By Hector Longo
---- — One of the worst-kept secrets in basketball circles broke nationally yesterday as sources reported that Haverhill’s Noah Vonleh will leave Indiana University after one year and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft.
“I think it’s something most people expected. It’s really no surprise,” said Vonleh’s Rivals Basketball Club coach and mentor Vin Pastore. “This was the week. He came home for spring break and had some discussions with his family and the people around him. Financially, I don’t really think there was much of a decision to be made. If he is what all the people in the game are saying what he is, Noah really can’t lose.”
Just 18 years old, Vonleh is projected by most to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Most mocks have him going at 6 or 7. That would put the 6-foot-10 big man in range to make upward of $7-to-$8 million out of the draft, and that figure is pretty conservative according to the NBA rookie scale.
Vonleh, who played two years at Haverhill High School and two more at New Hampton Prep, dominated as a freshman at Indiana, nearly averaging a double-double at 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds a game for a Hoosiers’ team that struggled.
The former Eagle-Tribune Super Teamer was named the Big-10 Conference Rookie of the Year and earned third-team All-Conference status.
“I think he gave Indiana exactly what they expected out of him this season,” said his Haverhill High coach Mike Trovato. “They knew the kind of player that Noah is, the kind of effort he exerts, his amazing work ethic.”
Clearly, one season at Indiana was in the plan for Vonleh, who last February laid out his plan to The Eagle-Tribune.
“I’m looking to make an immediate impact, hopefully a national title,” he said after being named a McDonald’s All-American. “Then maybe it’s the (2014) NBA Draft.”
Vonleh has folks in Haverhill buzzing about the decision. Clearly, he helped bring basketball back to the forefront in the city. Despite the tough record for the varsity team this year, the freshman and sophomore classes at the school are brimming with talent under Trovato.
And Saul Phiri, an Eagle-Tribune All-Star as a freshman with the Hillies, could be the next Division 1 player to come out as he enjoyed a fine sophomore season at Worcester Academy.
“This all started for Noah with Mike (Trovato) at Haverhill High and the job he did coaching him there,” said Pastore. “Mike had nothing but the kid’s best interests at heart and helped him along nicely.
“Noah will always be a big part of Haverhill. He loves his hometown and has so many people behind him there.”
Along with some team meetings, Vonleh returned to classes yesterday at IU and plans on finishing up the year in good academic standing.