Recruiting: Shannon Brown, Ndudi Ebi and more

Arizona continues its search for some of the nation's top talent from the junior class of 2003. In that class, the Wildcats will need to find replacements for at least three starters: forwards Luke Walton and Rick Anderson and guard Jason Gardner, all of whom will have used up their eligibility after the 2003 season ends.

The good news is that Arizona has made some major in-roads with several very highly regarded prospects from the loaded junior class. Other than some of the past-profiled juniors like David Padgett (6-10 C, Reno, NV), Kris Humphries (6-8 CF, Minnetonka, MN), Justin Hawkins (6-6 WF, Anaheim, CA) and Devon Evertsen (6-6 WF, Phoenix), Arizona has others who have the Wildcats high on their lists.

First off, there is the electric Shannon Brown of Maywood, Illinois. The Proviso East star, who is listed as the nation's eighth overall best prosect, describes himself as a shorter Vince Carter and has a reputation for taking the ball strongly to the hole and finishing. Penetration into the lane is not a problem for the 6-3 shooting guard.

"I can get to the basket really well," says Brown, who is averaging 23 points, five assists and five dunks per game on the year. "I like to get it and go, that's my style, but if my man lays off me, I'll nail the jump shot too."

Brown has taken unofficial visits to Michigan State, Illinois and Marquette but says he will definitely visit Arizona on one of his five official stops. "I can't afford to drive to Arizona," he said.

Shannon is very familiar with both coach Lute Olson and Arizona's style of play, and says that he likes what he has seen in the Wildcats.

"Of course I like Arizona," said Brown, who dunked over a seven-footer at last summer's Nike Jamboree tournament. "Coach Olson is a great coach, he knows the game of basketball. They have three great guards in Jason Gardner, Will (Bynum, whom he knows well) and (Salim) Stoudamire. Plus they have some good big men."

Brown says that when he makes his decision of where to attend college, it will come down to two important factors.

"There has to be a great coach and the players have to carry themselves well," he said. "And it has to be a place where they just get it and go."

Soon after talking with Brown, Cat Tracks had a chance to speak to Houston-area super prospect Ndudi Ebi.

Ndudi (pronounced, "Indy") is ranked as the nation's fifth best prospect overall and as the premier wing forward in the country (note: top overall prospect Lebron James is a wing guard). He's a bit on the slight side right now at 190-pounds, but at 6-10, he makes one heck of a match-up problem on the wing with his size.

Ebi also lists Arizona very highly along with Duke and Missouri.

"Exposure-wise, I may as well go to the best schools," said Ebi, who averages 24 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game. "I know that whichever school I choose I want the coaches to be honest with me and not have anything given to me. I'm going to earn it. God has blessed me with the way I work and for the most part I can fit into any system."

Ebi's versatility is what sets him apart from most of his high school peers. He says that he plays mostly the two or three positions ("sometimes the four," he said) and that he can guard one through five on defense. With his all-around skills, Ebi says that it might take more than one time watching him play to get a real feel for his game.

"One time you might watch me and think I'm a high flyer," he said. "Another time you come back and leave thinking I'm a three-point shooter. Or after that, you watch me again and see me as a passer.

"What I need to do now is work on getting stronger. I need to work on my left hand for dribbling and I need to be able to finish equally fine with both hands."

Ebi said that his interest in Arizona rose a notch just this past week when coach Olson suddenly appeared in his high school gym for one of his games. Although rules prohibit any real, quality contact between the two, Ebi said the impression was made.

"It really made a big difference with him being there," he said.

Ebi also said that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski spoke with him on a conference call last week as well. Both the Blue Devils and Arizona suit Ebi well because he wants to play somewhere that has "an up and down" style in college.

Notes:

Fresno (CA.) Washington Union High School shooting guard Keenan Gooch has had his progress stunted by two serious ankle injuries so far this year.

The 6-6 junior Gooch, suffered a high-ankle sprain right before the start of the season and then sprained the other ankle after attempting a comeback a few weeks later. His head coach at Washington Union, Vonn Webb, said that a lot of circumstances have made it hard on Gooch so far.

"He just has no confidence in himself right now because he isn't sure if he's got his legs under him," Webb said. "Keenan is a great shooter. A great shooter. But he's just not very quick and a lot of that has to do with the injuries. He's coming back and playing better lately but I've talked to him recently and told him that the time is now for him."

Gooch, who is being looked at by Arizona, is only averaging seven points per game this year, but a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Washington Union is loaded at his position.

"We have three guards that are averaging around 18 points per game each," Webb said. "But we need Keenan to come around as we get down to the end of the season and the state playoffs. Next year, Keenan will be a major player. I know Arizona likes him. (Arizona assistant coach) Rodney (Tention) has been out to see Keenan."


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