GLENS FALLS — Quietly, Glens Falls boys’ basketball senior Joseph Girard III is approaching something singular and new in New York high school hoops history.
And he gets why this milestone — he is approaching 4,000 career points — seems to be coming along with little fanfare.
“There’s no chasing involved with this one,” Girard III said. “Last year, when I was going after Lance Stephenson’s [boys’ state-scoring record], I was chasing somebody. When I was chasing 3,000 points, I was chasing to be the first to do that. Obviously, I’d be the first to do 4,000, but there’s nobody I’m beating to do that or anything I’m chasing other than myself.”
In his remarkable five-season varsity basketball career, Girard III has scored 3,870 points heading into Wednesday’s game vs. Queensbury. At the prolific rate he scores points, the future Syracuse University men’s basketball player projects to hit 4,000 points within the next week of action. Girard III, the state’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball, is averaging 47.0 points per game this season after averaging 50.0 last season.
As he approaches scoring that 4,000th point, Girard III sat down with The Daily Gazette to discuss a number of topics related to his hoops career, recruitment process and life away from the court. (Answers have been edited for space.)
Question: Let’s start off with a tough one. A lot is always made of how many Girards there are in the Glens Falls area, and your hoops team includes several of your cousins. Do you actually know how many cousins you have? What’s the count?
Answer: Like, in the area? I mean, it sounds crazy, but I guess there’s got to be — wow, I really don’t even know. I can tell you that in the high school, we take a relatives picture every year for the yearbook. This year in our high school, I think there were 12 of us. In the middle school, I know there’s five or six there. In the elementary school, there’s got to be 10 or 12. But, overall, everywhere, I’d say there’s got to be 100 or something. There has to be.
Q: You’re regularly referred to as “JG3,” but you wear No. 11 — not No. 3 — on your basketball uniform. Has it always been that way?”
A: For basketball, yeah. In football. I used to wear No. 44 because that’s what my grandfather and my dad wore a little bit in football, but I always wore 11 in basketball because my dad wore that. There’s really no other significant reason to it, other than that my family wore it and I felt that would be right.
Q: Will you wear No. 11 at Syracuse, too?
A: Oshae Brissett is wearing 11 right now at Syracuse, so if he doesn’t go to the NBA this year, I’d probably wear 3 for next year. Three has always been my backup number, but I haven’t had to use it.”
Q: In the end, your college recruitment got down to six places: Boston College, Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Syracuse. What made Syracuse the choice?
A: For one thing, I was just really comfortable with the coaches and the players on the team, and the campus. Obviously, it’s close to home, and that didn’t play too big of a factor for me, but it does make it easier, for sure. Coach [Jim] Boeheim, I’ve known him for five or six years now. [His son] Buddy was on my AAU team for a bit, and I knew the Boeheims before that from playing against Buddy. But when we were on the same team, my mom and Mrs. Boeheim became really good friends. Like, actual friends, not just for recruiting, but genuine friends, and I got close with all of them, too.
Q: Syracuse assistant coach, and former star, Gerry McNamara played a big role for you, too, correct?
A: Coach G-Mac, he came to Glens Falls a bunch and talks to me all the time. Even before I committed to Syracuse, he’d always talk to me and I just feel like G-Mac’s been through a lot of what I’ve gone through and he’s someone like me. So I felt there was no better coach to learn from for me. He was a player like I am; he’s a shooter, a smaller guard, he played in the zone and had a high basketball IQ. So I felt like I could learn from him about what he did and how he was so successful there, and that he could teach me the ways.
Q: Which college was the toughest not to pick?
A: They were all hard, obviously. There isn’t one that stood out. Even when I made my final six, it was hard to narrow down the schools to that. Just off the top of my head, I was really close with Ohio State, Ole Miss and a bunch of others. As I narrowed down my list, it got more serious and it got harder.
Q: Throughout the last couple years, you maintained you never considered quitting football, a sport in which you led Glens Falls as a sophomore and as a senior to state championships. Was there really never a conversation about quitting football to avoid an injury?
