High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: Duke Blue Devils

All-American Pilots promise champion effort

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
11:10
PM ET
CHICAGO -- Brandon Ashley had to admit that the point was valid, but he wasn’t about to agree with it completely.

Last year, Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Myck Kabongo were all adamant that their hectic schedule during the week of the McDonald’s All-American Game plus the minimal amount of sleep they got the night before they flew from Chicago to Bethesda, Md., to play in the National High School Invitational wouldn’t have any bearing on how they performed in the opening round.

The result?

Kabongo’s Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and Rivers’ Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) squads both got sent packing on the first day, while Cook and the Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Warriors made it to the title game and lost in double overtime to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.).

All three later conceded that fatigue from a week’s worth of Windy City grinding played a major role in their teams' ultimate demise.

“I hear all that, and that makes sense, but I’m gonna say exactly what they said,” said Ashley, a forward at Findlay Prep who suited up for the West in the McDonald’s All-American Game. “I’m gonna say it won’t affect my game in the least.”

Added Ashley’s Findlay Prep and West teammate Anthony Bennett: “We do this. We will be ready to go out there and do what we’ve got to do at the NHSI, no question.”

We’ll find out Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPNU) when the top-seeded Pilots take on No. 8 Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) in the quarterfinals at Georgetown Prep.

“See, what most people don’t understand is that the schedule we’ve been on this week isn’t even as bad as our AAU schedule,” said Ashley, an Arizona signee. “It’s way crazier during the summer. Three games a day; play at 10 p.m. one night and 8 a.m. the next morning. This is nothing.”

Their “nothing” would be overwhelming for many high school players, but at Findlay Prep, even with a lighter load, the travel schedule is more Division I college than high school.

“What’s crazy is we haven’t even traveled as much as we did in the past,” said Bennett, a forward who is ranked No. 7 in the ESPNU 100. “We still play in the big tournaments, but the schedule hasn’t been as hectic this year.”

That’s something that “shocked” Ashley, who transferred to Findlay from Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) for his senior season.

“I expected the travel to be a little worse,” said Ashley, who is ranked No. 10 in the ESPNU 100. “Because it’s ‘Findlay’ and all that. It hasn’t been that bad at all. This week may have been the craziest week, travel-wise, for us.”

Ashley and Bennett will hop on a plane Thursday morning and plan to head straight to the shootaround. After that, both said they plan to grab a long nap before tonight’s game.

“We’ll just rest up and relax as much as possible,” Bennett said. “We know how important this tournament is and we know what happened last year, so we won’t have a repeat of that.”

Kabongo, who just finished his freshman season running the point at Texas, said that the Pilots should be playing “with an enormous chip on their shoulders” after falling so early in last year’s NHSI.

“We fell short of the Findlay standard,” Kabongo said. “They will have to come out and play hard to regain that. I know they will.”

Even if that means they won’t get a shot at knocking off Oak Hill, the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50. Warriors coach Steve Smith opted not to participate in the NHSI this season for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2009 due to the timing.

The Warriors just returned from a 12-day trip to China on March 20 and immediately went on spring break.

“As a competitor we would’ve loved to see Oak Hill because they’re No. 1 and we’re No. 2,” Ashley said. “But they went and did their thing in China, so it’s all good. We’re focused on what’s in front of us and that’s Coolidge. That’s all we’re worried about.”

To the casual observer, a No. 1 facing a No. 8 is a gift, but Bennett was quick to point out that such thinking was “fool’s gold.”

“I don’t know a whole lot about Coolidge, but I know you’ve got to be good to get in this tournament,” Bennett said. “Only big-time teams get in this.”

Added Ashley: “This isn’t the NCAA tournament. It’s not like a 16-seed playing the top seed. This is a small tournament and everyone is elite. You can’t come in and expect a blowout. I’m not guaranteeing a championship, but what I will say is that we’ll be giving a championship effort.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Duke, UNC recruits handicap Round 1

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
9:00
AM ET
If you're a college hoops fan, you probably have an opinion on who'll take Round 1 in the sport's most storied rivalry.

The future of the two programs have their opinions as well. So we caught up with every player from Duke and North Carolina’s 2012 recruiting classes and had them make predictions for Wednesday's Duke-UNC game (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Naturally, objectivity wasn’t their strong suit, so we added one 2013 player at the top of both schools’ wish lists, Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) junior Julius Randle, to see who he thought would reign supreme on Tobacco Road.

