Cullen Russo, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound junior forward from Quakerdale Prep, will be playing for the Minnesota Pump N Run AAU 17-and-under team this weekend in the Best Buy Spring Classic. The former Bloomington Kennedy big man has picked up recently recruiting interest from Minnesota and talked to GopherHole.com about the latest on his recruitment, the upcoming AAU season and his senior year.
Russo averaged 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game for Quakerdale this season.
Gopher Hole: What is the latest on schools you are hearing right now?
Cullen Russo: I am currently hearing from Washington State and I have taken unofficial visits to Northern Iowa and Iowa State.
Gopher Hole: What offers do you have right now?
Cullen Russo: I had three offers from last summer’s AAU. It was from Western Kentucky, Arkansas State and Bowling Green.
Gopher Hole: What was the experience like at Quakerdale? How much do you think that helped you improve as a player?
Cullen Russo: It helped me so much. Coach Stan (Hughes) is a really good coach. He helped me come into a man. It is really physical. It gets you ready because the guys are a lot bigger. They are lot stronger and they are a lot better than you.
Gopher Hole: You played against a some junior college kids who are a year or two older than you. That has to help.
Cullen Russo: We play mostly junior colleges and a couple of prep schools. We played mostly junior college and some NAIA schools.
Gopher Hole: What was the experience away from the court in terms of academics?
Cullen Russo: There is nothing but time. You are not really going anywhere. You are kind of out on farm land, so there is no excuse for you to not have good grades. You have plenty of time to study and work on your game.
Gopher Hole: Do you think that it has been a positive experience going down there?
Cullen Russo: Definitely.
Gopher Hole: What are the expectations for the team this upcoming season? I know that you had a very good year last season and have several kids from Minnesota going down there.
Cullen Russo: This year, I think that we are going to have a lot more players from out of the state because the last two years, everyone has been hearing about us and kind of wants to go there. Maybe a couple of kids from Minnesota, but he has brought some kids in from Chicago and D.C. We are looking to just be a good team again.
Gopher Hole: What things have you been working on to continue to improve yourself as a player?
Cullen Russo: I have been working really hard on my perimeter game, putting the ball on the floor and being able to hit the 15-foot shot and my post-up game.
Gopher Hole: What do you see as your strengths as a player?
Cullen Russo: Probably my top trait is how athletic I am. I am really athletic and my defense.
Gopher Hole: What have you gained from playing with Minnesota Pump N Run so far?
Cullen Russo: Oh, man. It is a really good team this year. I have gained a lot already. We just have to get the chemistry going and once we get the chemistry going, we’ll be good.
Gopher Hole: This week and next week are part of the “Open Period” when college coaches can watch you play. Is that something you are looking forward to let more coaches who don’t know about you, see your game.
Cullen Russo: Definitely. Most definitely. I am looking forward to them, but I am trying to not worry about that too much and let my coach handle that and not worry about what is going on the court.
Gopher Hole: I know that Minnesota assistant coach Ron Jirsa called your mom recently, right?
Cullen Russo: They contacted my mom a couple of times, but other than that I have not talked to anybody. I think that they will be at my games. I hope.