Lukas Harkins | @hardwiredsports | 06/22/20
Regarded as one of the top perimeter threats out of the midwest in the 2021 recruiting class, Neuqua Valley wing John Poulakidas has attracted his fair share of recruiting attention over the past year. To start, he put together a strong summer with Young & Reckless on the AAU circuit and garnered his first high-major scholarship offer from Butler as a result. This was just the beginning, though. With his play on the court and hard work in the classroom, Poulakidas has emerged as a priority for some of the nation’s top academic institutions as well as some high-major programs.
Poulakidas followed up his strong summer with an excellent junior season in which he averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Despite facing heavy defensive pressure, the 6-foot-5 guard was still able to create space and bury 76 3-pointers over the course of the campaign. In addition to having a high and quick release from deep, Poulakidas gets solid elevation on pull-ups, making him difficult to defend as a three-level scorer.
In an interview with Heat Check’s Lukas Harkins, Poulakidas had this to say about this past high school season:
“The year went really well, honestly, both individually and as a team. We had our school’s most successful year, win-wise, in five or six years and we won our first regional championship in a while as well. It was really good to get that milestone for our coach, as well as the team considering how hard we worked in practice. Individually, I would say the biggest area where I improved was with my intangibles, particularly with my leadership and mental toughness. Towards the beginning of the year when I was seeing box-and-ones and face-guarding, I would get really flustered when things wouldn’t necessarily be going my way. As the season gradually went on, I matured in a really good way and that helped me use everything to my advantage rather than looking at it from the wrong perspective.“
Poulakidas had several big games over the course of the campaign, but was perhaps most deadly in a 49-point outburst against Bolingbrook:
Considering his strong play, Poulakidas seemed primed for a big summer on the Nike EYBL circuit, where he was slated to take the court with Meanstreets. COVID-19 dashed that possibility as major shoe circuits were canceled across the nation. This did not stop Poulakidas from finding a way to continue to work on his craft, though.
“For the first three weeks of quarantine, I wasn’t really able to get to the gym at all. Thankfully, I had weights as well as a Vertimax at my house so I was hitting the weights really hard. I also have a hoop in my driveway, so I was able to work out. Something is better than nothing, so I was able to get some workouts in over the first three weeks.
A month into quarantine, privately-owned gyms started opening and I’ve been able to get in the gym for the past two months. So honestly, I’ve been full swing throughout quarantine. I’m really thankful to be able to say I can do that because I know a lot of people don’t have the privilege of being able to work out two or three times a day.
I typically work on all-around development but tough shot-making is also a focus. I know I am going to be seeing a lot of the same defenses that I saw last year in this coming season so I know I’m not going to have many open shots. I need to be able to get to my spots quickly and have an even quicker release than I already do.”
Looking ahead, Poulakidas notes that three schools seem to be prioritizing him most at the moment: Yale, Butler, and Minnesota. He also states that George Washington is another school that has been recruiting him really hard.
All four of these schools have already issued him scholarship offers and they continue to be active in pursuing a potential commitment down the road. He went in-depth on each program during our interview as well, stating the following:
“What is really appealing to me is how strong they are both in the classroom and on the court as well. They are back-to-back Ivy League champions and they’ve been to the tournament. On the court, they’re a really strong program. Coach Jones and Coach Kingsley have both been there for over a decade. They really know what they’re doing out there and I have a lot of trust in them.
Then obviously, the academics. Their biggest preach is ’40 not 4′ – when you graduate from Yale, you’ve got the next 40 years of your life ahead of you with that degree. That’s really appealing because academics are No. 1 to me. To be able to have that strong of a program on the court as well as in the classroom is really appealing.“
“Coach Lowery and Coach Jordan are great. I’ve developed a really great relationship with Coach Lowery, especially over quarantine. We FaceTime here and there, and it’s been really good to stay in touch with him and build that relationship. I really like Butler because they are a high-major program playing one of the toughest schedules in the country in the Big East. There are no easy games in that conference. That’s really important to me because wanting to play against the best competition is what is going to make me better.
Additionally, Coach Jordan and Coach Lowery, as well as the rest of their staff, have a really good history in developing players. Player development is almost the No. 1 thing on my list when I’m looking at programs. I know I’m not going to be as good in my freshman year as in my senior year, so going to a university where I can trust their staff to develop me into what I know I can become is really important.”
Minnesota Golden Gophers
“I like their pitch to me that I fit their style of play – longer, lanky wings and guards that can shoot. They’ve been trusting me and explain that they need a shot-creator and shot-making wing in my class. I’ve been able to build a really good relationship with Coach Lindsted. I text with Coach Pitino around once or twice a week as well – it’s good to build a relationship with him.
I got a zoom call with him a few weeks ago and that was really good. They took me through videos of their program and pictures of the campus and life as a student. It’s a really beautiful campus. Just like Butler and the Big East, Minnesota plays in the Big Ten and I know that playing that level of competition game-in-game-out will make me better.“
George Washington Colonials
“It’s in the ‘world’s most powerful city’ – that’s what their phrase is. I took a visit out there last fall and their pitch to me is that I’m their top priority in the class. They want me to go there and Coach Christian is a really great guy – one of the most genuine coaches that I’ve ever met. Building a relationship with him is really special because I can tell that he truly cares about his players and the people that he recruits.
Listening to his podcast, he’s a really smart guy who knows what he’s doing. When he came over to GW from Siena with his staff, I knew that they would be heading in the right direction with him at the forefront. Their pitch about how I’m one of their top priorities is really important to me because you want to go somewhere where you love them just as much as they love you.”
Poulakidas’ current recruiting timetable is a bit up in the air due to the circumstances regarding COVID-19. He is not planning on cutting his list in the future but is hoping to be able to see or get back to a few more campuses before making his final decision.
On the subject of visits, Poulakidas mentioned that “I’m definitely trying to take an official visit to Minnesota just because I’ve never visited the campus and it’s really important to me that I get to see the campus with my own eyes. Seeing it on a screen [on zoom calls] is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s important to be able to get on campus and get a feel of everything. I also really want to get back to Butler, and Yale as well.”
Poulakidas will likely continue to be a priority for these four schools and it is possible that other programs also join the mix in the coming months. He is an excellent student, a talented scorer, and a diligent hard-worker.
Lukas Harkins is a college basketball writer for HeatCheckCBB.com and covers the nation with rankings, bracketology, analysis, and recruiting breakdowns. He is currently a Rockin’ 25 voter and is credentialed media for Butler. He previously worked as one of the site experts at Busting Brackets. Harkins graduated from Butler University in 2019 and majored in Healthcare and Business.