Patience is a virtue. No one knows that better than five-star junior Dexter Strickland.
After two years of a small role at national power St. Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, N.J., Strickland is ready for his turn. The five-star prospect from the class of 2009 is one of the several Division I players on his nationally-ranked team. Instead of playing a smaller role, Strickland will be a featured player this season.
"I'm going to have to repeat it all again (in college) but (waiting) taught me to be patient and to wait my turn. It taught me how to focus and how to get better," Strickland said. "I've played with Corey Fisher and Jeff Robinson and other guys. When I was a freshman, I had eight seniors in front of me. I had to be patient and learn and wait my turn. It motivated me to stay in the gym and elevate my game. That was very helpful having those more experienced players playing over me and me having to take a back seat to them. When I was young, I was always on the floor. I was always the elite player on the court. It opened my mind more."
Now with armed with open mind and an experienced summer, Strickland is hoping he can play a part in helping St. Patrick's win its fourth New Jersey Tournament of Champions in a row. Throw in games against Oak Hill, St. Anthony's and St. Benedict's, all nationally ranked programs, and you have a full slate with plenty of challenges.
"If we come to practice, work hard, focus and do what coach needs us to do, we're going to be good," Strickland said. "We have to be mentally tough and I think we can accomplish the same goals that we did last year and hopefully the next year when I'm a senior."
Before his quest for the hardware at the high school level, Strickland is ready to see some college campuses. The five-star prospect is going to Florida this weekend in what will be his first trip to The Swamp. A visit to Indiana is likely for Midnight Madness and a visit to North Carolina is also very possible, he said.
Michigan State, Villanova and Seton Hall have already hosted Strickland unofficially.
Strickland said he has offers Florida, Michigan State, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio State, Villanova, Rutgers and Seton Hall while Duke is also looking at him.
"People ask me what school are you interested in, what are your top schools, all I can say is the schools that I have been to. I haven't been to Florida or North Carolina. I like those schools a lot," he said. "When people ask if I had to go to a school right now, I would say Michigan State because I've been there. They have been the best school that I have seen so far. But I haven't been to a lot of other places. Or Ohio State or Indiana. Hopefully when I take these trips, I'll be able to narrow it down and pick the right one. I'm taking my time and being patient."
Tom Izzo and Thad Matta were in town on Monday to see the young star in action in an open gym. So were assistants from UConn, Indiana and Villanova.
"The gym was packed," Strickland said.
There is a good chance the gym will be packed all year long when Strickland is playing.