High School Sports

Kentwood’s D’Angelo Minnis gives the crowd what it wants — a lot of crazy 3-pointers

Kentwood's D'Angelo Minnis (5) hits a three-point-shot to tie the game at 35-35 in the second quarter. Kentwood played Union in the 4A boys state championship basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
Kentwood's D'Angelo Minnis (5) hits a three-point-shot to tie the game at 35-35 in the second quarter. Kentwood played Union in the 4A boys state championship basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, March 4, 2017. jbessex@gateline.com

No, that’s not Stephen Curry.

Really.

That’s D’Angelo Minnis in that Kentwood High School uniform, drilling all those 3-pointers.

Curry isn’t even his favorite player.

“It’s actually Damian Lillard,” Minnis said, politely and with a smile. “But you can’t hate Stephen Curry.”

Minnis, a 5-foot-10 senior, is the shortest player on Kentwood’s roster and it doesn’t have a whole lot of height to begin with. He’s the only player back who had significant minutes on the Conquerors 4A state title team a year ago. All of its starters graduated.

But when Minnis would jog to the scorers’ table and check in off the bench – after spending his entire sophomore year on the junior varsity team – it was a show.

There was the swish 3-pointer from well beyond the 3-point line at the first-quarter buzzer against Curtis in the state quarterfinals. Then the dagger 3 from the left wing with just over a minute to play in that 57-55 win.

Or the two he hit late against Federal Way to snuff the Eagles’ then 63-game win streak. It wasn’t just that he was making them throughout the season – but that he hit them when the Conks seemed to need them most.

“Hey, he gives the crowd what they want to see,” said Darius LuBom, the since-graduated two-time league MVP who has started eight of his 12 games as a freshman at Western Oregon University this year. “The crowd wants to see crazy shots, Stephen Curry shots. And that’s what he does.”

Kentwood coach Blake Solomon was known to be a deadly 3-point ace, himself, when he played at Kentwood. Now he and his former backcourt mate, NBA player Rodney Stuckey, are coaching the Conks instead of playing for them.

But Minnis’ range?

“It’s unbelievable. It’s pretty much unlimited” Solomon said. “He’s a really, really good shooter. Last year, if he couldn’t get into the paint, he could just back up and it was like the same thing.”

“Great shooter, man,” Stuckey said. “As he goes we go.”

Only Minnis wasn’t always a 3-point shooter.

Short – yes. He’s always been short. He was 4-foot-7 entering the seventh grade.

So he took pride in his defense. He had to set himself apart somehow if he wanted to play.

“I always knew I was going to be a short guy my whole life,” Minnis said. “So I use that to my advantage. I’m lower than a lot of guys, and I’m quick, so I can get a lot of steals. I was short and I had to play defense.”

Then a Stephen Curry video.

He was watching a documentary on the former NBA MVP and Golden State Warriors superstar when Curry said he would take 1,000 shots a day.

Minnis says he tries to emulate his pull-up jump shot after Lillard’s, and same with his side-step 3-pointer and defense. But that Curry video inspired him. Minnis and his father, Deshawn, wake up at 5 a.m. and head to the gym for workouts together just about every morning, and together they put up 1,000 shots.

“He’s one of the most driven kids there is,” Solomon said. “I mean, there’s very few high school kids – or college kids for that matter – who get up at 5 a.m. every morning and get up the number of shots he does every day. It’s good to see all that pay off because when kids put in that work, it’s good to see them rewarded for it.”

Deshawn played some basketball growing up, but not seriously, Minnis said. He works out with his son just so he can be around him more.

Minnis’ brother is a junior, but he doesn’t play sports, instead traveling all over with the school band playing percussion. He stopped playing basketball in the eighth grade to focus on his music.

Minnis is practicing to play the piano and he used to play the clarinet.

“Sometimes my brother and I work on making beats together,” Minnis said. “But I don’t really have any other family members who play sports.”

On the court, get Minnis open for 3.

But don’t let him open up off the court, Solomon said.

“We talk all the time – whenever we’re on long road trips or somewhere, don’t open up the box that is D’Angelo,” Solomon said.

Why?

Solomon just laughed. And tried to sift through all of the soundbites from Minnis running through his head.

“Well, we were talking to him on our way to Camas last year and he said he takes six showers a day,” Solomon said. “Just things like that.

“Just the other day one of our coaches asked D’Angelo, ‘Hey, do you have any lotion? I need to borrow some.’ He said, ‘No, I’ve used to much that my skin is now naturally soft.’ You never know what you’re going to get out of him. Those things are just the tip of the ice berg.”

“I think everyone knows me for who I am,” Minnis said. “I like to joke around and I don’t take things very seriously – except when it comes to basketball.”

He and Solomon spent much of their summer discussing leadership styles, since Minnis is the lone returner from last year’s team.

It’s one thing to wow the crowd off the bench. It’s another to be the target of every game plan, every scouting report and every team’s best defender like he’s seeing this season. And when last year he could feed off LuBom or Rayvaughn Bolton, who is now playing at Eastern Arizona, attacking the paint and opening up his looks, now Minnis has to do more of the creating and dishing.

“Last year he was kind of an energy guy,” Solomon said. “Hit shots, defend, pick up full court – one of those pivotal guys you need, but he was playing behind the best backcourt in the state, in my opinion.

“This year it’s a little different. He’s got to be able to set stuff up. We’ve got other guys we’ve been working with on setting up the offense and the quicker they come along, the easier it will be to move D’Angelo off the ball a little bit, get him coming off screens and get him back to more of his natural scoring mentality.”

Kentwood is off to an 8-2 start, with losses to Bishop Blanchet and Shorecrest. But then it beat Union – the same team it beat in the 4A state title game last year – and is currently riding a six-game win streak.

“At the beginning of the season, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could be good,” Minnis said. “We knew people were going to be like, ‘Oh, how is Kentwood going to be? They lost a lot of their main players.’ Which we did. But we knew that we had a lot of talent coming back and if we work together and build our chemistry we can be really good.

“Because last year I learned a lot about that – how it’s not about you, it’s about the team.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

Twitter: @TJCotterill

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