Free from R.I., Cain eyes options

Former T.F. North star Kyle Cain realizes that most basketball recruits would jump at the chance to play for Kentucky.

Cain just isn't one of them.

After recently getting his release from his letter of intent to Rhode Island, Cain was contacted by Kentucky. He was flattered to be considered by coach John Calipari, but he told him no thanks.

Instead, Cain, who has spent his last school year at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire, has directed his attention to Alabama, Arizona State, Illinois and West Virginia.

"Kentucky called me and was interested in me coming for a visit," said Cain, who averaged a double-double last season. "Any player would be excited that Kentucky would call them. I just know I'm not the type of player that Kentucky goes after.

"I'm an emerging player. I can be a star in college in two or three years. Kentucky goes after McDonald's All-Americans every year. I'm a player who works hard for everything. It's not that they don't work hard, but I'm not their type."

Cain is a 6-7 forward who is best known for his ability to score and rebound inside. He calls that his bread and butter, but he now can step outside to shoot and handle the ball.

A number of schools are looking for that kind of talent, and Cain is researching his options. Whenever he receives a phone call from a college coach, he jots down the name of the school and the coach. After the call ends, he immediately gets on the Internet, checks out the team's incoming recruits and sees who is coming back at his position.

It's how he narrowed his list from a couple dozen schools to the four he has now.

Alabama can offer playing time right away, and even more next year when the Crimson Tide graduate Chris Hines and Justin Knox, two of their main big men.

Arizona State would give him the best chance to start as a freshman as he would fill the Sun Devils' immediate need for a power forward.

Illinois is especially enticing to Cain because it's his home-state school and the team he grew up watching. He also has been waiting for the Illini to make an offer to him for some time.

"Growing up in Illinois, I always saw Illinois on TV," said Cain, who played AAU with Larry Butler's Illinois Warriors. "To be recruited by Illinois, that's really big for me. I've been recruited by every Division I school in Illinois except for Illinois. Man, I worked so hard. They finally recognized me as a good player."

Cain made an official visit to Illinois this past week and sat down with coach Bruce Weber to talk about where he fit in the team's plans. The one question Cain has about Illinois is it does already have a plethora of frontcourt players for next season.

"That is a concern," Cain said. "They do have a lot of players. [Incoming freshman] Meyers Leonard is said to maybe play some [power forward]. Jereme Richmond is a McDonald's All-American. It's something I have to look into.

"Illinois is looking at myself because they need some toughness. They have players like Mike Davis, Tyler Griffey and Bill Cole, but they need toughness and a high motor. Maybe I won't play as much my freshman year, maybe 20 minutes."

What Illinois does have going for it is assistant coach Jerrance Howard, with whom Cain already feels a strong bond.

"He's a young coach," Cain said. "He can relate to the players, too. He talks to me like he was on the team. He can relate to me like one of my teammates already. He's a really good guy."

As for West Virginia, its losses of Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks opened a need for a big man. The Mountaineers are returning John Flowers and Kevin Jones, and they are bringing in 6-7 small forward Darrious Curry and 7-1 center David Nyarsuk as recruits .

Cain hoped to visit West Virginia this weekend or Monday.

"Coach [Bob] Huggins is a legendary coach," Cain said. "They got some players at my position in Flowers and Jones, but at all major programs you're going to have to earn your minutes."

Cain won't disclose why he specifically asked out of his letter of intent to Rhode Island.

"I don't want to tell the exact reason, but I can say that something that was supposed to happen at Rhode Island -- it was nothing illegal -- didn't happen, and it wasn't going to happen," Cain said. "I asked coach [Jim] Baron to release me from my letter of intent, and he did that, and I respect him for that.

"I have had some Atlantic 10 schools contact me, but I told them I wasn't interested because I don't want to compete with coach Baron for a conference championship."

Cain doesn't have a timeline for his decision.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.