CHICAGO – Like everyone else following club basketball on Twitter last week, Billy Garrett Jr. began increasingly seeing his own name appear throughout Peach Jam.
“After the first couple games, I sort of knew I was creating a buzz because I have a Twitter [account] myself,” said Garrett Jr., a Morgan Park junior.
Although the 6-foot-3 point guard had already been a known commodity in Chicago and is ranked nationally (No. 46 in ESPN’s Super 60), Garrett Jr. helped himself and his future school of DePaul with a handful of eye-catching performances for the Mac Irvin Fire at Peach Jam last week.
ESPN’s scouts certainly took notice of Garrett. He was named a top performer by ESPN Recruiting on two of the tournament’s three days.
ESPN recruiting coordinator Michael LaPlante came away impressed with Garrett’s offensive skills and how his game impacted his team.
“Garrett is the typical coach’s son; he plays with a mature thought process and always seems to be looking to find a way to put his team in position to win,” LaPlante said. “Although he is the type of leader that looks to run the team as a pass-first point guard, he has shown the ability to score when needed.
“He needs to gain strength for a quicker transition to the high-major level, but his high basketball IQ more than allows him to make up for his deficiency in that area. Because of his ability to make others around him raise their level of play other good players will have a strong interest to join him at DePaul.”
Since committing in April to DePaul, where his father Billy Garrett is an assistant, Garrett has been working on getting some of the nation’s top players to join him there. Jabari Parker, the nation’s No. 2 junior, Steve Taylor, Sterling Brown and Johnnie Vassar have been among his targets.
“Most of the guys I’m trying to get to come to DePaul I’m close friends with,” Garrett Jr. said. “Every once in a while, I’ll say, ‘Come to DePaul, they have this at DePaul, come with me, play with me.’ I’m talking to Jabari, Sterling, anybody trying to get them to commit here, too.
“I think they take me pretty serious. I’ve actually had a few serious talks with a couple of the players, talking like, ‘Come here with me, stay, we can make something happen, and we can do it in the city of Chicago.’ That’s one thing I also say because all the guys I talk to are from Chicago. A pitch I use is, ‘We’re in Chicago. We can do it for the city.”
Garrett understands how stacked the Chicago area is in the 2013 and 2014 classes. There are five Chicago-area Class of 2013 players in ESPN’s Super 60 and two in Class of 2014 prospects in the Terrific 25.
If Garrett Jr. can persuade a few of those players to come to DePaul, he thinks the Blue Demons can recreate a recruiting class like the one Pat Kennedy assembled in 1998, which included local products Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons and Lance Williams from Chicago.
“Honestly, I think in like the 2013 and 2014 class if they decided to stay in Chicago, not all of them, just a couple of them, DePaul could definitely be at top-25 team, potentially go far in the NCAA tournament,” Garrett Jr. said. “If you keep the top players in 13, 14 together, we’ll be pretty good.”
Other college coaches are thinking the same. While Garrett Jr. is firmly committed to DePaul and his dad is on the staff, it hasn’t stopped other coaches from still enquiring.
“Everybody wants him,” said Nick Irvin, who coaches Morgan Park and the Mac Irvin Fire. “I’m not saying any names, but a lot of people are very interested in him.
“He’s definitely a game-changer. That’s the right guy to get. He’s the type where he wants everything on his shoulders. He doesn’t care who’s there or who’s going to come. He wants everything on his shoulders. I think that’s a perfect fit for DePaul to get.”
Garrett isn’t surprised by other colleges’ interest. While he was watching his son at the Peach Jam, he noticed something strange.
“Even at the Peach Jam, there were people who were talking to me that normally don’t talk to me,” Garrett said. “I’m sure they’ve called Nick. I’m sure there’s more than one.”
The Garrett family isn’t worried about it, though. Their concentration now is improving Garrett Jr.’s game. He’s shown more confidence on the court and been more physical over the last few months, and the next step is his boosting athleticism.
“That’s what I told him he needs to be more athletic, more explosive,” Garrett said. “He has a quick first step, but I’d like to see him a little more explosive. He’s kind of crafty with it. He can get in crevices. He’s not afraid to be physical, and he’s not afraid to take hits. If he can be more explosive, it’ll make him a little better.”
Garrett Jr. is ready to hit the road again for another 10 days of basketball. His main goal is winning, but he’d also like to impress some of those scouts who vote on the McDonald’s All-American Game.
“Really one of my goals high school-wise is to make the McDonald’s game,” Garrett Jr. said. “That’ what I really want to do. Seeing those scouts and being able to play in front of them, hopefully I’ll be able to increase my stock and maybe one day to get to that game.”
A few more tournaments like Peach Jam, and he should be just fine.