The first stop was Indianapolis for the Nike All-American Camp. Perhaps the best part about that trip was getting to see Ndudi Ebi and realizing what a freak of nature that kid is. He's 6-10 and he's half shooting guard, half dominant power forward. What a prospect. If he weighed 220 pounds instead of 190, he might be the "Lebron James" of the 2003 class.
In Las Vegas the best part is trying to see if you can make it to a game on time at a gym 30 minutes across town…alive! Luckily, I mostly split times at two high schools, Durango and Green Valley. You should see the school there. They make the ones in Tucson look like small-town rec centers. Each high school has not one but two gyms, a main one and an auxiliary. What, just in case it SNOWS in Vegas and the main gym springs a leak? Your casino losings are at work for you in Las Vegas apparently. Load up on things you don't need.
The final stop on our tour was the Best of Summer tournament at Loyola Marymount University in LA. This was not fun. The only thing that made the trip worthwhile was meeting Everyothercatstaken and WildcatMatt of message board fame. I made the mistake of asking a group of six-year-olds on a field trip of some sort at LMU if they could tell me where the nearest ATM was only to have one of them respond, "What's an ATM?" Guess I should have known.
II. Because all we have to mill over right now are preseason picks from East Coast yahoos Dan Wetzel and "ESPN", here's another more-Western-friendly preseason Top 25 for the upcoming college basketball season.
6. Michigan State
15. Mississippi State
17. Western Kentucky
25. Iowa State
Notre Dame, Indiana, Cal and USC all lost too much to be in the initial rankings but all four will still play a role come Tournament time in March.
III. It's a three-man race as far as which player is the nation's premier sophomore center: Arizona's Channing Frye, Connecticut's Emeka Okafor or Colorado's David Harrison. I saw all three at this summer's Nike camp and I must say that Harrison and Okafor could enter bodybuilding competitions and win some money.
Frye is the best offensively of the three, Okafor is the shot blocker and Harrison the rebounder. However, the most complete player with the biggest upside might be Frye. He can shoot from out to 18-feet, utilize his baby-hooks with either hand, get you eight to ten rebounds per game and block a few shots at the same time. With his added muscle and terrific offseason progression in Australia and Turkey/Italy, Frye could very well find himself on an All-American team or two come season's end. Okafor is in the same boat, too.
IV. The opinion here is that the only way to start off the college football season right is to pop in a copy of the movie "Rudy". I do this every year to get out of the baseball mindset and into a college football mood. There's something about Notre Dame that exemplifies what college football is all about. The fight song is the best I've ever heard and the tradition rivals UCLA in basketball and the Yankees in baseball for the most storied team in all of sports.
How Notre Dame ever came to be a mediocre football program will always baffle me. The 85-scholarship limit seems to be working fine for Nebraska, Florida State, Miami and Michigan, why can't it do the same in South Bend? Sadly, the best thing about Irish football at this point in time is "Samwise Gamgee" portraying Rudy Ruettiger in the movie. Tyrone Willingham has his hands full.
V. I'd like to take this time to say a sincere "thank you" to my "Network" friends on Cattracks. LuteLoyalist, RubenD, Azgirl, WildcatMatt and Crackem, you guys are the best. Keep doing what you're doing and sooner or later we'll have it all covered. Lateralus anytime.
VI. The Arizona coaching staff will conduct its in-home visit schedule beginning September 9th in Houston with Ndudi Ebi. Josh Pastner and Lute Olson will be at the Ebi home that night and then fly to Appleton, Wisconsin for a stop at Brian Butch's house the following night on the 10th. On September 11th, Olson and Rodney Tention will be in Philadelphia visiting Mustafa Shakur before making the cross country flight out to Reno to visit David Padgett (might be a moot point by then if his Kansas visit this weekend goes as expected). After a two-day break, Olson and Tention will again hit the road, this time to Oakland to visit Ayinde Ubaka and his family on the 15th before wrapping up the in-home visits with Ekene Ibekwe on the 16th.
The feeling here is that the Cats are in great shape with Shakur and Butch. Ubaka seems destined to join his buddies at Cal, Ibekwe has been getting a lot of attention from Maryland lately, Padgett (and his good friend Omar Wilkes) is likely going to be wearing a Kansas uniform in college and Ebi changes his mind every day. Kirk Walters, a 6-10 PF from Michigan might still play a role in this recruiting season yet.
VII. Arizona signee Chris Rodgers has taken a learning disability test in hopes of being cleared completely by the NCAA this upcoming season for his freshman year. The results should be known by Sunday at the latest but then begins the appeal to the NCAA for full eligibility since he did not achieve a qualifying SAT score in the first place.
The NCAA is anything but quick in making decisions in eligibility cases so don't expect Rodgers to know what his status is before classes start on the 26th. Word is that Chris wants no part of a redshirt year and is thinking about going the prep school route so that he can play games. In doing so, however, Rodgers misses out on a full year of conditioning and great backcourt competition at Arizona. As one person close to the situation put it, "he's missing the forest for the trees."
VIII. Finally, after an immense amount of time and money spent trying to improve his golf game, my dad, "Ol' Greggy", finally shot his age the other day when he recorded consecutive 78's at Raven and Dell Urich. His only goal in life up to this point had been to break 80, and now that he's done that, he's thinking about quitting the Star and trying out for the Yankees at centerfield.
Ben Hansen can be reached via e-mail at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com