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May 10, 2013TweetFollow @CalRivals
Michael Cage, Jr. has big shoes to fill.
Luckily for the high school freshman, he hasn't had to look far for help filling them.
The 2016 prospect who goes by M.J. is, after all, the offspring of one of the NBA's most prolific rebounders all-time. A 15-year veteran, Michael Cage Sr. enjoyed perhaps his finest season in 1988 when he captured the league's rebounding title.
So when the family patriarch agreed to give his first-ever interview on his son, GoldenBearReport got more than just the musings of a proud father.
"I never really pushed basketball on him," said Michael. "I told him, 'I can teach you everything you need to know about basketball, but I can't teach passion. When you decide you want to be the player you're capable of, I will teach you.'"
And learn M.J. has.
At nearly 6-11 and 220 pounds, the burgeoning big man is remarkably nimble, something Michael attributes to his wife's influence.
"The doctors told me that his growth plates are still open. They said he's going to be between 6-11 and 7-2. But he's very mobile. His mom's a former soccer player and when M.J. was little, he played nothing but soccer."
Still, there's little doubt that the player nicknamed "John Shaft" has contributed plenty to his son's dominance.
"He wears a size 18 shoe and has a 7-2 wingspan and has tremendous lift," gushed Michael. "So I see me, but he's also developing into something else. I didn't have the talent at 15 that he does. M.J. can play the three, four, or five. He has a better perimeter game than I had and is a very, very good shot blocker."
Given M.J.'s still-developing arsenal, the prepster's father wasn't about to entrust his son's development to just anyone.
[RELATED: Cage is a 2016 prospect. Who is Cal targeting in 2015 and 2014? We've got a Big Board with all the targets... ]
"About two years before he began high school, I started going to high school games to see where I wanted him to play," remarked Michael. "I liked what I saw in the players at Mater Dei and I liked that they had coached big men before."
Not surprisingly, the Monarch's were similarly impressed, and when the younger Cage showed up on campus, the staff couldn't believe its good fortune. M.J. wasn't just intimidating from a physical standpoint, he also had the tools necessary to contribute right away.
"After a few games, Gary (McKnight) came to me and said 'hey, I think he's ready. I want to start M.J.' Obviously, starting at Mater Dei and going to the state championship and playing with guys like Stanley Johnson and (Jordan) Strawberry was huge. More than just the growth in his physical tools, I saw a major development in his mental game."
[RELATED: Speaking of Johnson, is Cal making a push for the 5-star? ]
Appropriately, M.J.'s maturation was facilitated by a coach ... well, actually a coach's son, to be more accurate.
"Elijah Brown -- Mike Brown's kid -- was the kid that had the biggest impact on him. Elijah has played a key role in M.J.'s maturation. He single handedly had the biggest impact."
That's high praise coming from the "Windexman," but it doesn't mean M.J.'s stopped taking instruction from his father.
"He's starting to see why dad is teaching what he's teaching him."
The elder Cage -- who serves as a color commentator for Fox Sports and intends to coach in the NBA next year -- admits he isn't shy about imparting wisdom onto his son, and says he'll continue to pass along advice as long as his son wants it, presumably even when it comes to colleges.
"I like structure," he says. "I know you have to let the kids get out and play, but I also like systems that I know will give him the opportunity to get touches and let him go to work."
And with that, coaches everywhere are diagramming plays.