Jalen Gorham wants to play NCAA Division I basketball at an Ivy League college.
Knowing the difficulty of that goal, the 6-foot, 7-inch wing player is transferring to a school where he thinks will maintain the academic rigor of his previous school, York Country Day, and challenge him more as a basketball player.
Gorham, a rising senior, is transferring to The MacDuffie School in Granby, Massachusetts, which is about half an hour north of Springfield.
"It will help my basketball process and hopefully develop me to put me out there to play in front of college coaches, which is something that wasn’t really possible at York Country Day," Gorham said. "The coach (at MacDuffie) seems like he’s going to push me and develop me."
Gorham was a first-team Class 1-A all-state player last season as a junior, when he helped Country Day to its third straight District 3 Class 1-A crown. He was a third-team all-state pick as a sophomore.
Better competition: Gorham said the decision wasn't an easy one for him and his parents, but the academics of MacDuffie, along with the better competition, enticed him to make the 350-mile move.
"Academically, this school is still strong," he said. "I went to Country Day because of their academics. (MacDuffie) has academics and athletics, and I’ll be playing against better competition."
For Pat McGlynn, Gorham's AAU coach for the York Ballers, playing against better competition is crucial. MacDuffie is a competitive preparatory school and often has its players compete in college.
"The level of competition is much different," said McGlynn, who has coached the York Ballers for 15 years. "They’re one of the best prep schools on the East Coast. York Country Day is a great school, but playing Class A basketball doesn’t help him competition wise."
McGlynn said it takes Class 1-A players, such as Gorham, longer to adjust to the better competition they see in AAU games and tournaments.
"It takes him a month to adjust to playing in AAU to play against some of the top kids in the country," McGlynn said. "The competition he’ll see in practice at MacDuffie is better than what he’ll see in Class A, even if (York Country Day) goes all the way through the state tournament. If he has higher aspirations, he has to play better competition."
About Gorham: McGlynn started coaching Gorham when he was 5 years old and playing with McGlynn's son, Brandon, who is a standout at Dallastown High School.
McGlynn said what makes Gorham special is that he's more than just a basketball player.
"He’s just one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met," McGlynn said. "He’s a really nice kid. People always use the word 'student-athlete.' You can be a student-athlete and be a bad (kid). Jalen is a really good (kid)."
McGlynn described Gorham as a "slasher," who uses his length to his advantage to get to the rim and defend.
"He is just so athletic," he said. "It’s nuts."
"I like to run in transition," Gorham said. "I like to get some easy dunks and easy layups. I pride myself on defense and use my length on the defensive end."
Gorham transferred to York Country Day as a sophomore after spending his freshman season at Trinity. He scored 21 points per game last season for the Greyhounds.
While Gorham is leaving YCD for better competition, he said his time as a Greyhound put pressure on him that helped him grow mentally.
"I was put on the stage where I needed to be the man and do everything: pass, rebound and score," he said. "That really pushed me. Mentally, that gave me the edge to do everything on the floor."
Choosing MacDuffie: Gorham said he "hit it off" with MacDuffie head coach Jacques Rivera when he took his visit.
"By the questions he asked and how he was, I already know he is going to push to get the best out of me," Gorham said. "He kept it real with me."
Gorham has the option at MacDuffie to take a post-graduate year, during which he would play another year at MacDuffie to develop more before choosing where to play in college. Because of PIAA rules, that isn't an option he had at York Country Day, but Gorham said he doesn't know whether he'll use the extra year or not.
During the next year or two at MacDuffie, Gorham hopes to develop his 3-point shot.
"A lot of Ivy League schools play that way, so I need to improve my 3-point shot to spread the floor," he said.
Gorham leaves for MacDuffie on Aug. 26. The year at the prep school will be his first away from home. He said being 6 1/2 hours from home is a "fear" of his, but that he's confident he will adjust.
"I'm just going to live in the gym," he said.
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