Rasheed Sulaimon
Courtesy of Andrew ShurtleffRasheed Sulaimon said Duke will sweep UNC this season.
The Duke Recruit
Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG
Who gets the win?
“Duke absolutely wins this game. We’ve been a little inconsistent this year, but I spoke with Coach K recently and he told me he’s got the guys doing 5 a.m. workouts and [he's] really challenging them trying to wake them up to finish out the season strong. I just feel like we’re too talented on the perimeter for them, and I think we’ll get it done in the paint, too. I’m calling the sweep against North Carolina this year. You heard it here first.”

UNC wins if ...
“ ... Michael Jordan leaves the front office for the Bobcats, drives down and suits up for the Tar Heels. And when he does he’s playing like he was in his prime. I’m talking the 'dropping 63 on Boston' prime. That’s the only way.”


The UNC Recruits

J.P. Tokoto
Menomonee Falls (Wis.), SF
Who gets the win?
“I am definitely picking North Carolina in this one. This season we suffered a bad loss against Florida State, but other than that we’ve been playing really well. Our guys know exactly what to do in order to keep Duke off the boards and to guard the 3-point line.”

Duke wins if ...
“ ... The Carolina players drink laxative-laced water before the game.”

[+] EnlargeMarcus Paige
Chris Williams/Icon SMIMarcus Paige said UNC has too much inside for Duke to handle.
Marcus Paige
Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa), PG
Who gets the win?
“Most definitely North Carolina all the way. I think we have too many weapons and too much versatility for Duke to be able to handle what we do offensively. Even though we don’t guard the 3-point line too well at times, I feel like our size will wind up getting to them.”

Duke wins if ...
“ ... They manage to find the special stuff in Bugs Bunny’s water bottle from 'Space Jam'!”

Brice Johnson
Edisto (Cordova, S.C.), PF
Who gets the win?
“No question that North Carolina will get the win in this game. I just think we’ve got too much for Duke to handle inside, and I think that’s the thing that will win the game for us. We’ve definitely got this one.”

Duke wins if ...
“ ... J.J. Redick comes back and plays for Duke and goes 20 of 20 from the 3-point line. He’s got to be 100 percent. Got to.”

Joel James
Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), PF
Who gets the win?
“North Carolina. The reason I say that is because our players have the edge in experience. Our guards are bigger and stronger and we know how to handle that type of big stage. I also feel like our bigs will have good games against them, and I think Harrison Barnes will have a big game, too.”

Duke wins if ...
“ ... John Henson, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall all foul out in the first half. That’s the only way they get it done.”

The Objective Take

Julius Randle
Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), PF, undeclared (class of 2013)
Who gets the win?
“Man, I’m being put on the spot with this one! Since they’re playing at home I’m gonna pick UNC in this one. Duke hasn’t been playing their best ball in the past couple of games, so I think this will wake them up and get them ready for the tournament. I do think Duke will win the next one, though.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Julius Randle tours North Carolina colleges

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
10:31
AM ET
Julius RandleKelly Kline/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Julius Randle
Julius Randle | Junior | Forward | Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)

Randle Blog 1 | Randle Blog 2 | Randle Blog 3 | Randle Blog 4 | Randle Blog 5

Julius Randle is ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 60. As a junior, Randle, a forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), is one of the most sought after prospects in the country, regardless of class, with heavyweights like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and Texas all pursuing him hotly. Randle has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access to his world by chronicling everything from intimate details about his recruitment to cooking recipes in a monthly diary.

What’s up world.

It’s your boy Julius Randle and I’m kicking off my first blog of 2012.

First, I want to talk about how proud I was that my team and I were able to go down there to the City of Palms Classic and come away with the title. That was a great field and to end up on top was really big for us. Not many people knew about our team nationally, but it really put us on the map.

But then we went to the Beach Ball Classic and we didn’t do too well there. I think we were a little fatigued, but I also think that it had a lot to do with us not being used to playing with a target on our backs. After we won the City of Palms, we got ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 and now that we’ve gone through what it’s like playing with a target we’re more prepared.

We know that we have to bring it every single game. We all understand that now, and I really think we’re in a good place headed into the Hoophall Classic next week.

I can’t wait to get down there and play against Oak Hill Academy. This might sound crazy, but I’m happy that they haven’t lost yet because we’ll be able to give them their first loss. I’m really confident about our team when we’re playing the way that we’re capable of playing I really don’t see a team in the country that can beat us.

***

After we lost in the Beach Ball Classic my teammates and I went down to North Carolina a day early. I had planned to go down there anyway, but since we weren’t playing anymore we decided to go early and visit N.C. State. I had a great time there with Coach (Mark) Gottfried and Coach (Orlando) Early.

