Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Growing up, Quaran McPherson often heard talk of how good his dad was at basketball. McPherson never truly believed it, until he finally had the opportunity to watch his dad play. Ever since then, McPherson knew he too had a love for the game and has been on a mission to make a name for himself.
Now in his second year at Woodstock Academy, one of the premier prep basketball programs in the northeast, McPherson is one of the leaders for Coach Jacque Rivera’s team. McPherson is at his best when he’s attacking downhill, but he has a versatile offensive game with the ability to score at the rim, in the midrange, or out to three-point range. McPherson isn’t just known for his offense, as he plays hard-nosed defense and has good rebounding ability for a guard.
Now more than two years removed from a difficult knee injury, the high major interest in McPherson is starting to heat up as programs such as Auburn, Nebraska, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and UConn have taken notice of the versatile combo guard.
In this interview, McPherson talks about his strengths and weaknesses on the court, why trash talk gets him going, his expectations for year two at Woodstock Academy, who he compares his game to, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Quaran McPherson, from Queens, New York:
Pro Insight: Tell us about your background and where you grew up?
Quaran McPherson: I’m from Queens, New York. I come from a place where not too many people make it and you got to work for everything. So if you work hard, you’ll end up being successful where we come from just with the work ethic to be great and do something with yourself.
PI: Have you gone through hardships, and what did you learn from those experiences?
QM: Yeah, I can say I went through something that most athletes really don’t want to go through. I had a torn ACL and meniscus like two years ago, so I couldn’t play for a whole year. So with that I felt like it was over, I couldn’t play no more, couldn’t be myself. I couldn’t do anything, I was helpless. Basketball was the only thing I knew, so I was just lost. But I had family members who helped me, helped me get through it. They was just like ‘you’re gonna be better than before so keep going through the therapy, don’t give up on yourself, you’re gonna come back better.’ So I stuck with it and I’m back.
PI: How has your mindset changed going through that experience?
QM: My mindset changed where I feel like don’t take anything for granted, the game you love could be snatched with the snap of your finger. It just so happened, I was playing great and then the freak accident happened. It wasn’t on purpose, or intentionally, I just went up for a layup and a kid bumped me and I just fell wrong. So, play every game like it’s your last and always be focused on your goal and want to achieve something in life.
PI: Did you play any sports other than basketball growing up?
QM: I tried to play football, that’s actually a funny story. So I tried to play, and my dad doesn’t know nobody so he just know his son wants to try, so we gonna try to let him play. And it was only practice, season didn’t even start yet, and I got sick. And I never went back at all. I don’t know nobody, I don’t want to. So I’m not playing football, it’s over.
PI: What made you fall in love with the game of basketball?
QM: I saw that all my cousins played. And whenever I would go to games, everyone would go up to my dad talking about how good he was. And I’m like, ‘Him? He’s trash.’ And then one day I went to one of his games, I had to be in like fourth or fifth grade and he played and I’m watching and he is nice. And he’s taller than everybody. So then I’m like, I think I like basketball and I might stick with it.
PI: How tall is your dad and did he play college?
QM: My dad is about 6’7”. He went to JUCO and then he transferred to a D1 school. But he played basketball, like streetball, and everybody knows him. Like he goes out, everybody knows who he is, like they call me ‘little him’ and I’m like you can’t keep calling me that, I want my own name.
PI: So when you play basketball now, what gets you going in a game?
QM: What gets me going is the crowd and when people talk trash to me. Cause every game, you don’t want to go out like ‘I’m gonna score 50 today.’ Sometimes I’ll work on things when I play. Like little things to improve so coaches and whoever is there see ‘he improved his game.’ And then certain people talking in the crowd, like kids, and I’m like ‘chill.’ That gets me going.
PI: Are you a trash talker, or do you just hear them and channel that?
QM: It depends how much trash they talking. Like if you talking trash and you not scoring, now I’m gonna talk trash and I’m gonna score on you. But sometimes I channel it like I’m not gonna talk, I’m just gonna kill them today. I’m just gonna play hard, take the ball and I’m gonna score every time.
PI: Describe your game. What are your greatest strengths?
QM: My game is I do a little bit of everything. I can shoot. I can attack the rim. I can pass, play defense, rebound. But mostly, I’m a scorer. I get to spots, like the midrange area. I can get to the rim and create, like eurosteps, hop-steps, floaters, left hand, right hand, pull-up. Sometimes I’ll mix it up with 3’s. I just started shooting better. I been working this summer, so I’ve been shooting a lot of jump shots, a lot of 3’s working on moves into 3’s. Mostly scoring, though.
