Junior Spotlight: Omar Wilkes

Arizona might seem like it doesn't need anymore guards from the class of 2003 because it's already loaded in the backcourt as it is. However, all-around talents like Omar Wilkes don't come along every year. Regardless of the Stoudamire, Bynum, Rodgers and Adams perimeter in 2003, there should be room made for Omar.

Arizona has benefited from UCLA legacies before and might do so again if the Wildcats are successful in the recruitment of Loyola High School junior guard Omar Wilkes.

Wilkes is the son of former Bruin All-American Jamaal Wilkes, who starred at UCLA as a forward in the late 70's. Though the two play different positions, some have already made comparisons between father and son.

"I wouldn't want to make that comparison," Jamaal Wilkes said. "He's a tremendous young talent though, and I say that objectively. He's proven it over and over again with his play."

Omar averaged 22 points per game while playing primarily as a shooting guard. He says he's most comfortable at the two spot because he's played it so much for his high school team, but his dad isn't so sure that he's better off at either guard spot.

"I used to like him at the one (point guard)," the elder Wilkes said. "But now I like him at the one or two equally as much. He can play either very well. A lot is made of his scoring but he passes, he defends and his overall floormanship is really good."

"Floormanship". The term is a dead give away that you're dealing with a former John Wooden disciple. Much like Bill and Luke Walton, the Wilkes both understand the importance of being the best all-around player possible. And because of his versatility, Omar Wilkes has received a whole lot of attention from some major colleges in hopes of landing him on their roster come 2003.

"Right now I like Stanford, Arizona, USC, UCLA, Kansas, Maryland and Cal," says Omar, who is 6-3 and 165-pounds. "I really like teams that push the ball. Arizona and Duke are the two teams I like watching the most because of how they get out and push it."

Jamaal says that he'll let Omar handle the whole recruiting process but won't get involved in the way that a certain Minnesota dad got entangled with his son's recruitment recently.

"Right now I want to let him enjoy the high school experience," Jamaal said. "We'll chit chat back and forth about it but it's really up to him. I'll just say that he is fortunate in his options."

Most believe that Stanford and Arizona lead in Omar's recruitment, but the x-factor has to do more with a friendship more so than it does anything else.

Omar and Reno, Nevada star center David Padgett became very close friends during last summer's all-star camps and have long held that they want to play together in college. Some had downplayed that rumor of late but Omar assured that not only was the rumor true, but that they were both very serious about the possibility of attending the same college.

"I'd definitely love to play with David," Omar said. "When we met we just had this immediate connection and we got along really well. I know that we'll be friends forever whether or not we play in college together."

Of all of both Wilkes' and Padgett's top schools, only three have made it clear that they would be willing to take both as a combo package: Kansas, Stanford and Cal.

"I'll take an official visit to Kansas in April or May with David," Wilkes said. "I just want to stay healthy for now and then make a decision by the beginning of the (next) school year."

Just because the two friends want to play together doesn't necessarily mean that's what is going to happen when it comes down to signing day. Omar says that both he and David will do what's best for himself depending upon the situation and that playing together, while a serious desire, isn't guaranteed.

Wilkes plays on the same summer league all-star team with Padgett and is joined on the Pump ‘n Run "A" team by Devon Evertsen (6-7 SF, Phoenix), Trevor Ariza (6-8 SF, Los Angeles) and sophomore sensation Bryce Taylor, a 6-4 shooting guard from Harvard-Westlake High School in L.A. They will get together for the Easter Tournament in Las Vegas in a week or so and then continue on throughout the summer camp circuit.

Padgett, Wilkes and Evertsen are all on Arizona's radar as far as potential recruits go. Evertsen has let it be known that he's very interested in playing for the Wildcats and most have thought that Padgett would play in Tucson as well. Wilkes is now the wild card.

Does Arizona take Omar in hopes of landing Padgett (much like Kansas did with Michael Lee and Aaron Miles last year), or does it simply pursue Padgett because of an already talented and young backcourt rotation?

It's very hard to see Lute Olson using anyone just to get to another recruit. It's just not his style. Taking Omar Wilkes means that Olson and his staff believe that he is the real deal and will make an impact regardless of what his buddy does.

"I really like Arizona," Wilkes said. "Lute Olson is one of the three best coaches in the NCAA and I love how they run. That's more of my tempo."

Omar describes his game by mentioning three guys who are known for being relatively complete players: Kansas' Kirk Hinrich, Houston Rocket Stevie Francis and Milwaukee Buck Ray Allen, with Allen being the player Wilkes feels most comparable to.

"I can't shoot as well as Ray Allen but that's the way I play," he says. Translation: smooth.

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