With 6'11 big man Larry Sanders leaving for the NBA draft and seniors TJ Gwynn and Kirill Pischalnikov graduating and moving on (as well as the subsequent dismissal of rising junior Terrance Saintil), the Ram frontcourt was suddenly very thin with only rising senior Jamie Skeen and walk-on redshirt sophomore David Hinton returning in the frontcourt next year. The staff had to address the gaps in the frontcourt and came up big with the signings of some highly-touted big men, including an intriguing 7-footer out of California in Darrell 'DJ' Haley. Haley's father Darrell Sr. played in the PAC-10 for California in the early 80's and DJ has picked up a lot from his dad. He runs the floor extremely well for his size and has soft hands, finishing around the basket but also possessing a nice perimeter stroke as well.
Scout.com ranked Haley as the #8 Center on the West Coast and ESPN.com's Joel Francisco named Haley as one of the top sleepers out west:
One of the top sleepers out West is 6-9 senior Darrell Haley (Palmdale, Calif.). He has a terrific lengthy frame and good hands. He is a tad mechanical and is still very raw, but the upside is there.
During his visit, Haley measured out just shy of 7 feet at 6'11 3/4". He will bring much needed size and athleticism to the frontcourt as well as a tireless work ethic. Along with Juvonte Reddic, Haley makes up one of the bigger and more athletic frontcourt recruiting classes at VCU in a while. DJ was gracious enough to spend some time to do an interview with the Report:
RRR: On behalf of the Ram Nation I’d like to express our excitement at your decision to be a part of the future of VCU basketball.
RRR: You were pursued by many schools from many different levels, what made VCU the right fit for you in your mind?
DJ: VCU is the right fit for me because I felt like I was at home as soon as I stepped on campus. The team was great, the campus was welcoming, and the coaching staff is amazing. I feel that I can become the best person I can possibly be on and off the court at VCU.
RRR: Over the course of your recruitment, which schools did you have offers from?
DJ: I had offers from Iowa State, Wyoming, Drake, VCU(of course lol), and had interest from USC, Colorado, Cornell, and Princeton.
RRR: When you ultimately chose to commit to VCU, which schools did you have offers from or have visits scheduled for?
DJ: When I committed to VCU, I already had it narrowed down to them and Drake. I visited VCU and then went to visit Drake a week after. I committed the day after I got back from Iowa.
RRR: Which NBA or college player would you say your game most resembles and why?
DJ: I would have to say Pau Gasol. I like to get to the bucket but also have some finesse to my game.
RRR: What do you think your greatest strength as a player is?
DJ: I think my greatest strength is my defense. People say I move pretty well for my height, and I am pretty good at staying on the ground and contesting shots.
RRR: What role do you see yourself playing at VCU next year?
DJ: I'll play wherever the coaches and my team needs me. I'm all about teamwork.
RRR: There was a lot of buzz around campus when you came to visit and the staff made it clear they really wanted you at VCU. What did you do while on your visit in Richmond?
DJ: Basically, they showed me the city and the campus. I really enjoyed going to the Music and Engineering departments as well as seeing the game. I met some pretty important people and hung out with the team. Oh and we had some delicious food. I might have gained some weight on the trip haha.
RRR: California is a long way from Virginia! When did you start hearing from the VCU staff about playing at VCU and who was the primary person in your recruitment?
DJ: Well, I started hearing from VCU from Coach Wade. He had been recruiting me back when he was at Harvard and gave me a ring one day when he was already at VCU. That's when it started.
RRR: What did you think of the fans and atmosphere at the Siegel Center when you visited for the Akron game? Did you hear your name chanted by the fans? (they planned that one in advance)
DJ: The fans are too awesome. I also enjoyed the band. They both ROCKED! The atmosphere of the game felt more intense than the UCLA vs. USC game I went to. And everybody was telling me that the fans were not as crazy as they usually are that game. I actually did not hear the chant coming from them. I did not find out until after the game. I was really into the game haha.
RRR: Your success off the court and in the classroom has been well-publicized as well. Rumor has it you're interested in working for NASA one day?
DJ: Haha. Well I try to excel on and off the court. NASA is definitely where I want to be. I have a fascination with technology especially with a focus on the aerospace/aeronautical side of things. My goals are actually to help develop new ways and strategies for space travel as well as help develop new ways of living from a technological perspective.
RRR: Anything else you wanna say to Ram fans?
DJ: I am looking forward to finally getting on campus!!! I will strive to be the best player I can possibly be as well as the best person. GO RAMS!!!
RRR: Thanks so much for your time Darrell and we can’t wait to see you take the court for VCU!