Most of the students weren’t there but those fans still packed the place out. One fan made a really cool sign saying how bad he wanted me to come to State. Just stuff like that was pretty cool to see.

I got a chance to sit down with Coach Gottfried and his message was really simple. He just kept saying “We want you.” He talked about the ways they’d use me there and I liked that he came across really direct.

My boy Rodney Purvis came out to the game with me and that’s always fun to hang out with him. We’re real tight and we had a great time together. I know he wants me to come join him there at State.

That night after I left I went over to Duke and talked with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) for a good little while. It was a great talk about a lot of different things.

We ended up practicing at Cameron Indoor Stadium that night around 10 p.m. and we had a great time just being on that court. I felt really comfortable playing there and I swear I didn’t miss hardly any shots. It was similar to the way I felt when I was at North Carolina practicing for the Beach Ball Classic.

I was making a lot of shots. So the fact that I couldn’t miss at either Duke or UNC won’t make my decision any easier, Ha ha.

The next morning I went to UNC’s shoot around because they had a game that afternoon. It was cool just to be there and see their routine.

I got a chance to sit down and talk to Coach (Roy) Williams and that’s always fun. He just reiterated how much they wanted me there and he said he was gonna give me the highest praise he could give a high school player by telling me that I work as hard as Tyler Hansbrough did on the court.

I know Tyler was a great player so to be compared to him was awesome. I like Coach Williams’ approach. He doesn’t call all the time, he gives me space and he always says he’d much rather talk to me in person. Coach Williams is just a really cool guy.

I came back later for the game and that was fun. The fans were different there. They were really in to their team, but in a different way. It was really loud and really live. It was really interesting to see how different the fan bases were.

I had a great time at the game. It’s hard not to be impressed with UNC and its fans.

I ended up leaving at halftime to get to Duke for the start of their game. That place wasn’t just packed, it was sold out. Of course their place is smaller, but that place is just crazy.

If I had to compare the environments, I’d have to say that Cameron is the most live. It’s so true what people say about that place and this is with the students not even being there. It was just insane. It’s another level. They chanted my name so loud and their fans knew all about me. I was just like wow.

After the game I got the chance to sit down with Coach K again and we had a long talk. He gave me so many things to think about like getting lower and wider in my stance and being in great -- not good -- shape and how much that could help me.

He showed me clips of LeBron James when he was with Team USA and how they worked with him on getting lower and how much that helped him. I have started using that these past couple games, and I can already tell the difference in how I’m playing.

That night when we got to the hotel I felt like getting some shots up so I ended up going to UNC since my hotel was right near the campus. I shot around with Kendall Marshall and James McAdoo and we had a good time there at the gym.

Kendall took me to his room after that and showed me the famous shoe collection that I hear so much about. I’ve got to tell you all, it definitely lives up to the hype! It made me want to get my shoe game together immediately. That’s the first thing I wanted to do after seeing his shoes was come home and get my shoe game up, Ha ha.

I left that next morning.

All in all, I had a great time in North Carolina visiting all three of those schools. Loved the weather and everything about that area. I may get back down there to see the Duke-North Carolina game. I can only imagine that atmosphere.

I definitely plan to get down to Kentucky and Ohio State too. I can’t wait to visit those schools so I hope those fans are ready to see me.

Well, I don’t have a recipe this time people. I’m sorry about that. I’ll definitely have one for you guys the next time.

I got a chance to read ESPNHS' story on predictions for 2012 and that was interesting what they predicted about me ending up at Duke. I’m not saying that it will or won’t happen, but there’s a good chance they could be right. Who knows, we’ll have to see.

Oh and I also read the Recruit X story at ESPNHS too. Wow, his visit was just like the movie “He Got Game.” I was shocked at how real he kept it, and no I’m not Recruit X.

That will be an interesting series to follow to say the least.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now everyone. I appreciate you reading my blog.

Until next time.

Don't forget to follow Randle on Twitter: @J30_Randle

Sulaimon feeling the Duke hate early

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
6:00
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Rasheed Sulaimon leans back on the padded chair inside the lobby of his swanky hotel on the eve of his High School OT Holiday Invitational debut in Raleigh, N.C.

He's stylishly underdressed in a Strake Jesuit College Prep (Houston) warm-up pulled over a black Duke shirt with blue letters. Finally, it's chill mode after a long day that included a 2:30 a.m. arrival, a brief meeting with the Duke players and coaches and a practice at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium with his Strake teammates.

