The 6-foot-1 junior point guard has been a key factor in the Aces’ success this season (18-2 as of Feb. 7 and ranked No. 2 in PIAA District 1 6A), scoring in double figures four of the last six games and tallying 19 points in a win against defending PIAA state champion Reading. Taking on a bigger role in the absence of Sam Brown, he is noted for making major contributions on both sides of the ball. He also plays center mid for the Lower Merion varsity boys’ soccer team. Lower Merion boys basketball coach Gregg Downer said, “Justin is a hard worker who put a lot of time and effort last offseason to improve his skills, strength and conditioning. He’s a really fine athlete who knows his role, is coachable, and loves to compete and win.”
Q: What was the key to your performance against Reading? What is your favorite memory of that day?
A: Reading brought a lot of energy to all of their games, but the key to my performance was the energy WE brought to the court. Our coaches motivated us to come out strong to show that we are top contenders in the state. My favorite part of this day was the final buzzer of the game. The bench came onto the floor, and so did the 10 students in our Dawg Pound. We were so happy that we won this matchup, but we weren’t surprised, because we know how talented of a team we are.
Q: What aspect of your game do you feel you improved the most in the off-season?
A: This off-season I was consistently working on my strength and athleticism. Spectrum Strength Training and our strength trainer Todd Barnes for Lower Merion really helped me get stronger, improve my lateral quickness, vertical, and my ability to finish with contact at the rim. I really saw results from lifting in the Plymouth Whitemarsh League. I was getting to the rim a lot easier, and was a lot quicker on the defensive side of the ball.
Q: Tell us a little about your start in competitive basketball. Who have been your most important basketball mentors; and what was the most important thing you learned from each of them?
A: I started playing basketball at the age of 5. My career began while playing for the Overbrook Monarchs of Philadelphia. During my first actual basketball game, I was so afraid to get onto the court! When my coach subbed me into the game, I would cry because I was so scared to play. I soon started to build confidence by constantly playing with my dad, and practicing with my team. The Overbrook Monarchs league was always very competitive, so it was always a challenge going up against other talented kids my age. From about 9 years old to 13 years old, I played with the Jonjay Spartans, an AAU team based out of the Main Line. Playing up with older, stronger, and faster players really helped me excel against players my age.
Q: What do you think is the strongest aspect of your game?
A: I would say the strongest part of my game is finishing at the rim. Ever since the summer going into my sophomore year, I noticed that I was improving my skill to finish at the rim against bigger players. During practices, we spent time doing the Mikan Drill, and wall-ups. These drills were designed to improve my finishing. With my improved athleticism and speed, my ability to finish at the rim has improved.
Q: What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: Currently, I am working on my 3-point shooting. During practices we always perform different types of shooting drills. Through this, we conduct a stats analysis to monitor our improvement. After practices, I stay behind to take extra shots with a rebounder to help improve my shooting.
Q: Who is your favorite basketball player, and why?
A: My favorite basketball player is Ja Morant. His ability to get downhill and score in traffic is very impressive. The way he finishes over bigger defenders, and the ability to put them on a poster is always compelling to watch. His playmaking skills are also a top trait he has. I try to resemble his play style by breaking down my defender, driving to the paint and finishing, dishing it to the bigs, or kicking out for a 3 with the good shooters that we have.
Q: You wear No. 2 for Lower Merion basketball – why did you pick that number?
A: I wear the No.2 for both visual and personal reasons. I like the way the No.2 looks on a point guard. I also wear the No.2 because I am the second born child in my family.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation on the day of a game.
A: My pre-game preparation is somewhat simple. When the last school bell rings, my team and I get together to go over some plays, and conduct a walk through. We then share a team dinner which I really enjoy. After this, I begin to get locked in. I put my airpods in and listen to music to get my mind right for the game. By this time, it is time to stretch and warm up. Once that buzzer rings at 7 p.m., it’s time to get on the court and get the job done.
Q: What is your favorite academic course at Lower Merion?
A: Right now, my favorite course at Lower Merion is Sports and Literature. In the class we talk about sports like F1, football and soccer.
Q: What do you think you’d like to major in at college? Is there a career field that particularly interests you at the present time?
A: I think I would like to major in Sports Medicine. I like the idea of becoming either an athletic or personal trainer for people looking to get into shape and get stronger. I want to have a positive impact on someone who is trying to improve their strength and confidence.
Fun facts – Justin Poles
Favorite movie: Planet of the Apes.
Favorite athlete: Lebron James.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: Any song by artist G-Herbo.
Favorite place to visit: “The beach.”
Favorite pre-game meal: Fruit.
Family members: parents Judson and Julie, older sister Jalyne, younger brother Jackson.
(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his or her school.)