Khalif Battle is the go-to guy on a Trenton Catholic Academy team (9-7) that hasn’t found its stride. Battle is a four star recruit who can hit three’s from the parking lot and jump through the roof.
A year removed from a season-ending injury, Battle discusses his vast improvement, playing for coach Fred Falchi, his relationship with his brother, college recruiting, and his expectations for the remainder of the 2017-2018 season.
Sam Goldberg: You’ve been in multiple close games this season and your team hasn’t been able to emerge victorious. What’s the difference between losing and winning those games?
Khalif Battle: We have to keep going hard in practice… We’re still a new team. We’re going to do what we have to do to win at the end of the day.
SG: TCA hasn’t had a healthy roster all season. What will this team look like once everyone is on the court?
KB: We will be one the best teams in the state. We have a lot of talent on this roster… There is no limit on this team’s progression.
SG: What’s it like playing for Fred Falchi?
KB: It’s all love. I would not want to play for another coach besides him.
SG: He’s an animated guy. When he yells at players does it discourage or motivate you?
KB: It doesn’t discourage us at all. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s coached so many great players… Whatever advice he gives we all try to take it in.
SG: Your brother Tyus is a division I basketball player at Syracuse. What have you learned from him?
KB: I’ve learned a lot. I learned a work ethic from him and my dad. All the stuff in the college process I haven’t gotten to yet he’s been through.
SG: What’s the recruiting process been like for you so far?
KB: I have a lot of schools recruiting me now. I’ve been taking it all in. My dad has handled most of it.
SG: What schools have shown the most interest?
KB: Miami, Rutgers, Indiana, Ohio State, Butler, Washington, St. Joe’s, Uconn, a lot of schools.
SG: Any specific school you like more than others?
KB: Right now I am not really focused on it. I let my dad worry about that. I’m focused on this season.
SG: What separates you from other high school basketball players?
KB: My work ethic. I got a lot better over the summer. I was not thought about last season… I wasn’t ranked, I had no offers. I got a lot better over the summer… I picked up like 15 offers over the summer, and I didn’t play basketball last season. I have a chip on my shoulder.
SG: What did you do that made you improve so significantly over the summer?
KB: It was working out with my brother and dad. When my brother comes home from college I play him 1-on-1… Me playing him 1-on-1 gets me better. Nobody else in high school gets to play with a really good college player like I do.
SG: Have you ever beaten him?
SG: Have you ever come close?
KB: I’ve come close when we’re messing around. When he’s serious I can’t beat him yet. My time will come though.
SG: Aside from facing your brother I bet in a way not playing last season made you a better player. What was sitting out last year like for you?
KB: It was really hard on me and my family. They know how hard I work. Plus I made the sacrifice to come to TCA. I really took it upon myself when I was hurt to outwork everyone and be the best player I could be. I still don’t think I’m at 100%, I think I’m at 60% of what I’m capable of being.
SG: What does Khalif Battle at 100% look like?
KB: A scary sight.
SG: Your dunking ability is incredibly impressive. Is that something you worked on when you were out as well?
KB: No that came naturally. My dad had a 40” inch vertical. That’s something he passed down to me.
SG: What’s your vertical?
KB: I think I have a 38” right now. I want to surpass him, but right now he’s got me.
SG: Basketball clearly runs in your family. Who’s the best player you’ve played against besides your brother?
KB: I played against Frank Jackson my freshman year I thought he was really good. Naz Ried is really good of course. I would say the most talented though is Cam Reddish.
SG: Other than yourself, who do you think is the best local player?
KB: Up here I would say Cliff (Joseph).
SG: What’s one thing off the court people may not know about you?
KB: I’m a really relaxed kid. I love to have fun and spend time with my family and friends… I’m very buckled down to basketball and school work.
Battle and the Iron Mikes (9-7) take on Rutgers Prep (10-5) tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. on wbcbsports.com.