LAS VEGAS -- These days, wherever Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Academy) goes, he draws a crowd. On Sunday, after the first session at the LeBron James Skills Academy, we sat down and talked ball, USA Basketball and what his college decision is really about.
“I’m looking for a coach that I can trust,” said Randle, who is No. 2 in the ESPN 100. “He’s not recruiting me off my name but he really wants to push me.”
At this juncture, that means Ohio State, Kentucky, NC State, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina. Randle’s been to most of them, if not all of them, at different points in his storied high school career. Regardless, his recruitment is a process.
Randle said he would require all five visits. “I’ve been waiting for this the whole time,” he said.
Randle indicated Kentucky (which he hasn’t been to since his freshman season), NC State and Duke would definitely receive visits. The remainder of the summer is about positioning for the other two visits and seeing who commits the time to recruit him in July.
Two out in front for Bird
Unlike Randle, shooting guard Jabari Bird (Oakland, Calif./Salesian) has a tighter list. Bird has five schools: California, Washington, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. The reality is, two programs -- Cal and Washington -- are running neck and neck and they’ve broken from the pack. When we sat down with Bird, he had been getting an earful from ESPN 100 PG Nigel Williams-Goss (Las Vegas/Findlay Prep), Washington’s latest commitment.
“Cal’s so close to home,” said Bird, who is 30 minutes from the Golden Bears' campus.
As far as Washington goes: “I love talking to [Lorenzo] Romar and the system they run. Having two guys go in the first round of the NBA draft didn’t hurt.”
UConn's top target
The Connecticut Huskies have been in the news a lot recently and it hasn't always been positive. However, Jim Calhoun and his staff are engaged in a rebuild that eventually will mean a transition of power to a new coach. One candidate for the position will be current assistant Kevin Ollie, and it’s Ollie who has the Huskies in deep with ESPN 100 SG Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Scarbrough, Ont./Huntington Prep).
He is one of the highest-rated players UConn is mentioned with and Rathan-Mayes consistently talks about the Huskies.
“It’s about the relationship I have with Kevin Ollie,” he said. “He’s a family guy and my mom likes that.”
Standing in the way of UConn is Kansas and Baylor, two programs that are strong heading into July. Mix in Florida State, NC State and Florida and there are heavy hitters up and down XRM’s lineup.
Hart's decision well-guarded
ESPN 100 SF Josh Hart (Washington, D.C./Sidwell Friends) sees things that other prospects in the Class of 2013 aren’t exposed to, such as secret service agents while he's at school. He attends the same school as Malia Obama.
“You might see 20-30 secret service agents and a canine unit,” Hart said.
Hart’s high school is challenging and his decision will be tough. He indicated a preference to visit NC State and likely Cincinnati. Georgetown, Kansas State and Penn State have also offered.
SMU in the hunt for Mitchell
There is more than a 50-year gap between SMU coach Larry Brown and ESPN 100 PF Jordan Mickey (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep), so what do they talk about?
“We mainly talk about basketball,” Mickey said. The Mustangs, Louisville, Ohio State, West Virginia, Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M are after Mickey hard. His brother plays football for LSU, but in terms of locks for official visits, think Kansas, Louisville and Ohio State.
Father knows best
Junior power forward Kevon Looney (Milwaukee, Wis./Hamilton) has a great approach to communicating with coaches.
“My dad takes all the calls for me,” Looney said. “And they call a lot.”
When it’s a big fish, pops puts his son on the phone. Bill Self, Johnny Dawkins and Tom Izzo have spoken with Kevon already. Looney’s cell is off-limits to most coaches and the smart ones won’t try and crack that code. Dad handles the recruitment, son handles the rebounds. So far it’s been a great plan.
Clark's stock about to soar
If Sunday had a breakout performer (that’s tough to say at a camp like the LeBron James Skills Academy), point guard Wes Clark (Romulus, Mich./Romulus) was that man. Coming into July, Creighton, Dayton, Xavier and the MAC offered him. Coming out of July? Wow, that party is about to get crowded.