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Taking the road less traveled, Exum commits to New Haven

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Justin Exum had his heart set on playing Division I basketball. When that fell through, Xaverian’s star guard settled on the next best thing: playing for a Division I coach.

Exum recently verbally committed to Division II New Haven and its new coach, Ted Hotaling, formerly an assistant with Eastern Kentucky.

“I’m excited to play for a big-time coach,” he said. “He wants to come in and win. That’s my major reason for going there.”

Exum, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Park Slope, Brooklyn, considered prep school. Hotaling, in fact, suggested a postgraduate year — “his honesty sold me on him,” Exum said — which would open up options. But that was also the route Rasheem King, another former Clippers standout took, and he didn’t last the year. Exum didn’t want to take that risk.

“It played a small part, after what happened to him,” said Exum, who was named to The Post’s All-City second team and led Xaverian in scoring at 20.8 points per game, third best in the CHSAA Class AA. “He left prep school because he didn’t like it. I wasn’t really worried about it, but it did play a part, thinking about what happened to him, his situation.”

Xaverian coach Jack Alesi said Exum had Division I offers in the winter, but the schools weren’t academically sound enough for him or his mother, Vernita. There were Division I schools that liked Exum, but he wanted him to go to prep school for a year first, too.

“It’s refreshing to see a kid control the process,” Alesi said. “His mom said she wanted the best academic school where he could also play. Just did very well for himself.”

Once the sharpshooter got past the stigma of Division II, everything fell into place. He will spend four years in Connecticut with another city standout, Wings Academy forward Krystian Foriest, and get the chance to face friends from Christ the King, Kareem Thomas and Dominykas Milka, of St. Rose during the season.

“I’m looking forward to playing them,” he said. “We played together on the Metro Hawks. We like to talk a lot of smack.”

Most of all, Exum liked the situation at New Haven because of Hotaling.

“He told me about his strategies, amount of practices and workouts; that’s just exciting to hear about,” he said. “Some of the other schools I visited, coaches weren’t really excited and organized.”

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