Although the ESPN2 battle between Team Sizzle (MN) and Ypsi Prep (MI) was focused on Chet Holmgren and Emoni Bates, for good reason, there was still a lot to like about the talent on both teams. One player who showed defensive potential and some pop offensively was Team Sizzle’s Prince Aligbe, a 6’7+ combo forward in the 2022 class. Having recently turned 17, Aligbe is primed to take on a large role this year after spending the last couple of seasons playing beside stars such as Holmgren and Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs at Minnehaha Academy (MN).
With some impressive leaping ability, length and instincts, Aligbe prides himself as a defender. He has potential to guard either forward position, while even showing some ability to move down at times defensively. He also has shown flashes as a slasher and shooter, with his playmaking acumen making him even more enticing as a prospect. Strong and intelligent off and on the floor, Aligbe has dual citizenship with USA and Nigeria, while in the midst of deciding whom he would eventually like to represent nationally on the basketball court.
Aligbe will continue to be a key component to Team Sizzle’s high profile match-ups, as he was against Ypsi Prep. Currently, he has offers from schools such as Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, and USC among others, with hopes of hearing from a few additional high major powerhouses. Playing against older competition while still a middle-schooler, Aligbe is very comfortable in his role and ready to prove he is a player to be mentioned among the top of the 2022 high school class.
In this interview, Aligbe talks about his family and their Nigerian roots, his style of play, what he must do this season to step up for his team, his recruitment, his academic pursuits, some of the players who inspire him, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Prince Aligbe, from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota:
Pro Insight: Tell us about your background.
Prince Aligbe: Well, I'm the oldest of three first and foremost. I have two younger brothers, one is 15 years old and the other is 13 years old. The middle brother’s name is Rolyns and the youngest is Harrison. Rolyns is actually here with us, he’s playing on our team and it’s been really good to see him grow as a player and step up on the big stage with me. I live in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, born and raised there. Both of my parents are of Nigerian descent. So they're immigrants and they came over in the late 1990s and then they had me in 2003. We have a real good situation over there. You know, they've been learning since they've been here in the U.S. and I've been learning too. It's been a real fun journey that has gotten me to where I'm at now and I’m trying to grow up and be the best young man and older brother I can be.
PI: Do you have dual citizenship?
PA: Yes. I have dual citizenship, both here (U.S.) and in Nigeria.
PI: Have you considered playing for the Nigerian national team?
PA: Last year, actually, I was invited to play. You know, like, obviously there's no 16U or 17U team, but they gave me a call and they gave my dad a call and said, “okay, maybe it's time to consider what we're going to do for Prince in the future.” Maybe we're talking about FIBA, men's league or maybe even Olympics, but they just want to see how I am and how I progress over time.
PI: Is that something you’d be interested in?
PA: I would love to play for my home country, but I would also love to play for USA, too.
So I just hope I get both opportunities and see which one's best for me.
PI: Any family members play sports collegiately or professionally?
PA: Both my parents actually didn't really play sports like that, unless it was like soccer.
My mom didn't play sports, but my dad played soccer when he was younger in Nigeria, but he grew away from it. So it was kind of stagnant for a couple of years until I was born. I didn't really play any sports either until I started playing basketball in third grade, mainly because I felt like I needed to do something. I saw my friends playing [basketball] at school and I just fell in love with it ever since. My cousin Anthony Eboreime played arena football, participated in the NFL draft combine, and was a WR at NDSU back in 2012.
PI: What are your greatest strengths as a basketball player?
PA: Definitely a versatile two-way player, always going out guarding the other team's best player, but also a real leader on my squad. A real-deal slasher and finisher around the rim, but also have a nice pull-up jump shot. I’m just trying to create my game so I can be more of a three-level scorer so I can get to where I want to be and that’s the NBA.
PI: What about some improvement areas?
PA: I’m actually a pretty good decision-maker, but as you can see today, we didn't do too much of that as a team and I feel like I need to be that person. We had Jalen Suggs [currently at Gonzaga] and I love him to death, that's really my older brother. He's taught me so much and he's got me to where I'm at now, but everyone has to step up at a certain time. So I feel like I got to really take that role. I'm a vocal dude on defense, but I’ve got to be a leader on offense. Be alongside Chet Holmgren and just play basketball.
PI: What are some underrated aspects of your game?
PA: Definitely my passing. That's one thing I feel like people don't really see a lot, especially with our squad last year. I think I jumped from averaging like one assist my freshman year to around four or five [sophomore year]. So I feel like I do a good job with that, but just reading the defense, I feel like I know how to get the ball to certain people and I know when we got to run a certain play. So I just really want to emerge into that role where people see me as a natural shooting guard that could also play the point or small forward and can guard all five positions.
PI: How are you and Chet trying to step up and fill the void Jalen Suggs left behind?
PA: When Chet and I played alongside Jalen it helped us a lot as players. I ran the floor, played defense, grabbed rebounds, and was always around the rim. Chet, he was our shot blocker, finisher around the rim, but he extended it to the perimeter as well. Jalen would score and make plays, so it was real dynamic with three players. Now with Chet and I, of course we still have great talent on the team, but we just got to adjust to that. Coach Larry was telling us that we need to play more team ball. That will come and we’ll start winning games, but even though we're talented, we still need someone that will step up. I feel like I need to take on that role now, because like I said, I feel like I'm a versatile player that can be trustworthy with the ball.