PI: What are some things you need to work on and improve?
QM: I had to work on keeping my [shooting] hand all the way up. So, before when I would shoot, I would snatch my hand back. And then my trainer was like ‘when you do that, you take away from your shot so keep your hand up.’ And I used to drop my guide hand. When you see some players when they shoot, they drop their guide hand. So I had to work on keeping both my hands up and holding my follow through. And I’ve been working on that over the summer and it’s been working for me.
PI: Who do you train with?
QM: I train with Jerry Powell. He’s an NBA trainer who trains LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant, players in college, he trains a lot of pros. I didn’t really get to train with him over the summer because of coronavirus but I went down south and trained with a trainer, he trains pros too, in the South Carolina area, so it was good work too.
PI: Did you work with other players, too?
QM: It depends, most of the times when I would be down there it would be me by myself. But when I was with Jerry it would be me and Jonathan Kuminga, we would always work out together.
PI: This will be your second year with Woodstock Academy — how was year one?
QM: The first year was kind of rough in the beginning, because I didn’t understand what Coach Jacque [Rivera] wanted me to do. It was kind of weird how he wanted me to play so I had to adjust to him, and then once I adjusted it was fine and we had our little talks. He would tell me what he wanted me to do and I understood my role more and it was better for me.
PI: How has it been playing for Coach Rivera?
QM: Playing for him, he wants you to do your job. He doesn’t want you to do anything that you’re not supposed to do, or that he doesn’t think you can do. He wants you to do what he wants you to do. So, if you go out and do your job, you’ll be successful. His job for me is play defense, score and get others involved. If I don’t do that, you don’t play, so do what you got to do and you’ll be fine.
PI: What are your expectations for year two?
QM: Year two Coach Jacque told me I have more of a scoring load this year. Last year, I could score, but we also had other players where I didn’t have to do too much scoring. So, he told me he needs me to lock in offensively and defensively every play and be engaged and be ready to score almost every possession.
PI: How has this year been different with COVID-19 and what have you done to face that challenge?
QM: I felt like it has kind of hindered some people. It hindered me in the beginning because I wasn’t doing anything, I was just in the house, chilling. But once you do your test and you get your negative and you’re able to go outside and have a little bit of freedom, I feel like it helped me because I was able to work out more and stuff like that.
PI: What do you miss most from the normal world?
QM: What I miss most is the outside games. Because I was just in the house and everybody just bored, but we all know each other. So, everybody just in the house, on the game, not really doing anything. So, I miss playing outside the most.
PI: Any story behind you wearing #14?
QM: No, I just came to school late and Coach Jacque was like ‘you got to take this number for this year.’
PI: So, is there a number change for this year?
QM: Yeah #3. I just like how #3 looks on me, honestly. Whenever I wear #3 I feel like I play good.
PI: How has the recruiting process been for you?
QM: It’s been good, it’s been increasing more over time because like I said I was hurt so coaches was like ‘did he just disappear off the face of the Earth, where he go?’ So, they didn’t know until like last year and this year. Then everybody started calling Coach Jacque more, calling my dad and the phone’s been buzzing.
PI: What schools have been interested in you up to this point?
QM: Nebraska, UConn, Auburn, St. John’s, Seton Hall, a couple more.
PI: What are you looking for in a school before you commit?
QM: I’m looking for myself to be able to play my game and just be comfortable in my skin. And the coach to help me grow in certain aspects of my game.
PI: What specifically are you looking to improve?
QM: I would say shot selection and being more poised. I worked on that over the summer, I used to always try to go fast. But just working on being under control, pick and roll and just play out of the pick and roll because that’s really how the NBA is. Just want to be in those situations and help me develop.
PI: Do you watch more college or NBA basketball?
QM: A lot of both. I feel like you can learn a lot from the college game and the NBA game. But mostly the NBA game because that’s where you want to end up, as your main goal if you’re playing basketball, everybody playing wants to play in the NBA. I watch a lot of NBA basketball too.
PI: What are some things you try to take away when you watch a game?
QM: I try to see how the lead guards use pick and rolls, how they communicate and how they don’t take as many dribbles to score.
PI: Is there anyone who you would compare your game to?
QM: I try to model my game after Bradley Beal and Ja Morant. Even though I’m not as athletic as Ja Morant, it’s his craftiness, how he gets into the cracks and just finds ways to score and pass the ball.
PI: Who’s your basketball GOAT?
QM: My basketball GOAT is Michael Jordan.
PI: Why MJ?
