Saturday, February 16, 2002

Five questions with Jason Conley

VMI frosh leads nation in scoring

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jason Conley escaped recruiters' notice, but there's no hiding him now. The Virginia Military Institute freshman swingman is leading the nation in scoring, averaging 29.9 points and 8.2 rebounds for the 9-15 Keydets, and is on pace to become the first freshman ever to win the national scoring title.

        Now Sports Illustrated is featuring him. So is Slam and Basketball Times. Dick Vitale has named Conley to his “Diaper Dandy” team.

        So, where did he come from?

        The native of Chevy Chase, Md., finished high school at Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian. He signed with VMI but failed to attain the minimum SAT score to be eligible (Conley is dyslexic), so he spent a postgrad year at Millersburg (Ky.) Military Academy. He still came up short on the SATs, so he went to VMI and sat out last season as a partial qualifier.

        He has had some of his best games against VMI's biggest opponents, including 24 points against Kentucky, 25 against Virginia and 38 against Villanova.

        Conley took time Thursday to answer five questions from the Enquirer's Neil Schmidt:


        Q. Has your success surprised you?

        A. When I came into the season, I wasn't saying, "I'm going to lead the country in scoring.' It's one of those things that just sort of happened. I don't even realize it when I'm out on the court, how many points I have.


        Q. Does it bother you that you won't get as much exposure as at a bigger school?

        A. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that now. I don't think about, "If I went someplace else it'd be more.' All those other schools down here — Duke, North Carolina — have a big (reputation). I'm thinking, "How can I help VMI have that kind of rep?


        Q. Talk about life at a military institution.

        A. It's a lot different from any other school. We have formation at 7 o'clock (a.m.), so I'm up at 6:30 every day. We wear uniforms every day, but the positive is I don't have to worry about what I'll wear the next day.

        They're out to challenge me (academically); every day is a challenge. That's one of the reasons I chose VMI.


        Q. Freshmen year there is called the “rat” year. Tell me about it.

        A. The first week is called Hell Week. I was ready to leave. I was telling myself, "I don't have to put up with this.' But it built strength and character. The year itself, the hardest part is the constant yelling and people getting in your face, telling you to do pushups. You have to do what the upperclassmen tell you. They used to say, "You think you're a big basketball player. Why don't you get down and push.'

        But the brotherhood you develop is special — the bond I built between me and my classmates.


        Q. What else do you want people to know about you?

        A. That I work hard. The points don't just come out of the sky. I think all the hard work is coming out.

        Also, I'm proud to say that I've made corporal (rank). There's 50 people in each company that go for it and only nine spots, and I was picked. There are only three African-Americans in the school who are corporals.


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