It pg 7 10-29-20

Jayden Beloti hails from Apex, N.C.
Pipe Ajayi is a native Canadian from Alberta.
The two have met in the middle so to speak, opting to come to The Woodstock Academy to play prep basketball.
But while the two come from nearly different worlds, both have come to a similar conclusion.
Playing basketball in the Northeast is not exactly what they are accustomed to.
“Basketball here is a lot different,” Beloti, a 6-foot, 3-inch wing, said. “In the couple of weeks that I have been here, I have had to adjust. There are some things here that probably wouldn’t be (allowed) in North Carolina.”
Namely, the physicality.
“It’s physical,” said Woodstock Academy prep basketball head coach Jacque Rivera. “You are going to have marks, bruises, bumps.”
Back when the Big East Conference was at the pinnacle of the collegiate basketball world, its calling card was its physical play.
Rivera remembers when Jim Calhoun was the coach at UConn; his success was built on the backs of players from the Northeast.
Syracuse and Georgetown were built in similar fashions.
It’s typical of the area as a whole.
“Basketball is football here,” Rivera said with a smile. “I don’t call fouls in practice and, as much as I give officials a hard time, I seldom complain (to his players) about a foul call. It’s usually a lack of effort or something. The physicality is what we are as a program; high-risk, high-reward. I talk about it all the time. We send two guys at the ball so you are constantly playing two guys (in practice). New England basketball is physical in nature. It’s taxing on your body, your mentality. It’s a shock to them (who haven’t played in the area). You look at Quaran (McPherson, a second-year player) and he’s fluid, Elijah Blackmon, too. They have been through it. We try to bring the guys who haven’t been through it along quickly.”
Ajayi has also found the waters a little more turbulent than north of the border.
The Canadian game is more European-style.
“We like to take 3’s more, they’re worth more than 2’s. You find kids practicing their 3’s all the time,” Ajayi said.
In the States, even guards have to learn how to mix it up underneath.
He attributes some of that to attitude.
Here in America, LeBron James is the stereotype that most players consider to be the ultimate role model.
“People here are more aggressive. They have something to fight for. In Canada, we have some star players, people are coming up but here, everybody wants it, everybody wants to go at it. That’s what I like about here,” Ajayi said.
Ajayi has the physical attributes as the frontcourt player is 6-6 and 226 pounds.
He can take a licking, and give it back. “I try my best to be physical. The coaches push me a lot to be strong; don’t let other kids bully you. I’ve taken that challenge,” Ajayi said.
Ajayi said his coach in Canada recommended he come to Woodstock Academy because it would give him a better chance to showcase his talents to American college basketball coaches.
“I’m here to get my game up, my work ethic up, my strength up and be the best player I can be,” Ajayi said. “This school has been bringing it out in me.”
The adjustment takes time.
“I’m a competitor. I’m going to give my all every single day to fit in and stand out,” Beloti said. “I knew there was going to be more physicality. I’m going to push through it.”
Beloti had a strong role model of his own.
Former NBA player and University of Virginia star Cory Alexander recommended that he play at Woodstock Academy.
Alexander suggested to Beloti’s mother that Jayden may want to look at prep school for a year after he only received interest from a couple of North Carolina Division III schools.
He considered junior college, but was receptive to the idea of prep basketball.
Beloti listened, because he like so many others, has his mind focused on one thing. “I want to go to school for free; that has always been the goal,” Beloti said.
There are 30 other prep basketball players at Woodstock Academy saying the same thing.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy
 * photos by Marc Allard


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