Dominic Green's stellar summer
LAS VEGAS -- Dominic Green, a 6-foot-7 wing from Renton, Washington, traveled to Las Vegas with his Team Avery Bradley summer basketball squad to achieve one mission: Secure scholarship offers from power-conference schools.
In late July, only Montana, Portland and Seattle University coveted the 2015 recruit from Hazen High School, just outside Seattle.
The West Coast's top college coaches, however, hadn't contacted him.
They probably didn't know much about him. Then, Green didn't have a profile on most major recruiting websites.
So he arrived at the Adidas Super 64 tournament in late July as another lanky, spry and relatively anonymous recruit. But Division I coaches who'd overlooked or just didn't know Green in the previous months called the prospect promising, athletic and versatile and offered full rides just three days later.
A few stirring performances turned the under-the-radar wing into the event's Kelly Kapowski. All the popular guys wanted to meet him.
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The NCAA's rules prohibited coaches from talking to him face-to-face, but even if recruit-suitor conversations had been permitted, the red-white-and-loud cheerleaders who accompanied one team might have impeded the dialogue. But the stakes, on both sides, were high.
"We get such limited opportunities to evaluate that one tournament can change everything," said VCU's Shaka Smart.
Coaches shuffled toward the air-conditioned corridor of the Cashman Center in search of relief from the 113-degree heat. It was evaluation or evaporation in the final open recruiting period of the summer.
Smart, Bill Self, Steve Alford, Fran McCaffery and other Division I coaches navigated the city, where four high-level events operated simultaneously.
They were there for Chase Jeter, who recently committed to Duke.
In the second half of his first game, however, Green began to fly down the court and make the hustle plays that caught the attention of coaches who wondered if he might be a sleeper. But the clichés lie. Hard work alone rarely leads to gold unless there's some talent attached to it.
Green had that too.
As a defender, he was quick enough to face guards. He had that VCU defensive grittiness, a terror on the ball. And his size helped him stick opposing big men too. He's also a solid rebounder, unafraid of sacrificing his slight frame for an extra possession.
Early in the second half, Green moved off a high ball screen, stepped back and hit a 3-pointer with a pure form that made the rock seem like a feather floating toward the rim. And then he did it again. Green has a high-major stroke and the power players in the gym begin to take notice.
"Oh, he's on our radar," said one Pac-12 head coach after catching a portion of Green's surprising performance.
"On the radar" is the coaching equivalent of "Don't call me, I'll call you" on the dating scene. There are no guarantees and the radar is crowded.
Still, Green had moved closer to his dream after the first day of the tournament.
But Team Avery Bradley had suffered a double-digit loss to Jeter's Dream Vision squad.
Green's head coach, Garry Ward, couldn't quite muster a pep talk after the game. Only flailing arms and frustration.
"I didn't come here to lose!" he screamed. Then, he gave Green a pat on the chest and left.
"He's got high-major athleticism, high-major ability," Ward said about Green after his first game in the Adidas Super 64. "He's just starting to build his body. ... He seized the moment."
Green's excitement was tempered. He'd just lost. But he'd also played well.
"It's a great opportunity," Green said about the tourney. "I stepped up early. I was nervous. I wanted to show out."
One great performance promises little. Just ask any NBA general manager who's fallen in love with a player who quickly proved to be a bust.
Coaches fear the fluke.
But Green's game wasn't a fluke. The next morning, he made more step-back 3-pointers and smart defensive plays against Indiana Elite. By then, the high-major coaches had arrived. They may have come for others, but they noticed Green.
Tom Crean, Derek Kellogg, Ernie Kent, Mark Few, Lorenzo Romar and a collection of assistants had found seats on the margins of the floor. Green finally had the stage he craved when he arrived. And he was prepared for it. Team Avery Bradley lost again but Green had become the gem every coach seeks.
"Don't write about him," one West Coast head coach told a reporter who attended the event.
The blessing of the spotlight, however, often comes with a curse. Any hot prospect can go from diamond in the rough to just rough if he's scrutinized. And there were significant components of Green's game that deserved more observation.
The same player who shot 14-for-22 from the 3-point line in Las Vegas missed most of his free throws that week.
"How can he shoot all those 3s and miss free throws?" one Division I head coach wondered.
While he's a skilled defender, he was sloppy as a ball handler, committing too many turnovers to be trusted in that role at this point in his career. And an extra 15 to 20 pounds would help a young man who always seems to encounter accidental violence on the floor.
Three games into the tournament, Green had suffered a bloody nose, an inadvertent punch to the groin, a second shot to the nose and a forearm to the back of his head. He wears shin guards for fear of injury.
His toughest obstacles are mental, though. To compete with college basketball's top players, he'll have to learn the shooter's balance between selfless and selfish. Sometimes, you just have to take the shot.
Green was hesitant in a tight game against the Milwaukee Rebels. With his team down 67-64 in the final minute, he got the ball near the top of the arc. He'd hit a half-dozen shots from similar spots that week. But he panicked and passed to a teammate who missed.
Green's squad lost 75-70. Once it was over, he moved to the end of the bench and burrowed his head into his hands. He knew.
"I trusted my teammate," he said, "to hit the shot."
And there's nothing wrong with that. But that was his shot.
Yet, his positive attributes made him a desirable prospect and good fit for the high-majors he wanted to attract. He's a 6-7 kid who can guard multiple positions. He runs the floor like a smaller wing. He forces turnovers and finishes on fast breaks. And he can knock down 3-pointers.
"Yeah, right there ... Nice, quick release," said one Pac-12 assistant during one of Green's best games in Las Vegas.
By the end of the week, Washington, Washington State, Gonzaga, Marquette, Oregon and Arizona State had all contacted him.
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek offered Green a scholarship and the rising senior quickly committed to the program.
"You know, I really liked Herb Sendek and I really liked the program and the school and the area," Green said.
Today, he's listed as a three-star prospect on some recruiting sites. And he's prepping for his senior season before he travels to Tempe, Arizona, to play for the Sun Devils.
This is proof that the possibilities on the summer circuit are plentiful for Green and others. With one good stretch against his peers at any grass-roots event, an unknown talent can turn himself into a coveted stud. He can snag scholarship offers that seemed like pipe dreams months earlier.
Green lacked high-major buzz and opportunity that Wednesday. By the weekend, he was on his way to the Pac-12. Elevation on the summer scene can be that swift and dramatic.
"Two days after the tournament, [Arizona State] offered me a scholarship," Green said. "The morning before, I got a call from Montana and I was excited about that. But once I got [the ASU offer], a call from a high major school, I was really excited. ... If I would've struggled in Las Vegas, I don't think they would've been coming."
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