About a month ago, Rhode Island received somewhat of a surprise commitment from 6-7 Ileri Ayo-Faleye, a 2020 wing from Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, whose recruitment blossomed late in the process. Originally ticketed for a post-grad year at Putnam Science Academy, a powerhouse prep school, Ayo-Faleye decisively pivoted and committed to Rhode Island based on the relationships he formed with David Cox and staff. He will redshirt this upcoming season.
I connected with the newest Ram on his thoughts about joining the program and more.
Chris DiSano: Let’s get people up to speed on who you are as a player and a person. Can you introduce yourself to URI fans?
Ileri Ayo-Faleye: Sure, I’m from central Pennsylvania. It’s not known as an area being too good for hooping but that never really stopped me from dreaming of getting to somewhere like here. I went to Cedar Crest High School. I didn’t play much as a freshman and sophomore. I started my junior year and then I just kept getting better, living in the gym, perfecting my craft and things started to take off for me late – a couple months ago – and I’m grateful for it. It’s been a blessing. I’m never looking back and I’m going to keep on working and keep on getting better.
CD: Can you discuss how you like to play on both ends of the floor.
IAF: Let’s start with defense. On the defensive end I’m a very gritty player. I feel like I can guard spots 1 through 4 and when I put some weight on, probably the 5 too honestly. I’m pretty athletic, I can run the floor and can get up and down the court. I take pride in defense. It’s my goal to not let you score, frustrate you the whole night and make it your worst game of the year. I was able to do that last year, holding the opposition’s best player below their average every game. That was my goal before any points or anything else. Because I feel if I can contribute on the defensive end, we’re going to win regardless – and it helped.
Offensively, I’m versatile. I made it a point of emphasis this past year to expand my range so I could shoot the three consistently and that helped me get to the rim. And the mid-range game is slept on by a lot of people and I feel that’s what separates me. I can score at three levels, facilitate for teammates, find the open man, make the right play and just play at a 100% all the time and sell out for my teammates.
CD: I read an article in a local central Pennsylvania newspaper about Kobe Bryant being an inspiring figure for you. When did that take hold and how have you tried to pattern your game after him?
IAF: First time I ever saw a basketball game was when my uncle came over and put on a game of Kobe versus Lebron. It was at Cleveland when Lebron had Shaq on the team and I saw Lebron and Kobe go at it and for some reason I gravitated towards Kobe. Since then he’s been my favorite player. I like his competitiveness. I’m a competitor at heart and take after that. I feel like it stems from that, his whole Mamba Mentality thing. I look at that and that’s what I want to be like. That’s a great role model to have and I’ve been modeling my game after him ever since. His attention to detail and the way he works. That’s my goal in this redshirt year — to be in the gym more than anyone else. Work on my game and become so much better than I am right now.
CD: Great answer… You led into it a bit before that your recruitment blew up later in the process. Prior to your decision to commit to Rhode Island what other schools were recruiting you the heaviest?
IAF: Obviously, some schools had offered me and others were recruiting me harder [but had yet to offer]. Schools recruiting me were VCU, Temple, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Towson – schools in that realm. Widespread base. Not any big majors. If I would’ve gone to a prep school that would’ve happened, but that’s never been my goal. My goal was always about finding the right fit, somewhere I could grow, and somewhere I thought would be home. I know I made the right decision coming here.
CD: You initially decided to go to Putnam Science Academy and then elected to forego that prep year. You discussed knowing you made the right choice. What was it about the URI staff that helped you realize is was such a comfortable and great fit?
IAF: Honestly, every time we talked through Zoom or was texting with the staff it just clicked more than any coaching staffs I had talked to before that. It always felt like a great vibe, everyone is cool and we’d go and do our thing. I feel like they have my best interests at heart and are going to help me get better.
CD: Did you get a chance to visit during the process?
IAF: Yeah, I had a chance to get up on campus. I took a drive with my AAU coach Pat McGlynn and he was kind enough to drive me and my mom up to see the campus and walk around. I loved the campus when I came here to visit.
CD: As far as your individual development, where are you focusing your energy right now?
IAF: Just developing my body, becoming more athletic and explosive, expanding my guard skills and becoming even more versatile, becoming a better shooter off the dribble… a lot of stuff. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one thing at this stage because as you know nobody is a complete player. I know I still have a lot to work on.
CD: It’s a great answer and an honest one. Let’s end here… You just spoke about strength and conditioning. How helpful will that be for you to get into a college-based strength and conditioning program?
IAF: I think it’s going to be monumental for my game. I talked with the strength and conditioning coach today and he seems like a great guy. I can’t wait to get in the weight room with him and work on different parts of my body and getting better.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44