Looks like the elite programs in college basketball are finding that the weather isn’t the only thing that’s hot in Arizona. There’s also a hotbed of hoops talent building in the high schools.
While Division I colleges find their share of recruits out here in the desert each year, it’s encouraging now to see the Big Boys of the game paying particular attention to what we have to offer. This year, that can be seen in the interest being shown by some of the country’s top programs for a couple of players who still have some high-school ball left to play, but have already proven their worth at the next level.
The state’s top recruit in the Class of 2015, Dane Kuiper, accepted his scholarship offer from New Mexico, which finished 27-7 last season and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The combo shooting guard and small forward from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe is expected to play an impact role as soon as the season begins.
But let’s face it, the Lobos aren’t likely to be confused with a national title contender anytime soon.
However, eight-time NCAA Champion Kentucky has begun courting Marvin Bagley III, the 6’11” sophomore at Corona del Sol, and Mike Bibby, a senior point guard who runs the offense at Shadow Mountain High School on the far north end of Phoenix.
And now the Duke Blue Devils, the reigning national champion, that are putting the full-court press on Bagley, who is considered the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018.
The Duke coaching staff, including head coach Mike Krzyzewski and a couple assistants, reportedly made the trip to North Augusta, SC, to watch Bagley play in the recent Nike Peach Jam tournament. Coach K has already made a scholarship offer to the youngster, which says something because making early offers is a rare move for one of the biggest names in college hoops.
Besides having one of the most tradition-rich names in the game, Duke may also have something of a ‘homer’ advantage since Bagley’s father grew up in Durham where Duke is located, and Marvin III often spends summers with relatives in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, over in Michigan the Wolverines have Bibby in their cross hairs. The website MLIVE reports that Michigan head coach John Beilein is in Las Vegas this weekend to watch Bibby play in the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic and extol the virtues of joining a program that knows how to effectively use sons of former NBA players – and give them a path to the pro level.
Wolverine teams in the last few years have showcased the talents of the sons of former high-profile NBA players like Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson, and Johnny Dawkins.
And Bibby’s NBA pedigree runs deep. His father Mike, who is now his coach at Shadow Mountain, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 draft after leading University of Arizona to a national championship and played 14 seasons in the NBA. His grandfather, Henry, was coached by the legendary John Wooden at UCLA and won three national titles there as a player before moving on to a distinguished NBA career that spanned nine seasons.
Bibby the Younger didn’t hit the radar of most colleges until summer ball began since he sat out his junior season at Shadow Mountain after a knee injury. He averaged nearly 20 points and eight assists a game as a sophomore, so he was getting some attention back then, and even a few scholarship offers.
And he may not need to wait until his senior season starts before a top program like Michigan locks him up. He’s currently ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the state for 2016 – before he plays his first game as a senior.
Duke. Kentucky. Michigan. Looks like Arizona has arrived.