BEVERLY — Noah Vonleh could have melted under the pressure.
With the score tied with 7.6 seconds left in New Hampton’s New England Prep School Athletic Conference AAA quarterfinal game against South Kent, the sophomore from Haverhill missed his first free throw.
He said, “That makes it a lot tougher. It puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Vonleh, though, is used to the pressure. He’s been hailed as The Next Big Thing since middle school.
After a timeout to ice him, he swished the second one, giving the Huskies a 70-69 victory.
“I knew I was going to hit the second,” he said.
After a poor first half for both Vonleh and the Huskies, the 6-8 sophomore led the charge back from a 39-26 halftime deficit.
He scored his first points of the game on two early second half 3-pointers. He later added a dunk and two free throws to finish with 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
Among the observers at Endicott College yesterday was the father of one of his teammates.
That would be Danny Manning, the former NBA No. 1 overall pick who carried Kansas to the 1988 national title.
Manning isn’t just a proud father. He’s the top assistant at his alma mater. And at the top of the Jayhawks’ wish list is Vonleh. Some have compared the multi-skilled Vonleh to a young Manning.
“He came to a couple of our practices and I’ve talked to him a few times,” said Vonleh. “I’ve watched a few YouTube highlights and I can see we have a few things in common.”
According to ESPN.com, the Jayhawks may have to beat out BC, Arizona, UConn, North Carolina, Pitt and Marquette.
BC-bound point guard Olivier Hanlan was the recipient of an unselfish pass from Vonleh, who had the ball in the paint but found his teammate for a wide-open jumper.
“That’s a great play,” said Hanlan. “He’s a bit like (North Carolina All-American) Harrison Barnes. He can hit the open jumper. He’s long and he’s solid (about 220 pounds). ... He doesn’t really like to post up yet, but he’ll learn.”
With more of a post-up game, the Haverhill High transfer could be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
While he’s played better games, Vonleh showed a bit of everything yesterday to Manning and the 150 or so basketball junkies on hand.
He hit the 3-pointers, did some strong work on the offensive glass, brought the ball upcourt at times, shook off an elbow to the mouth, and even a few times covered McDonald’s All-American Ricky Ledo, a lightning quick 6-6 scoring machine.