QM: Michael I would say because after I watched the documentary [The Last Dance] I felt like he’s just on a different level. He just separated himself completely from everybody. He can’t be touched. There’s nothing you can do to be better than Michael.
PI: Who’s the toughest player you ever had to guard?
QM: RJ Barrett. The simple fact that he was older than me. He was a senior. So, if you’ve seen his senior highlights, you’d be like ‘yeah he’s the number-one player for a reason.’ I held my own, I had a little 17 points but he was just stronger than me. Like I shot a jump shot and he bumped me, and I went flying. I’m like ‘that’s not a foul?’ He’s strong, he’s physical, he knows how to use his body and he was just better than everybody, I’m not even gonna lie.
PI: How about in the prep ranks?
QM: A good player I played against, a friend of mine, he went to Commonwealth [Academy], I would say Femi [Odukale]. He goes to University of Pittsburgh.
PI: Do you consider yourself to be more introverted or extroverted?
QM: I would say I’m more of an outgoing person. I can do both, but if I don’t know you, I’m not gonna talk. I’ll sit here and look at you and talk here and there but if I know everybody in the area, I’m gonna talk. People are gonna be like ‘Oh, Q’s here.’ You’re gonna know I’m there.
PI: What would you say your leadership style is at Woodstock?
QM: Leadership style is I’m gonna try to get the best out of you every day. That’s if I got to push you, make you angry, I want everybody to be happy and succeed and reach they goals. So, I’m gonna get what I have to get out of you in order to win games and we going to push you to be great.
PI: Do you have any mentor figures in your life?
QM: I would say my dad, my step pops J.R. and he’s like a big brother to me – Justin Wright-Foreman, he’s on the Utah Jazz.
PI: What advice have they given you that has stuck with you?
QM: They always told me, if you want to be successful and you want to play basketball you always got to play with a chip on your shoulder and be hungry and go get what you want. Don’t be laid back, just play your hardest and you’ll end up where you want to be. Work hard and everything will happen for you.
PI: What are some of your short-term and long-term goals on the basketball court?
QM: Short-term goal, cause the next level is almost here, I would say get to college. And wherever I go, try to make first-team freshman and hopefully get freshman player of the year if I could do that. And long-term goal, get to the NBA and be successful and help my family out. And help everybody who helped me.
PI: What are four words that best describe you?
QM: Cool. Funny. Smart. Ambitious.
PI: What’s your biggest passion outside of basketball?
QM: I don’t really have a hobby. I play the game [Fortnite and Call of Duty] with my cousins, that’s the only way I keep in contact with them unless I call them. We play the game. And sleep. That’s a hobby to me.
PI: If you were going to do anything outside of basketball for your career, what would it be?
QM: I would be a zoologist.
PI: Why zoologist?
QM: Because I like animals, I’m a nerd about animals. When I’m home and I’m not playing basketball, I watch National Geographic like it’s a reality show, like all day. My mom will be like ‘didn’t you just watch this’ and I’m like ‘I’m gonna watch it again, mom.’
PI: Do you have a favorite animal?
QM: Favorite animal, I would say Jaguar.
PI: What’s your all-time greatest memory on the court?
QM: Well before I transferred [to WA], I was at my other school Christ the King. And we were playing [Archbishop] Molloy. And I hit a game-winner and I had played horrible. Like horrible.
PI: Break down the play for us.
QM: My point guard Tyson Walker is at the top of the key, almost by half-court, on the left side. He calls for a pick-and-roll with my big man, Kofi Cockburn. I’m in the corner, the guy guarding me went to help. Tyson ran the screen, and he ran all the way to Tyson and Tyson just threw it to me. And mind you, I did not score the whole game, the whole game. Like when I played against Molloy, that’s my kryptonite, I played horrible. And when I shot it, I just knew it was good and I just started walking the other way. And it went in. And the gym, everybody erupted. That’s my best moment on the court.
PI: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
QM: I’m a gamer. I play a little 2K. I play new games for a little bit until I get bored of them. I play Spider-Man, games like that.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
QM: A person that you could look up to and know he’s going to be there for you to help you if you ask him for anything, not gonna push you away and act ‘Hollywood,’ as people would say. And he made it from where you’re from and you can do it if you put your mind to it. If you work hard, if you want to achieve something, you can do it.
PI: Is there anything you’d like to say to address the Black Lives Matter movement?
QM: I’d like to say that I agree with what everybody is doing and the more everybody keeps doing it, it will wake everybody up and they’ll see like everybody life does matter, mostly black, because we are looked at differently. That’s for other people to take care of. And basketball players, just keep using our own voice and hopefully everybody listen and follow suit.
Watch the full interview with Quaran, here