Rasheed Sulaimon
Courtesy of Andrew ShurtleffRasheed Sulaimon said Duke will sweep UNC this season.
Just as he begins to express mild concern with the fact that he’s feeling a bit under the weather, a hotel employee, who has been staring at Sulaimon for the last 10 minutes, walks by and unnecessarily begins to fiddle around with the blinds just in front of his chair.

Minutes later, the employee, a middle-aged woman with short hair and a big, puffy coat, walks by again. This time she can’t resist.

“You the guy that’s going to Duke?” she asked matter-of-factly.

Sulaimon smiled and replied, “Yes ma'am, that’s me.”

“Oh,” she said with a grin. “Well, you’ve got really pretty eyes.”

For a split second, Sulaimon seems slightly uncomfortable. He shifts to the side in his chair and blushes, but just as he tries to get “thank you” out, she interrupted with, “But just so you know; I. Hate. Duke.”

Such is the life of a high school player who’s signed on to join college basketball’s Evil Empire.

“I get stuff like that all the time,” said Sulaimon, a senior shooting guard who committed to Duke on Feb. 10 and signed during the NCAA’s early signing period in November. “It’s crazy how much people really just hate on Duke. I’ve been dealing with the hate ever since I committed.”

That’s been a major adjustment for Sulaimon who has one of the most likable personalities of any high school player in the country, regardless of class.

“Oh yeah, everybody loves Sheed,” said Sulaimon's teammate John Gillon, who is signed to Arkansas-Little Rock. “He's just so positive all the time and he's really easygoing. He's the kind of guy that people flock to. Everybody loves him.”

Well, at least they used to.

Sulaimon and the Crusaders traveled to Taylor (Houston) the day after he gave Duke its first commitment from the class of 2012 and immediately Sulaimon noticed a drastic change in how he was received.

“The gym was packed and everyone had all of these signs made about how Duke sucked and how I sucked,” recalled Sulaimon, who is ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU 100. “They were saying Duke was gonna revoke my scholarship, UNC was better, I’d never get off the bench there, all this crazy stuff. Since that day it hasn’t cooled off at all. Whenever it happens I have to tell myself to block it out and then I’m usually fine. I still haven’t gotten used to it.”

Even in the loss to Garner in the quarterfinals, where Sulaimon was hunched over, gasping for breath and running up the court dizzy all night, he received more than six emails on Facebook telling him how terrible he played and how Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who attended the game, was going to take his scholarship back.

Duke point guard Quinn Cook said that it doesn’t get any easier as the year progresses and certainly not when you put on the Blue Devil jersey.

“I had to deal with it too. We all have,” said Cook, who also attended the quarterfinal loss along with teammates Austin Rivers and Alex Murphy. “Right when I committed I had fans just killing me with comments and players talking crazy and trying to go at me on the court. I just used it as motivation because every game someone was coming at my head. I wasn’t gonna let anyone just get the best of me. It really helped.”

Sulaimon has used the same motivation to average 28 points and five assists a game this season. And ironically, despite all of the tongue lashings and verbal assaults he gets due to his association with Duke, Sulaimon maintains that opposing fans’ jabs don’t equal true hate.

“The same people that are heckling me throughout the game are the ones dapping me up and saying they respect me after the game,” he said. “A lot of times the haters are the biggest admirers.”

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the middle-aged woman with the short hair and a big, puffy coat was back. This time she’s brought her daughter over to meet Sulaimon.

“My little girl wanted to know if you’d sign her doll,” she said while sliding it in front of him.

Without hesitation, Sulaimon smiles, grabs the doll and signs away.

The woman’s daughter smiles and skips away looking at Sulaimon’s name in purple ink on her worn doll. The woman thanks him, turns to walk away and immediately spins back around.

“Look I'm a North Carolina fan, so that’s why I said that earlier,” she explained. “But you seem really nice. I’ll tell you what; I’ll root for you individually when you get to Duke. Not the team. That’s the best I can do.”

Sulaimon laughs and nods.

Biggest admirers indeed.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

No. 1 pick Irving says the top is a process

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
9:51
AM ET
Don’t misunderstand Kyrie Irving, he totally gets it.

The validation of being the top-ranked player at your position and the respect that accompanies that appointment is priceless.

Kyrie Irving
Associated PressCleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who was rated the No. 1 point guard in the ESPNU 100 in 2010, said being the best in high school is a process.
“I can totally understand that,” said Irving, who was picked No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft in June by the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s every high school player’s dream.”

Where the disconnect comes in for Irving is the mindset of how and when those players plan to reach that goal.

“They want it right now,” said Irving, who averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds for Duke last season. “But my question is what are you doing to get there? It’s not gonna just happen overnight. You’ve got to have a plan.”

