Word of God Coach Talks Bishop Daniels, C.J. Leslie And John Wall
Words. Trevor Kapp
Erasto Hatchett is the coach of Word of God Christian Academy (a.k.a. John Wall’s alma mater) in Raleigh, N.C. After coaching at Cannon School in Concord, N.C., the past few years, he was named the head coach of Word of God in August, and has led his team comprised of several D-1 prospects to a 12-4 record through Monday. Hatchett, who played at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, is also the brother-in-law of prized N.C. State basketball commit Ryan Harrow. I sat down with Hatchett following a win last week and asked him about his kids, his visions and his life as the head coach of an aspiring national power.
HighSchoolHoop: What’s special about this program compared to other schools?
Erasto Hatchett: I think appreciating one’s ability to get the most out of kids is a focal point here from a basketball standpoint. And of course, here, you’ve got the name with tributes to John Wall. Before, I had great ballplayers, but the level of talent here and the athleticism here is far greater than any place else I’ve been. Dr. Frank Summerfield (the school’s founder) is very supportive and gives me the opportunity to create what I do with the guys.
HSH: How do you feel about this year’s team?
EH: I feel we’re playing good going into tournament time. From the beginning of the year, our goal was to win the conference and to win the state championship, and I think we’re gelling together at the right time. One of my coaches says, “Coach, you don’t wanna peak too soon.” And I was disappointed in some early losses. But that’s part of changing the culture and getting kids to buy into a new system and into each other. I think most teams are dangerous when they start to gel together.
HSH: Tell me about 6-2 junior Bishop Daniels. He’s garnered a lot of interest from schools like Memphis, Wake Forest and Florida.
EH: Bishop’s ability is out of the ceiling. He just has to increase his basketball IQ, and that’s something that we’re working on. I wanna send these kids off to college with a basketball IQ that is higher than the other kids who are coming in because that’ll give them opportunities to be more successful sooner when they get to college. So his ability is incredible. We just have to get him to make that transition from strictly a scorer to also running the show.
HSH: With such big-name players comes some pressure to win. Do you put pressure on yourself?
EH: It’s ironic you say that because I tell my guys, “The only pressure you have is the pressure that you put upon yourself.” Pressure from outside entities, I don’t deal in it. I can only control what I control. At one point in life, I wanted to control everything, but I’ve learned that you can only control what you’re able to control, and you have to let other things handle themselves, so I don’t allow the pressure to get to me. My expectation is for my guys to go out and give 100 percent.
HSH: Tell me about your routine as a coach. How many hours a day would you say you devote to coaching?
EH: All of my time. I am the guidance counselor here, so a lot of my time is directing the kids from an academic standpoint, but everyone here knows my passion is basketball. I never made it a secret, so it’s constantly on my mind. I’m not putting myself on a pedestal, but I don’t think all high school coaches take into account the responsibility we have with these young kids and their dreams. I think their dreams should become our dreams, and that’s not always what’s happening. So tonight, I’ll go home, kiss my girls, kiss my wife, and then when they go to sleep I’ll go into the other room and watch some game tape (laughs).
HSH: What makes 6-6 senior C.J. Leslie a special player? What does he need to work on?
EH: C.J. is one of the most special athletes in the country. C.J. is probably the most athletic, versatile player in high school. Are there other guys who are just as good? Absolutely. But to not have him in the same conversation as the No. 1 or No. 2 player in the country is bananas. And he’ll prove that, but what he has to learn is that people are watching everything he does, and if they see him make a gesture, they’re gonna take that and jump on that. I have to keep in mind I’m dealing with a kid. He’s 17, and he’s gonna get it, and when he does that, I’m 100 percent confident he’ll come back and say, “Coach, I appreciate it.” What I do believe is that he’s a lot smarter than a lot of people think. He knows what he’s doing. He kind of has this mapped out, he’s not gonna let himself fall in this basketball realm. He’s special. He can handle the ball, shoot the J and pass.
HSH: As one of the best players in the country yet to commit, where is he right now with his recruitment?
EH: We honestly don’t even talk about it. He’s still wide open. There’re a lot looking at him, and some new schools starting to come around, and he will entertain and has entertained. He’s still wide open, and we’ve made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t deal with it until the season’s over.
HSH: You guys don’t play a national schedule. What would it take for that to happen?
EH: We’re gonna have to continue to get top talent. We’re gonna have to get guys who would put us in a situation to play those nationally-ranked schools. Our goal is to reach the top, and I want the best players in town to play for me. Unfortunately, I can’t recruit, so my recruiting is going out and beating other teams and showing that I’m a pretty decent coach.
HSH: Do you go on recruiting visits with your players?
EH: I haven’t. C.J. and I have talked about it, and I’m gonna make a few visits that he’s asked me to make with him, wherever he decides, or if he needs me. I kind of leave that up to the parents because what I do is get the facts from the schools. I see where they’re gonna utilize my ballplayers, and it’s my job to bring the facts back to the parents and the players and then allow them to make an intelligent decision.
HSH: Has John Wall come back at all this year?
EH: He has. He came back and spoke to the guys a little bit. We had a tournament up in Kentucky, and he came to the locker room and the hotel and talked to the guys. John and I may text each other once every two weeks. John and Ryan [Harrow] used to play each other when they were about 13. Just being in the loop, we’d always speak and talk, and there’s a mutual respect between John and Ryan. The truth of the matter is that this is his program. I don’t make any qualms about it. Dr. Summerfield runs the school; however, John Wall has put the basketball program on the map, and I promised to handle the program in a way that would be good in Dr. Summerfield’s eyes and John Wall’s as well.