If this story hadn't gone his way, Tom Izzo could have gone overboard. Literally.
There’s a cool story behind the commitment of Gary Harris (Indianapolis, Ind./Hamilton SE). Of course, Izzo was ecstatic when he received the phone call but there’s more to it. Joy Harris, the mother of Gary Harris, relayed the details of the story to me.
On Wednesday night, Harris began the process of calling the schools he wasn’t going to attend. One by one, he made the difficult calls but didn’t tell the programs where he was going. Michigan State began hearing through the coaching grapevine that some schools were getting eliminated. At this point, when Harris called they weren’t sure if they were toast or champions in the recruitment.
The Spartans finished up practice on board the USS Carl Vinson and assistant coach Mike Garland’s cell phone rang. He hands the phone to Izzo who is on deck on the ship taking photos. Izzo asks if the news is good or bad and Harris gives him the word that he’s a Spartan. How many times as a head coach do you get to stand on the deck of a battleship and receive your most important recruiting call of the year? Harris’ pledge ties into the experience that Izzo and the Spartans had last week in San Diego. They’ll never forget playing on a ship against North Carolina and one day you’ll hear Izzo tell this story of Harris’ commitment in better detail.
Kansas closed quickly with Lucas
After talking to power forward Landen Lucas (Portland, Ore./Westview) prior to his visit to Kansas, I figured if he received sensible answers to his questions, he’d commit to Kansas. Lucas knew going into the trip that Kansas needed a big man. He was able to put it behind him that he wasn’t KU’s first choice and his mindset going into the visit was one of confidence. Lucas felt he could help the situation and there was playing time to be had. Really all he needed was to be convinced that he’d get a fair shake.
On Sunday night, Lucas told me he definitely saw a need for his services and thought that the presence of Danny Manning would help his game. California, Washington, Stanford and Tennessee wanted him. This hasn’t been vintage Kansas on the recruiting trail so far this season, however, don’t be confused about the power of Bill Self and the Jayhawks. They closed Lucas in a matter of days and that’s what a college basketball superpower can do.
Kansas will be active in the spring and don’t be surprised to see the Jayhawks assert themselves with late-bloomers, international kids and once the coaching carousel spins. Kansas is Kansas and it’s not a program that takes its recruiting lightly.
Lattin to Spain?
A potentially-significant development flew under the radar last week during the rush of the early signing period. Khadeem Lattin (Houston/Canarias Basketball Academy) left his high school and transferred. Lattin didn’t just transfer, he uprooted himself and packed his bags for Spain. Lattin plans to spend his final three years at Canarias Basketball Academy and the academy puts a high number of players into Division I basketball each year, but its never taken an American underclassmen.
Lattin, to our knowledge, is the first U.S. underclassman to leave the States to continue his hoops education on foreign turf. “Quite frankly, I’m as shocked as you are,” Canarias coach Rob Orellana told ESPN.
I’m not going to lie, I was a little skeptical about this so I got in touch with Orellana, a former Division I coach. I’m all for individual development but to me, there’s nothing that can replace competing for a championship and learning how to win. My concern is playing games and competing. Orellana addressed those issues. He said Lattin is set to go through 225 sessions this year and play games against players in the under 18 and under 20 divisions of a league in Europe. He’ll play in Spain, Holland, Belgium and of course, the United States. The academy plays in New York/New Jersey and Rhode Island this year. We’ll have more on this later in the week but feel free to commit this move to thought. Good idea? Bad idea?
Lattin is the test case for this move. Brandon Jennings was the test case for skipping college and going to Europe. Jeremy Tyler skipped his senior year to turn pro overseas. We’ve never had a kid, until Lattin, pick this route.