Camping out for recruits

Terps, others pursue that `one great player' to put them over the top

July 08, 2006|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

Indianapolis -- Maryland men's basketball assistant coach Michael Adams sat in the front row of a set of temporary bleachers Thursday, peering through his wire-rimmed glasses as Jai Lucas, the son of former Terp All-American John Lucas, zipped up and down Court 1 at this year's Nike All-America Camp.

On the far court, All-Metro forward Sean Mosley was teamed with Bowie native Chris Wright. Lucas, Mosley and Malcolm Delaney have all said Maryland offered them scholarships; Wright said he was once pursued by Maryland but is now considering other schools.

The Terps are still looking for that "one great player," Maryland coach Gary Williams said, the go-to star they lacked this past season. At this week's four-day event that runs through tomorrow and features 12 teams and 48 tip-offs, there was an abundance of talent for Adams and Williams to evaluate - including three of The Sun's All-Metro players.

The Nike camp is one of this week's three high-profile, shoe-sponsored tournaments that feature the nation's top Amateur Athletic Union standouts and college recruits. Mosley (St. Frances) and fellow All-Metro selections Delaney (Towson Catholic) and Donte Greene (Towson Catholic), as well as Henry Sims (Mount St. Joseph), were among those invited. The tournaments also draw the A-list of college coaches, creating an environment that exudes both wealth and talent, and exposes the commercialism of college basketball at the grassroots level.

"The camps have reached a saturation point," said George Raveling, Nike's global director for basketball sports marketing. "Clearly there's not 600 elite players in the country, but what it does is it provides kids the opportunity to get exposure and compete against the best. I think it provides a valuable barometer for each of the young kids because they can gauge where their game is, how far they have to go, what they do well, what they don't do well."

The Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., and the Adidas Superstar Camp in Suwanee, Ga., run concurrently. Williams came to the Nike camp yesterday from New Jersey. The event is being held in the National Institute for Fitness and Sport, a 117,000-square-foot building owned by Indiana University and adjacent to the White River State Park.

"You have to get to all the camps as a head coach," Williams said. "You just have to be there."

Many players feel the same way, but the camps are invitation-only, and 140 wound up in Indianapolis. Which camp they attend is determined in part by which shoe company sponsors their AAU team.

The sound of their Nikes screeching on the court could be heard from the first tip-off at 2:30 p.m. to the last game at 9 each night. Teams constantly flowed on and off the two courts.

Lucas, whose father watched him run the offense from a corner seat next to the bench, said he came to the Nike Camp for "the opportunity to play against the best competition there is in America."

"You can place yourself with the top guards, the top big men, everyone," he said. "You always want to impress people. If it's the first time they're seeing you play, you want to leave them with a good opinion."

Williams said his staff attends the camps with specific players to watch, but NCAA rules prohibit the college coaches from speaking about recruits.

"We have guys we've already been in contact with," he said. "We want to see how they do against other players who are supposed to be at their level and then you're always looking for that great player. Sometimes guys develop after their junior year in high school. They get better by the time July rolls around, so you're looking for that kid who might really be on the upswing in terms of improving in basketball."

Not only can't the coaches talk about specific players this week, they can't talk to them, either. The camps fall during an observation period, which means coaches aren't allowed to talk to the players or their high school and AAU coaches.

Still, the NCAA hasn't disarmed a loophole that allows the coaches to communicate through text messages and e-mails.

They roamed the building with BlackBerrys in hand and cell phones clipped to their belts and ears. Credentials with coveted signatures like Lute Olson dangled from their necks. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Kansas' Bill Self and UCLA coach Ben Howland were in the stands Thursday, but were replaced by coaches like Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun yesterday. The coaches came in waves, as the three camps stretch their staffs thin.

Former North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek was there, wearing a maroon Arizona State T-shirt. More than half of his former Atlantic Coast Conference colleagues were there.

The big names were on the sidelines, too. The high school coaches of LeBron James (Dru Joyce) and Carmelo Anthony (Steve Smith) - two current NBA players who many give credit to for the rise in publicity of such tournaments - were listed as coaches of the participating teams.

Many of the players have already been offered scholarships and made their decisions, but numerous members of the Class of 2007 are still being courted. Mosley, who is being recruited by Maryland assistant Keith Booth, said the Terps offered him a scholarship, but he hasn't made a decision yet. He's also looking at Syracuse, Georgetown and Kansas, along with several others.

Carlton Carrington, director of Team Melo, Mosley's AAU team, said the Terps "have some work to do" when it comes to recruiting the Baltimore area.

"They've got some ground to cover," he said, "but Keith [Booth] is working hard."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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