PI: How would you rank the top-five forwards in the 2022 class?
PA: In my position, people label me as a small forward. Most people say I'm 6’6”, but really I’m like 6’7.5” pushing 6’8” and around 215-220 pounds. For the top-five people in my class and my position, I have Jarace Walker, Chris Livingston, Emoni Bates, Eric Dailey, and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. I’ve played against a couple of those guys, especially Jarace Walker and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield last year and they're both talented guys. As I mentioned, with Jalen’s absence I feel like I can step into a bigger role and shine in that light. That’s why I’m happy we’re down here playing alongside Chet and my other guys and I feel like we can bounce back tomorrow (note: this interview was conducted in Phoenix at Border League).
PI: What’s the update with your recruitment?
PA: My recruitment's actually going really well. Yesterday I got an offer from Memphis and Coach Hardaway. It was over FaceTime. I talked to Coach Hardaway for about 15 minutes. I have over 25 offers now and I'm really blessed to say that, not many people my age can say that. A lot of coaches have really been texting me, having zoom calls, and much more.
PI: Do you have a dream school?
PA: When I was growing up I always jumped from school to school. I liked Notre Dame, Villanova — Villanova is my favorite school now — and also schools like UNC. As you get older and it actually happens for you, you gotta look at all your options and see what's best for you. So I see myself as a player that can come in and make an impact early, but I still want to develop the most I can so I can get to the point where I want to go.
PI: What are some things you’re looking for in a school when it’s time to make that decision?
PA: I’m looking for a place that feels like home. Where I’m at now with Minnehaha has done a lot for me. There are some that say it hasn’t done much for me, but I feel like it’s been a win. So I want to go somewhere like that [similar to Minnehaha], but where I can emerge as a player, too. Education in my family is a big thing. I want to make sure I continue that and pick a school that challenges me in many aspects and helps develop me as a man — that’s the end goal.
PI: What would you like to major in?
PA: Ever since I was young it's always been engineering, but as I get older I realize it's a real commitment in college to play basketball and study to be an engineer, but nothing's impossible. That's one subject I've always thought of, but there are other things I look at as well.
PI: Which type of engineering?
PA: Aerodynamic, it's a real big thing, but I always had a love and knack for being able to solve things thanks to my dad. He's put me in that position to be able to evaluate a problem, look at it, and really stick with it.
PI: Back to hoops: what type of system best fits your playing style?
PA: A system where there's a balance of both run-and-gun as well as a team system. I feel like our team could be really good at both this year. We know our players' strong suits and where to get them touches, but we can also get out in transition and be tough to mess with. Especially if I’m running down the floor and Chet or anybody else is running with me.
PI: Are there any players you model your game after?
PA: Players like Jaylen Brown, Anthony Edwards, OG Anunoby, LeBron James, and Jayson Tatum. I take certain aspects from everybody's game. Scottie Pippen is another player as well, especially if I hit 6’8”. He's such a versatile player, he knows how to knock down the mid-range shot, and he also does everything for his team. That's why his greatness shows. So just try to take things from all of those guys.
PI: What’s your definition of competitiveness?
PA: It runs deep and it's really grown over the years. When I was in seventh or eighth grade I was competitive, but I was bigger than a lot of people. I play to win of course, but ever since I've been playing varsity basketball since seventh grade, it's grown over the years. Playing AAU with Chet and Jalen has really shown me how tough it is. And today, when we lost, kudos to them at Coronado and Jaden Hardy. He had a real stellar first half, but I felt like it was on me, that I should have done a better job to start off. So in the second half I felt like I played good defense [Hardy posted 28 pts in the first half and 2 pts in the 2nd half]. So I feel like it runs deep and I took it real personal after the game, but I cooled off and we're onto the next. I don't like losing and it shows with us at Minnehaha winning state championships.
PI: Who would you consider to be 10-out-of-10 in the competitiveness department in the NBA (past or present)?
PA: It's definitely Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is a different breed. So is Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal. Those guys know how dominant they are and how they impact the game. I’m trying to get to that point, too.
PI: Where would you put yourself on that scale?
PA: I feel like I'm pretty low compared to the greats like them, but I know I can get to that point. It just takes a lot of work, patience, and trusting in the people that's around me.
PI: What’s your biggest passion outside of basketball?
PA: I like to spend time with my little brothers, even though they're annoying [laughs], you know, you always see me with them. Also chill with my friends and just hang out. I'm not really a party guy like that. I just like playing basketball, being at each other's houses, and stuff like that. That's really me. I love music. I love R&B music and it shows because I learned how to play the piano because of it. I love movies, I’m a movie addict.. I sit at home by myself and watch two hours of movies and my brother looks at me like, “what are you doing?” I love fashion, as well. I'm not really a guy that likes to pop out, and I know when I’m an adult and my life is right I can, you know, express my clothing way more, but I take it nice and simple. Make sure I'm cozy, but look good.
PI: What rating would you give yourself in 2K?
PA: If I get to that point, I'll give myself 86. I feel like my defense would really get me up, I’d be a 90+ for my defense. My playmaking would be up there and if I get my shot down, people say that I’m an underrated jump shooter, but if I get to that point where people have to guard me because of my shot then I feel like I deserve that rating.
PI: What are four words that describe you?
PA: Genuine. I'm not saying that because of me, but people say that cause I like to be a dude that really means it. So: genuine, passionate, leader, and chill.