Irving finished high school as the No. 1 point guard and No. 3 overall player in the 2010 ESPNU 100, but he’s quick to point out that he “wasn’t always thought of as the best.”

“I can remember thinking about how I was gonna get to where I wanted to be,” said Irving, who starred for St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.). “This is where I think kids mess up. My plan wasn’t to be the top point guard in the country right away. First, I wanted to be No. 1 in my city, then my state and then my next goal was the country.”

Irving’s logic was simple: The smaller goals were more realistic to achieve in a timely manner.

“Just to jump to No. 1 in the country isn’t realistic for a lot of different reasons,” Irving said. “You have to know it’s going to be a process and you have to love the process. You really do. When you have the smaller goals first, you’re constantly achieving things throughout your process.”

Ironically, the biggest detractors to attaining your ultimate goal are triumphs, according to Irving.

“It’s crazy because you could blow up for a big game at a big tournament and immediately you think that should put you on top,” Irving said. “That’s not how it works. You just keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself. It’s not an easy process, but it’s necessary. You just have to love it and be realistic about your goals. It will work out the way it’s supposed to, but you do everything you can.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Muhammad not feeling mispronunciations

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
3:23
PM ET
It’s not that Shabazz Muhammad is being difficult or “Hollywood” or even a primo prima donna, he’s merely saying that come springtime he wants the college that receives his signed scholarship to be able to pronounce the name that’s on it.

Fair enough.
Muhammad
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSShabazz Muhammad said that coaches who mispronounce his name surprise him.

“I absolutely can’t stand when people in general pronounce my name wrong,” said Muhammad, the top player in the ESPNU 100. “But when coaches do it, it’s really surprising honestly. Throughout my recruitment it’s happened a lot, but a school that just keeps on doing it, they’re pretty much off the list.”

Most mistakenly pronounce Muhammad’s first name Shuh-BAZZ because of the way it’s spelled, but Shabazz is pronounced Shuh-BOZZ.

“I’m used to it because people mispronounce my name all the time,” said Muhammad, a senior swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “I understand because of the spelling of it so I’ll let it slide if it’s once or twice, but I’ll politely correct them if it goes past that. But coaches recruiting me, I’d think they would get it right. Seems like you’d want to get that right.”

Muhammad’s name pronunciation mishaps are similar to what North Carolina freshman guard P.J. Hairston said he went through when Duke recruited him in high school.

Hairston said that when Coach K and Co. would send him recruitment letters they’d write “T.J. Harrison,” which eventually made him sour on the Blue Devils.

Apparently, they learned from the alleged slip-up because Muhammad said Duke has never mispronounced his name. The same can’t be said for all of the schools – UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas A&M, Arizona and UNLV – on his list.

The two guilty parties?

Kentucky and Kansas.

“Coach (Bill) Self said it wrong when I went there at Kansas, and I think he realized it pretty quick and changed it to the right pronunciation,” Muhammad said. “Then one of the assistants at Kentucky said it wrong on a visit and Coach (John) Calipari said it the right way real quick. Then the assistant caught on after that.”

Adaptation is the key, and Muhammad appreciates it.

“Most definitely,” he said. “I mean how bad can a school want you if there calling you something you don’t answer to? You’ve got to get stuff like a name right.”

That’s the name of the game.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Final sales pitches for McGary

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
1:43
AM ET
Related Link: McGary Blog: Ready To Decide

As the country waits to hear Mitch McGary announce where he’s decided to play college ball, recruits who are committed to his final three schools – Michigan, Duke and Florida – have decided to take one last stab at selling McGary on their future schools.

Makes sense since McGary told ESPNHS that, contrary to popular belief, he’s still undecided.

Here are the sales pitches:
Rasheed
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSDuke recruit Rasheed Sulaimon thinks the Blue Devils are a no-brainer for Mitch McGary.
“Join the Evil Empire.”
Rasheed Sulaimon
, Strake Jesuit (Houston), 2012, SG
Committed to: Duke
“Mitch, you definitely need to be a Blue Devil because you're absolutely a Duke player. You fit into our style really well and with the guys we’ll have coming in we’ll be able to accomplish some really big things. I think we can win a national championship our freshman year with all of the talent that we’ll have on the team and compete for multiple titles after that. Also, Mitch, it doesn’t get better than playing for Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski). He’s the USA Basketball coach and he’s linked to every great basketball player in the NBA. Plus he’s about to be the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history. Who else can say that? Why wouldn’t you want to play for the best coach and the best program? Plus, the social life at Duke is great. We’ve got the most dedicated fans in the world. What are you waiting for?”

