Sophomore Spotlight: DeMarcus Nelson

DeMarcus Nelson sat in the stands with his father Ron in between games at a summer AAU camp two years ago when Arizona head coach Lute Olson walked by. Though he was only an eighth grader at the time, soft-spoken DeMarcus leaned over to his father and said, "Dad, there goes my coach".

Now as a 6-3, 190-pound sophomore, Nelson has attracted the attention of nearly every major college coach in America with his all-around skills. He has the size, the athleticism and the ability to play both the shooting guard and point guard positions. Don't let the fact that he averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds per game last year lead you to believe that Nelson is destined for the two spot or the wing. He has no doubt that he is every bit a point guard but he was forced to score more on his Vallejo (Calif.) High School team.

Schools like North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, UCLA and Cal also believe that he can play either guard position. In fact, he is such a huge prospect that those schools would pretty much let him play center if he agreed to sign a letter-of-intent to play for them.

However, it is Arizona that stands clear from the pack when it comes to where Marky (as his father calls him) wants to play college basketball.

"I've just always wanted to go to Arizona," DeMarcus said Saturday at the Nike football camp at Stanford. "Ever since seventh grade I've liked them. They play my style and all of those guards have been great. As a guard, I think you'd be crazy not to like Arizona.

"(Arizona) is definitely the leader."

Nelson's father, Ron, said that there are still several schools in the mix for his son but backed up Marky's statement about Arizona always being where he wanted to go.

"You have to understand Marky," Ron said. "He never, ever watches sports on television and he really doesn't follow sports that much at all. Then one day he starts talking about how he wants to play for Arizona. This is back in seventh grade! He has never changed his mind."

Nearby Cal is "recruiting me the hardest", Nelson said, and the Bears are using the "Bay Area Pipeline" argument to try to persuade all the top Northern California prospects to play in Berkeley. Marky knows the strategy that Cal coach Ben Braun is using and said he knows most of the other kids Cal is recruiting from playing together growing up in the same general area. One of the biggest issues might wind up being whether or not certain schools would be willing to let him play both basketball and football in college.

Nelson has a John Elway right arm and good touch to match his velocity. At that size, with that kind of athletic ability and with that arm, there is little doubt that America's best football coaches will be knocking on his door along with the Olsons, Krzyzewksis and Roy Williamses of the college basketball world. As a sophomore, Nelson threw over 30 touchdown passes for Vallejo High team.

"He's a better quarterback than he is a basketball player," his father says during the passing drills at Stanford. "But I think he likes basketball more."

That could be great news for Arizona if the coaching staff starts showing more interest in DeMarcus.

"I've called the coaches and told them everything I'm telling you," Ron said. "I've talked to Lute and Rodney Tention. Now it's about them showing him some more love. They aren't always allowed to call him or talk to him so that's why I have to call them."

Nelson is probably Arizona's No. 1 priority in the class of 2004 when it comes to point guards. Even though the Cats are actively recruiting point guards Ayinde Ubaka and Mustafa Shakur from the class of 2003, missing out on either or both of those juniors might not be as bad as previously thought thanks to Nelson's presence in the sophomore class.

{TheThrill22 can be reached via e-mail at Bh6677@aol.com}

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