A: A real one? No. There really wasn’t. There were always hypotheticals and people asking me about it — and people always telling me they’d heard I wasn’t playing — but it was never really a thing. I never sat down with my parents and [football] coach [Pat] Lilac, and debated about it. We just always assumed I’d play, especially after we lost [in the state playoffs] in my junior year. But, even if we’d won the state championship that year, I still would have played this year, too.
Q: At different points in your recruitment process, too, the idea was floated that you could try to play both sports in college. How real was that?
A: Really real. Penn State, they never offered me for football, but if I went down there they were going to offer. They were calling me a lot and texting me multiple times per week. I was supposed to go down there for a camp to throw for them — like, three, four, five times, I was supposed to go down there. There was one time, too, I was playing in an AAU tournament with Glens Falls kids in Pennsylvania, and Penn State guys called me to do it, but the opportunity just never worked out. If I ever got down there and they’d offered me to play quarterback at Penn State, I still might be debating it right now, but that opportunity never fully presented itself.
Q: Who else looked at you for football?
A: Tulane and UMass were my only official offers for football, and I would have played both sports at those schools. Penn State was very heavy on me. Indiana called me. Wake Forest, Syracuse, UConn came up. Boston College came to talk to coach Lilac. I had a lot of ACC and Big Ten schools looking at me for football.
— Daily Gazette Sports (@dgazettesports) February 2, 2018
Q: If you were starring in a third sport, what would it be?
A: I played high school baseball in eighth grade. I played JV that year and I would have played varsity the next year, but AAU got too busy for me. I batted third and played shortstop. . . . But I felt I was better at football and basketball, and I loved those games more.
Q: Best player you’ve played against during your high school career?
A: Joe Cremo. For sure. I was 12 or 13 when we played. (Note: Cremo, who played at UAlbany for three seasons before transferring to Villanova for this season, was a senior when Girard III was an eighth-grader). He was a grown 18-year-old man that would have been a highly sought recruit if he hadn’t committed so early, and you saw the market that opened up for him when he was transferring. He was so fundamental back then, and he still is. He was just so smooth. That whole team in general, was so good. . . . We played them twice [in the 2014-15 season] and those games were the lowest I ever scored in a high school game. I scored seven against them, and then 11 — and I felt pretty good about that, too. That team was so good. They won two straight state championships, and I remember when we played they’d be up 50 points on us in the first half.
Q: Who are the other best players you’ve played against?
A: I’ve played against Kevin Huerter at Dags Basketball. Andrew Platek. Isaiah Moll. In AAU, I’ve played against RJ Barrett plenty of times. I’ve played Marvin Bagley a few times. I never played against Zion Williamson, though.
Q: You have more than 35,000 followers on Instagram and more than 11,000 on Twitter. How much time do you spend monitoring social media?
A: I have a lot of free time, so I’m on my phone a lot. Between Twitter and Instagram, I’m probably scrolling on them for two or three hours a day. I’m just periodically checking in, though, I don’t really read too much of it. I just scroll through, see it all and get off. If I see an article on my friends or my teammates, I will go and read those.
Q: When did you first notice your social media posts getting a lot of attention?
A: Last year. Not that I hit stardom or fame or anything like that, but I started getting followers, likes and retweets. I started getting a following and now every time I do something, they’re going to tell me how they like it — or tell me how they disagree with it. So you can’t pay too much attention to it. That’s why I just scroll through, so I don’t get caught up in it.
Q: Those first posts where you’re getting a lot of interactions had to be addicting, right?
A: Yeah. Yes. I’d refresh it just to see how many [notifications] would keep coming. But, at this point, that’s kind of in the past for me. Now, if I post something on Instagram, within minutes I’ve got thousands of likes — and my phone will shut off on its own from that. It starts breaking, and I’ll get frustrated with that.
Q: Do you ever just turn off your phone to avoid all the feedback?
A: People ask me that . . . but what if I’m getting a call from coach Boeheim?