“Bring the Wolverines back to the Fab Five days.”
Glenn Robinson III
, Lake Central (St. John, Ind.), 2012, SF
Committed to: Michigan
“Mitch, please come to Michigan man. We’ve been playing together for years in AAU and we’ve combined to do big things on that level. I know we’ll only continue it in college. We’ll have a top five recruiting class and we’ll bring Michigan back to the Fab Five days. We’ll change the whole program around and bring them back to national title contenders if you come. Plus, Michigan is one of the most fun campuses in the country. All of the students are so supportive of the basketball program. All of the students know everything about you. You’ll get so much more attention here. We’ve got a great academic reputation, of course, and we’ve got some of the best looking girls in the country. Everything that you want and need is here at Michigan.”

“No-brainer to be a Gator.”
Braxton Ogbueze
, United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.), 2012, PG
Committed to: Florida
“Mitch, Florida is where you need to be because it’s a great fit for you. Coach (Billy) Donovan is the best coach that you can possibly be coached by. He knows how to work his guards and big men together perfectly and there’s no better place than Florida. Think about it, millions of people come to Florida every year for vacation so why wouldn’t you want to spend your college career here? It would be a smart decision to come here because you’ll get better and you’ll win and you’ll be in a great location around great people. Then you’ve got the great weather and the young ladies here are beautiful. Second to none.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Mitch's Memos: D-Day looms

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
1:42
AM ET
Mitch McGaryKelly Kline/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Mitch McGary
Mitch McGary | Senior | Forward | Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.)

Mitch McGary is the top-ranked power forward in the ESPNU 100. Headed into his senior season at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), McGary has narrowed his list of colleges to Duke, Florida and Michigan. McGary has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access by chronicling his thoughts on everything from his recruitment to pop culture in a blog.

McGary Blog 1 | McGary Blog 2 | McGary Blog 3 | McGary Blog 4 | Recruits Give McGary A Final Sales Pitch

What’s up world, it’s your boy Mitch aka White Thunder, and I’m back, as promised, with a new blog entry before my big decision tomorrow on ESPNU.

First, before I even get to that, I’ve got to say that we had our first practice tonight and things went really well. I think we’ll have another great season. We’re ranked as the No. 1 prep school in the country in the preseason and I think we’ll have a chance to live up to that after seeing how hard the guys were going at today’s practice.

I want to let you guys in on exactly what I’m thinking right now as I get ready to decide and, honestly, right now I’m thinking about my final three schools -- Florida, Michigan and Duke -- and I’m weighing out the pros and cons on each of them.

First, you’ve got Florida.

I really like the coaching staff there. Billy Donovan and John Pelphrey have done a great job recruiting me, and I know that I’d be successful there just looking at their track record of putting big men in the NBA. Guys like Joakim Noah, David Lee, Al Horford ...

I think playing in that system would be great for me because Coach Donovan is known to let his big men get the ball on a rebound and take it coast-to-coast. I know that I would really thrive in that offense.

One con is that I didn’t get a feeling of comfort there. I know that I would be comfortable there over time, but that’s something that I’ve been thinking about.

Next up, you’ve got Michigan.
Mitch McGary
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSMitch McGary continues to weigh his options.

What I really like about Michigan is its coaching staff, especially Bacari Alexander. He’s probably one of the most underrated coaches in the country. He really knows what he’s doing with the big men.

I just like that I can trust the coaches there, and I actually like that they’re not on the biggest stage yet. That gives me the opportunity to go there and make a huge impact from day one.

A con for Michigan is that the Big Ten has a reputation for being a slow-paced conference with slow big men who don’t really get out and run the floor at all. That’s not the way that I want to play, so I’ve definitely got to take that into consideration. I know that if I went there it would help change the perceptions a lot.

Then you’ve got Duke.

I just loved everything about Duke when I went on my visit. They’re coached by the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, who I’ve developed a great relationship with and have a great deal of respect for. He’s about, to me, the winningest coach in college history, and no one else can say that.

I really liked the whole staff there and I really bonded with the players during my visit, too. Those guys are my boys. I really like their style of play, too. It’s an NBA offense, so that’s definitely attractive.

The con for Duke would be the perception that all their big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.

However, I know that if I went there I’d change that up because they mapped out how they want to use me and involve me in the offense, which is appealing.

So you can see how stressful this decision is on me with all of the things that I’m thinking about even as I do this blog. It’s been really stressful on my parents, too. They don’t really know how to deal with all of the coaches calling them, and all of their friends constantly asking where their son is going gets to be a lot at times.

