Friday, June 24, 2005
Durrant's moves make for a twisted tale
Oak Hill gets three of nation's top 25 juniors
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- Green bucks the odds as ACC MVP candidate
- Recruiting updates
When it was reported that Oak Hill Academy big man Kevin Durrant would announce his college choice on June 23, almost everybody assumed he would pick North Carolina.
After all, Durrant’s fellow Marylander and Oak Hill classmate, point guard Tywon Lawson, had committed to the Tar Heels on May 12.
It turns out, Durrant committed to Texas as part of a process that started to make a little more sense with Oak Hill coach Steve Smith’s revelation Thursday that Durrant would be transferring to Montrose Christian in Kensington, Md.
The head coach at Montrose Christian is Smith’s long time rival, Stu Vetter, who previously coached at Flint Hill Prep and St. John’s at Prospect Hall and has seen some of his players transfer to Oak Hill, most notably Cory Alexander and Curtis Staples.
“If [Durrant] had done what he did the first semester, he’d have been back,” Smith said. “That comes directly from the dad. But, he’s not, so his dad is going to keep him home, send him to Montrose, supposedly get him tutors [and] send him to summer school.
“It would be accurate to say he wasn’t doing well academically at Oak Hill.”
Durrant was ready to commit to North Carolina and his mother went so far as to call Tar Heels’ coach Roy Williams, who was reluctant to take a commitment at that point from a franchise player who was so iffy academically. A Durrant commitment might have scared off some of the other frontcourt players on Carolina’s list at a time when there was no assurance Durrant would get the grades.
“Everybody thinks Texas outrecruited North Carolina and UConn,” Smith said. “It really wasn’t that way”
The need for Durrant to improve his academics was underscored Tuesday, when the NBA announced that it had reached a new collective-bargaining agreement with its players’ association that calls for an age limit of 19.
In most cases, that will keep the top high-school players from going to the NBA until they have been out of school for one year, but Durrant will not turn 17 until later this summer. The 2007 draft will take place before Durrant turns 19, which means he won’t be eligible until he has been out of high school for two years.
(That’s my interpretation, not the NBA’s.).
Durrant has multiple skills and he’s 6-10, but his youth is reflected in his play. He is not physical, he hasn’t displayed great intensity at the defensive end and he wasn’t a take-charge player offensively.
“Ty Lawson got the MVP at our banquet,” Smith said, “and he was the MVP. If I gave it to someone else, it would have been [Mississippi State-bound] Jamont Gordon. People think, ‘You’re crazy. Kevin Durrant’s, like, No. 2 in the country.’ He’s a really nice kid, but he’s too nice.”
Smith agrees that the age limit will help prep schools, but he doesn’t think it will help him. To him, Fork Union and Hargrave Military Academy are prep schools. In Smith’s eyes, Oak Hill is not – not since the Warriors stopped taking fifth-year players prior to his elevation to head coach in the 1980s.
“I want all of our guys to qualify,” Smith said. “I don’t want to be labeled a basketball ‘factory.’ You’re going to be labeled that anyway. I definitely I am more selective with kids now than I was 10, 12 years ago. The last [five-year player] we had come through here was in 1985. I just made the decision, ‘Why take ‘em? We get enough good high-school players.
“Eight out of 10 calls I get are from fifth-year players. The first thing I ask them is, ‘Are you a fifth-year player?’ And, they’ll all go, ‘No.’ I’ll say, ‘Have you repeated a grade?’ And, they’ll say, ‘Yes.” That’s the end of the conversation. They just think, because we’re a boarding school, that that’s what we do. I still have trouble with Division I coaches. They don’t know.”
One theory behind the age limit is that the top players now will spend at least one year in college, but that dismisses one very important consideration – grades.
“Of all the guys who have come out, excluding Kobe [Bryant], DeSagana [Diop], because I had him here and I know he had grades, and Josh Smith and maybe one other guy … all the rest of those kids didn’t qualify,” Smith said.
“Tracy McGrady was a non-qualifier. Kevin Garnett was a non-qualifier, so they just put their names in the draft. What are your options? Go to the league or go JUCO. They aren’t going to do that.”
I suspect there have been other NBA draftees, such as 2003 Duke and North Carolina signees Shaun Livingston and J.R. Smith, respectively, but Smith’s point is well-taken.
DESPITE THE LOSS of leading scorer Durrant, who averaged 19.6 points per game, nobody needs to feel sorry for Oak Hill, ranked No. 1 in the USA Today final rankings after finishing 34-2.
“I’ve got a bunch of kids who are interested,” said Smith of the reaction to Durrant’s departure. “I’m waiting, though. I don’t want to grab somebody too quickly. We’ve got a lot of players coming.”
In addition to Lawson and 6-6, 235-pound Anthony Wright, Oak Hill will be welcoming 6-10 Albert Jackson, a center from Madisonville, Ky., and Hopkins County Central High School who already has committed to Georgia.
Those three will be joined by three of the nation’s top 25 sophomores, as rated by Prep Stars. They include 16th-rated Michael Beasley, a 6-7 power forward, and No. 21 Nolan Smith, a 6-2 combination guard, who are teammates at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md., and 20th-rated Nate Miles, a 6-4 shooting guard from Liberty High School in Toledo, Ohio.
MARK HERZLICH, the Wayne, Pa., linebacker who made a football commitment to Virginia earlier this week, provided a tidbit of which I was unaware.
Herzlich said he played sandlot football with Pat Devlin, a quarterback from Downingtown, Pa., who has been the object of considerable recruiting attention from the Cavaliers.
“Pat Devlin is actually a very good friend of mine,” Herzlich said. “I’ve been talking to him throughout the recruiting process. I would like to think that my decision would have a positive effect on him, but I really don’t know that.”
PHOEBUS HIGH SCHOOL football coach Bill Dee said he hoped to know by last Friday (June 17) if Virginia Tech signee Steven Friday had met NCAA eligibility guidelines, but Dee said earlier this week that he would need to consult Tech recruiting coordinator Jim Cavanaugh before he knew for sure.
It remains likely that Friday and Landstown linebacker Deveon Simmons will spend at least one semester in prep school, but a set of as-yet-unrevealed SAT scores could effect their position on a “sliding scale” that includes core curriculum GPA.