I saw going throughout that year. I did see a big change, but then I also saw another huge change going from Southport junior year.
PI: Okay, what happened that time?
KF: I didn’t have as big a leap then, but I started to grow into my body and I realized I can grow a lot more than what I did last year. Obviously, I’ve seen improvement year after year.
PI: What’s the aspect of your game that you feel is most underrated?
KF: I think some of the things we touched on earlier with my IQ and my passing ability, but also my athleticism. I think those things, but also being able to guard different positions. People don’t really expect that out of me. Like I said, switching up ball screens, going from a small guy to a big guy and a big guy to a small guy. Those are the things that get missed.
PI: Maybe I should rephrase it. Is it more of a misconception?
KF: Yeah. I think that’s a better way to put it. I think once people see that, they’re like, ‘Oh, we missed something.’
PI: Strength and conditioning, what are you working on now? We kind of touched on it earlier.
KF: I’m not lifting heavy, at all. I’m just lifting with getting a lot of reps in. I’ll work on my overall body, getting my legs stronger, finishing better, things like that.
PI: Is that to hold position? Most people don’t talk about it, but for big men, sometimes to develop your legs, you hold your position pretty well.
KF: Right, you get a better base for sure. And then just too, getting my appetite stronger and being able to take the hits up top as well.
PI: How big are you now?
KF: Coming here, I was 6’8”, 185. Now I’m 7’0”, 230, so I’ve grown a lot. I know I’ve gained a lot of pounds, too.
PI: Where do you see yourself in five years?
KF: I see myself hopefully being a lottery pick in the draft and playing in the league for who knows, maybe a few years already. So, just seeing myself there and being very vocal and having a big part on that team. I know just growing up, I always felt I’ve been a winner, too. Even learning from my last schools, I’ve been growing, I’ve learned, and I’ve won.
PI: Are you a guy who goes back and watches tape?
KF: Without a doubt. I’ve even watched tapes from games I’ve done very badly and just learned, ‘Oh wow, I could have done that.’ So just going through games too and bringing that to an overall team. Bringing that to a championship team. I also want to have a positive influence on society. That’s one thing that’s been a desire for me.
PI: Could you be a face-of-the-franchise guy?
KF: Yeah, I think that’s definitely something I want to be and I know I can be one. I have the ability to do that and just be the guy to inspire the younger generation. Just give back to the community and pass on the opportunities that I got. I feel like everyone deserves that opportunity, to do what they want to do that they are passionate about. That’s something that really brings me joy, too. It’s just using my basketball abilities to give more to basketball than basketball’s given to me. And just doing that off the court, as well.
PI: That’s refreshing to hear. Do you have a message for Duke fans?
KF: I think a lot of guys are still looking at me with those misconceptions. I know the first couple of games, I’m going to surprise them, surprise a heck of a lot of them with what I’m able to do. I’m just looking forward to that. I’ve got love for all of Duke Nation. Even with Coach Scheyer being the new coach, there’s still an expectation that we’ll go for a National Championship. So, just bringing that winning mentality and that leadership role, that grit. I’ve always been competitive. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
PI: You have a target on your back now. When did that happen? Was it an adjustment?
KF: I think just being a late bloomer and now being at Duke, I’ve got a lot of people not expecting much out of me and I still have stuff to prove to them. I just use that to motivate me more because I know there’s going to be a lot of down talk about me, a lot of negative talk, but I’m just going to keep those close to me closer and I know those real ones in my life will help me get through it and just make history. It’s history in the making.
PI: Was there a moment when you started to realize people were coming at you? I’m sure you were the hunter for a while.
KF: I was the hunter for a while because people didn’t know my name. I think last year at school, my junior year, is really when I started becoming the hunted. Definitely against Christian when they were throwing a lot of double teams at me. I’ve learned to adapt to those situations. Once I played my first couple of games, I became the one that people were trying to lock on. Just trying to adapt to that. It might have been Boo Williams when they were pressing me the whole time. They were trying to get in my head. That’s something I had to learn and adapt to very quickly. Definitely a new experience for me. Like I said, I’ve been the hunter being a late bloomer, but now that I’m the hunted, I’ve got to think smarter now. I think I learned a lot growing up because I wasn’t the strongest mental-wise. I had a shorter temper and used to blow up a lot, but I think growing in my high school career and growing in my mentality, that’s one thing that I’ve been very proud of myself with is how I’m handling those situations with people trying to get in my head and trying to beat me with the physicality. Now, I have to think the game even more now and think smarter and pick my spots. That works its magic very well.