But I’m lucky to have my parents there for me at all times. I love my parents to death and I really thank them for always being there for me. That means a lot to me. I don’t take it for granted.

I haven’t heard from any coaches lately. They have let me have my time to think things out after I talked to all three about a week and a half ago.

Honestly, all three of these schools are the right choice. I can’t lose with any of these programs, which is what makes this decision so tough.

I don’t know where I’m heading at this point and obviously there are a lot of analysts out there that are saying I do, but it’s not true.

Hopefully I’ll figure it out within the next 24 hours.

As you guys know I always give a music review in my blogs and I didn’t do one last time so I wanted to give you guys a heads up about one of my favorite artists coming out in a couple weeks. Drake is dropping his album “Take Care” and it’s definitely going to be one that you’re gonna want to buy.

Also, Wale’s new album came out today and I’m actually about to go download that right now so I’ll let you know how that is next time. Then you’ve got Mac Miller coming out with an album next week, too.

So there are definitely a lot of great albums coming out that I’ll be reviewing soon.

OK guys, that’s all I’ve got for now. I want to give a shoutout to all of my fans who have continued to support me. I really appreciate that more than you guys know.

Thanks everyone.

Don't forget to follow McGary on Twitter: @MitchMcGary33

Seeking last place for No. 1

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
11:24
PM ET
Shabazz Muhammad will admit this much, that when he got to school Wednesday morning he wondered what schools would show up on the last day of the NCAA’s contact period.

After all, college coaches had been coming to Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) in droves since the period began on September 9 vying to make lasting impressions on the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100.

But while nearly every major college coach in the country is dying to be first on Muhammad’s wish list, the coveted slot during the contact period is the last one.

“It makes sense,” said Muhammad, a senior small forward. “I definitely think coaches want to come on the last day on purpose so we’ll keep thinking about their school.”

This year’s last word winners?

Kentucky coach John Calipari and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“There were definitely a couple students hanging around after school that don’t normally stay after,” Muhammad said. “They’re two of the best coaches and programs so it was good to see them again.”

Calipari and his assistant Orlando Antigua were on the scene first and focused on how Muhammad could flourish in Kentucky’s dribble-drive offense with his athleticism and skill set.

“I liked what Coach Cal had to say,” said Muhammad, who will see Calipari in a week when he attends Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness season kickoff event. “They talked a lot about how they could use me there. It was perfect timing because when Coach Cal was leaving, Coach K was coming.”

Krzyzewski along with associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski and assistant Jeff Capel talked more about branding and exposure.

“They talked about the experience as a whole,” Muhammad said. “Just how it could benefit me to come there. It was a really good talk. They both really showed me how much they wanted me.”

Especially since Muhammad wasn’t even running basketball drills; he was just, well, running.

“Yeah the team was outside doing conditioning drills on the track,” Muhammad said. “Nothing too interesting, but they just stood there and watched me run. Like I said it showed me a lot."

Just not enough to pull the trigger on a commitment. Muhammad is considering “eight or nine” schools total and will likely go the distance with his recruitment.

“I’m just taking my time and hearing everything everyone has to say,” Muhammad said. “I’m gonna wait until the spring more than likely. I had a lot of visitors during this contact period, but yeah the last two schools that came to see me where Kentucky and Duke. That means something to me.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Mitch's Memos: Options overload

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
1:57
AM ET
Mitch McGaryKelly Kline/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Mitch McGary
Mitch McGary | Senior | Forward | Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.)

Mitch McGary is the top-ranked power forward in the ESPNU 100. Headed into his senior season at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), McGary, has narrowed his list of colleges to Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Maryland and Michigan. McGary has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access by chronicling his thoughts on everything from his recruitment to pop culture in a blog.

McGary Blog 1 | McGary Blog 2

What’s up, world! It’s your boy, Mitch a.k.a. “White Chocolate” a.k.a. “White Thunder.”

First, before I start I just want everyone to know that everything in this blog is 100 percent me. No one writes for me or speaks for me. People come up with the craziest rumors sometimes.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I started school about two weeks ago and so far everything’s going really well. I’ve got a pretty tough schedule, but I’m getting really good help from my teachers. They break it down really well so I’m learning a lot.

I’m so excited about the up-and-coming season because we are gonna be loaded. We’ve got Semaj Christon and Jaylen Reyonlds, and I think both of those guys are gonna have big years. Both are committed to Xavier and, trust me, Xavier got great pickups there. Then we’ve got one of my best friends Jakarr Sampson back with us. He recently de-committed from St. John’s, but he’s definitely gonna help us out a lot this year.

