Coming from New York City to The Winchendon School in Massachusetts was challenging for Angel Nunez but coach Mike Byrnes said the 6-foot-7 small forward made tremendous strides this past season as many college programs are still in a wait-and-see period.
"To be successful here at The Winchendon School you really have to buy into rebounding, defending and playing hard," Byrnes said. "That wasn't Angel's strong suit when he came here so that was a huge adjustment. He definitely made huge strides in those areas but not enough to warrant more minutes especially playing behind Eric Ferguson.
"He did a good job understanding his role and as much as someone wouldn't like it, he understood it, handled himself well and made huge strides on the defensive end. As far as recruiting goes, everyone is in a wait-and-see mode."
Byrnes said Providence has shown good amounts of interest and that West Virginia, Louisville, Kansas, St. John's and Rutgers have all been involved. Nunez has already visited West Virginia, Syracuse and Providence and there are multiple reports he'll take a trip to Arizona this week.
"There was a large contingency of schools that came in but a lot of schools want to watch him play this summer to see his development before they make any decision," Byrnes said.
"As far as from me, their biggest question is will he be able to make the adjustment of playing hard, defending and buying into it, getting stronger before anyone really knocks down the door for him. A lot of people are in the wait-and-see mode."
Rivals.com rates Nunez as the No. 11 small forward and No. 47 prospect in the 2011 class and a year of tough love at Winchendon probably was exactly what he needed to further improve his game.
Learning to come off the bench was difficult but it's a growing process Nunez went through. Byrnes guessed that Nunez played about 15 minutes per game this season.
"There were some ups-and-downs but he worked really, really hard in the weight room and wanted to get better and as the season started he was playing behind Eric Ferguson who was a very, very talented kid, probably our best player," Byrnes said.
"Angel had to make the adjustment of playing behind him and for the most part Angel was pretty receptive to it. He understood how good Eric was and he was probably the second guy off the bench when I wanted to take Eric out and I needed a spark Angel would go in."
The low point for Nunez this season probably was after he performed poorly in a tournament in Rhode Island and sulked for a few days before Byrnes sat him down in his office.
That's when Byrnes clearly told Nunez not only what he expects - but what college coaches expect - to see each night on the floor. There has been a significant turnaround, Byrnes said, and there's no question Nunez has the talent to make a top-flight Division I roster. It's just a question of when coaches will be convinced Nunez could be their guy.
"A lot of people back home didn't think he could make it through the whole season and put up with all this," Byrnes said. "We played 40 games, we were 30-10 and these kids are not used to that, especially the young kids. They're not used to weight lifting, the practice, the 24/7 structure on campus is tough on all the kids especially the younger kids.
"I would say he really made some huge strides. … Angel is a phenomenal kid. He's a little immature … but he's a phenomenal kid. The teachers love him, I love working with the kid. I would say for most of the year he really bought into what I was trying to do with him and he took a lot of pride in the strides he made in the classroom and on the basketball court."