MERRILLVILLE, Ind. -- In the world of club basketball, Pryme Tyme isn’t known as one of the premier teams.
It isn’t supported by a shoe company. It doesn’t have a massive budget. It doesn’t have top-of-the-line apparel. It doesn’t have a slew of high-profile players.
Rather, Pryme Tyme is a collection of players from the Rockford area that depends on fundraising to keep it afloat. The players came together at an early age and have stayed together throughout their prep careers.
Of the bunch, Fred VanVleet is one that has risen to the top. While a couple others may end up playing Division I basketball, VanVleet is the most coveted of the group. With his flashy ball handling skills, a thirst for leadership and the type of floor vision where no type of pass can be unexpected, the 5-foot-11 VanVleet is being sought by a number of mid-major programs to be their point guard of the future.
At the high school club level, VanVleet has the type of game that would make nearly every team better. His two main objectives are creating for his teammates and winning. With that, it’s no surprise a number of the more lucrative teams have tried to sway VanVleet to leave Pryme Time and join their programs.
As Pryme Tyme coach Doc Cornell explained over the weekend, VanVleet possesses a lot of impressive traits, and loyalty is among them.
“He’s had plenty of opportunity to go to Chicago and play and go to those high-profile teams, but he’s stayed because he’s not into that,” Cornell said. “He wants to go somewhere he’s wanted and wants to help the team win.”
VanVleet just doesn’t have it within him to abandon his friends.
“These are my guys,” VanVleet said. “This is who I’ve been with since Day 1. I can’t just leave them for a pair of shoes or nice uniforms or whatever. Those things don’t appeal to me. That’s a real big thing for me.”
A main pitch VanVleet often gets from other coaches is a chance for more exposure if he were to leave Pryme Tyme. They tell him he can travel the country, play beside other players of his ability and be seen by nearly every Division I coach from coast to coast.
VanVleet disagrees with them. In his eyes, if he’s player, the coaches will find him.
“It’s about getting on that stage and performing,” said VanVleet, who plays at Auburn High School in Rockford. “As long as you’re leading whoever you’re playing with, the coaches are going to see that. If they see you competing and winning with guys maybe I shouldn’t be winning with, that’s maybe even an advantage for me.”
That was true over the weekend at the ChicagoHoops.com Memorial Day Classic in Merrillville, Ind. There were a number of shoe-sponsored teams with national reputations and numerous Division I prospects, but it was with VanVleet leading the way that Pryme Time came out on top to win the 17-and-under bracket after three days.
“It’s almost like he’s out there playing chess where everyone else is playing checkers,” Cornell said. “He’s already three or four ahead of everybody. It’s a lot easier on me. I always tell him he kind of makes me feel like Tony Dungy. I coach the defense, and he runs the offense out there.”
VanVleet’s performance was no surprise to City/Suburban Hoop Report’s Joe Henricksen, one of the Chicago area’s top recruiting analysts. VanVleet ranks No. 5 in Henricksen’s state-wide Class of 2012.
“He’s a crafty, heady point guard who seems to have the pedigree and qualities to play the point guard position at a very high level,” Henricksen said. “He seems to understand the nuances of the position, controlling tempo, spacing offensively, running the pick-and-role to perfection. He just has that old-school feel to his game and some of the things you can’t teach. He has terrific accuracy in his passing ability, consistently dropping the ball on a dime.
“While it's not a weapon, Fred has really improved his perimeter jumper. He may lack the ideal explosiveness and athleticism, but his feel and intangibles he brings makes up for a lot of his deficiencies.”
VanVleet’s recruitment has picked up over the last month, and it’s likely to continue that path if he keeps it open until the July period. But the process, especially all the phone calls, is getting to VanVleet, and he may end it sooner than later. Right now, he‘s down to Kent State, Northern Illinois and Wichita State.
Northern Illinois first-year coach Mark Montgomery has made VanVleet a priority in the Class of 2012. With already assembling potential starters in the Huskies’ Class of 2011 at every other position, all Montgomery apparently needs now is the point guard.
“They want to bring me in, play big minutes right away, run the team, and that’s what I do best,” VanVleet said. “That would be a good fit for me. They’re putting together the pieces, and I’d be the last puzzle piece.
“Northern Illinois is a lot more attractive than it was. Just to see coach Montgomery and those guys making big moves, they’re hard working, non-stop, 24/7. You definitely know they’re moving in the right direction. That definitely catches your eye.”