Still, around New Hampton, the humorous, caring, reserved, and kind Vonleh is just Noah. Even after being offered scholarships by a number of top programs, including Kansas and North Carolina, and receiving numerous texts and e-mails from coaches telling him how much he was wanted, Vonleh remains grounded.
“On the first away trip when we stayed in a hotel, we [became] roommates,” said McConnell, who will walk on at Michigan next year. “I got to know him then. I didn’t ask for a pizza and he ordered a pizza for himself. It smelled really good so he was like, ‘Take three pieces.’ ”
With a mother, Renell, who emigrated from Western Africa in the mid-’90s, working two jobs to support him and his two younger sisters, Vonleh understands what it means to work hard and stay selfless. His mother has been involved in every step he has made on and off the basketball court. She wants the best for her son, and in turn ensures those surrounding Noah want the best for him.
And New Hampton has been the best for Vonleh.
It has shielded him from the Boston media. It has allowed him to remain a teenager just a little bit longer before the intense expectations of college basketball and regular media sessions commence.
These past two years, Vonleh has quietly been preparing for what could be a warp speed, 17-month journey to the NBA draft. From an economics class in which he is learning how much money it will take to maintain a certain standard of living, to honing his writing skills in English class, to increasing his comfort level with media interviews, Vonleh throws himself into every situation with humility.
When asked about his adjustment to New Hampton, Vonleh grinned before responding: “When I was at Haverhill, I was doing my laundry. My mom probably did it until I was 11 or 12 and then I started doing it.”
And just as he was prepared for boarding school, Vonleh is ready for the heightened competition of big-time college basketball and its off-court challenges. Even when the time comes for his own Wikipedia page and Twitter handle.
Paul Lazdowski can be reached at email@example.com.