We’ve also got T.J. Warren, and I think he and I will be a deadly duo once we get our chemistry down pat. We’ve never played together and so it takes a little time to get on the same page, but it’s definitely gonna happen. Once our team gets on one accord we’ll definitely be ready to challenge for a national championship.

The last time I wrote, I’d gone on visits to Michigan, North Carolina and Duke.

I haven’t been on any visits since then.

I know there are a lot of rumors out there that I’ve already committed to certain schools, but I can honestly tell you guys that I don’t know where I want to go. I have not committed anywhere so that’s just not true.

I have had a lot of the schools on my list come to the school to see me.

Duke has been up here the most. I really like what Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) has been talking to me about. He’s about to be the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history and that’s just really impressive to me. That’s something that stays on my mind. After Duke, Michigan has been here to see me the second most and I know that Michigan will be good too. They’re in the rebuilding stage and Coach (John) Beilein is another guy I really respect and like. They’re moving up in the rankings too.

Mitch McGary
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSMitch McGary continues to weigh his options.

Maryland has probably visited me the third most and I really like their program and think they’re headed in the right direction. Also, Coach (Billy) Donovan was up here a couple weeks ago and he’s done a really good job showing me what he’s done in the last few years developing talent. I really like what he’s been saying.

North Carolina has been up here too. They just got a commitment from Joel James, which will be a great situation for him. I want to definitely give Joel a shoutout.

As far as more visits, I don’t think I’ll be making any. I’m not gonna go to Kentucky’s Midnight Madness, I feel like I have all the information that I need to start to think about a decision. Within the next month I hope to have a decision made.

This decision will be really hard to say the least. I’m gonna let you guys in on a few things I’ll be thinking about throughout the process.

To start off, Duke has a lot to offer. They’ve got the Plumlees there, but Miles is a senior and Mason has a really good chance at going pro after this season. Then they’ve got their younger brother Marshall, who is very, very tall and skilled. I think I could go in there and make a great duo with Marshall and we could make a lot of noise together. I love that Duke likes to get out in transition and run too. That’s a big plus.

Then you’ve got Michigan. I look at who they’ve got coming in and I know they’re in a rebuilding situation, but I know that’s a situation where I could really come in and make a strong footprint. I feel like I could really help them and have a strong season there as a freshman. I like the Big Ten because it’s known for having blue-collar type players, but the pace tends to be a little slower. I love to go to work in the paint, but I like to get out and run more so with Michigan that’s something that I’ll have to really look at.

Then North Carolina has some great guys coming in with Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto and now Joel James. People think that me and T.J. have some sort of package deal going on for North Carolina, but that’s not true at all. I do think about playing with T.J. in college and of course we’re both considering North Carolina so I guess that’s where it comes from. I will say this though, I’ve definitely thought about it.

Carolina likes for their big men to get out in transition and run the floor, which is what I want to do.

With Maryland, I love that they fed the post a lot last year with Jordan Williams. They also get out in transition. Same with Florida, they play a really fast tempo.

So as you all can see, this won’t be an easy decision. I do know that whenever I commit I’m gonna be one of those guys that recruits for the school I pick. I definitely won’t force the school on guys I’ll just brag about it a lot.

OK, so you know it’s time for my music review and I’ve got to tell you all that Jay-Z and Kanye’s album “Watch the Throne” is definitely something that you’ve got to have on your play lists.

I just love the way they incorporate other artists like the song “Otis.” It gives you that old school mixed in with today’s music. I think that’s pretty dope.

Of course it’s Jay and Kanye so the lyrics are crazy too. I think that this one will go down as an all-time classic just because it’s a quality album and it’s by those two rap heavyweights.

The other album I want to tell you all about is J. Cole’s “Cole World: The Sideline Story.” I just got it recently, but that album is great. It’s one of those albums that you can just let play through and you don’t have to skip any songs on it.

J. Cole is a deep rapper and he raps about real life situations that most of us can relate to on some level. He’s a great lyricist too. That’s a definite buy so go pick that one up too.

OK, guys well as always I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. As I said, I’m taking this time to talk things over with my family and weigh out what the best decision for me will be. You've got people out there saying I've decided and there's a leader and that's NOT true.

I want to shoutout all of my fans on Twitter. I appreciate you all cheering me on and sending me messages. That means a lot to me.

Take care everyone and check back soon for my next entry.

Don't forget to follow McGary on Twitter: @MitchMcGary33

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