It’s the first thing you notice when you see Theo John.
The sophomore forward stands 6-8, not that unusual for an interior player at a big school. What is remarkable is his wingspan. Measured fingertip-to-fingertip with his arms fully extended, John’s wingspan is 7-4. That’s a full 8 inches longer than the average person, whose wingspan and height are roughly the same.
“In my family, we all have long arms,” John said. “They’re good for basketball.”
College recruiters certainly have noticed. A combination of graceful agility and athletic force, John is already the subject of a growing recruiting battle. Minnesota and Wisconsin are already in eager pursuit and, according to John, attention from college coaches has increased throughout the season.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with John about Champlin Park’s immediate future and his own long-term plans.
Q: Your team is undefeated and has a pretty massive following right now. Has it been difficult to handle all of the attention?
A: It’s actually been a blessing. You have all of the little kids running around and wanting your autographs and screaming your name. There’s some pressure, but it’s good pressure. You want to be able to go out and sent a good example.
Q: Is it strange to have people know who you are when you don’t know them?
A: It was a little weird at first, but you get used to it. It’s part of the game and you just move on.
Q: Obviously, your long arms are a big help on the court. Give me an example of when they helped off the court.
A: When you want to get that candy bar and it’s on the top shelf of the fridge.
Q: How long have you been playing basketball?
A: Since I was in third grade. It’s the main thing in my life. Every day, I try to get into the gym to do what I love.
Q: Your team has a lot of seniors. Was it tough trying to overcome the age difference between you and them?
A: Not really. I was accepted by them right away. We’re a family. We’re always together. With us, everybody gets knocked around; it doesn’t matter who you are.
Q: How good is this team?
A: We can be very good. We’re very good right now. When we play like we can, we can do anything.
Q: What has been your most thrilling basketball experience?
A: [Friday] night [beating Wayzata for the Class 4A, Section 5 championship] was one of them. Compared to last year and the crushing feeling of losing and having the season end, going to the state tournament with my brothers, this year is pretty thrilling.
Q: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without playing basketball?
A: Probably about a week. We were on a vacation to Montana. I had a ball but no hoop. I did a lot of ball-handling that week.
Q: Where do academics fit into your life?
A: Academics are just as important as basketball. You might not always want it to be, but at the end of the day, academics are just as important.
Q: What type of classes do you take?
A: I take a few AP classes, a regular English class and some design classes when I get time. Right now, basketball is one of the only things that’s really interesting, but design sparks my interest a little.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for young players?
A: One day it’s going to come down the end, to a last game. The way it ends will be determined by your effort and how hard you work.