Hoops Recruiting Takes Center Stage

Recruiting editor Dudley E. Dawson hit the road to cover the Nike Camp in Indianpolis this week. Look for his reports at HI.com all week. This story, his weekly column for The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, is free. The rest of his reports are for HI.com's paid subscribers.

INDIANAPOLIS -- If you want to win in March, you had better get it done in July.

That may sound a bit strange, but when it comes to college basketball it's simply the truth, according to University of Arkansas head coach Stan Heath.

"It's our most important month in terms of recruiting," Heath said. "We have to be visible, see the guys we are involved with now and evaluate underclassman. You have got to do a good job at looking at all the different factors on how a guy could fit into your program. You have to absolutely invest your time wisely in July or you will pay for it later on."

Heath and his assistant coaches, Orande Taliaferro, Rob Flaska and Ronny Thompson, will be on the road as much as possible to see a variety of events involving thousands of different players.

There are two different evaluation periods this month, July 8-17 and July 22-31, with a July 18-21 dead period.

Players arrived Tuesday in Indianapolis for the Nike All America Camp and will meet the press today. Players will show up today for the Reebok ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J. and the Adidas Superstars Camp in Atlanta.

All three camps will have games on Thursday, the first day coaches can take a look.

These first three events of the month draw coaches from every school as well as NBA scouts as top prospects go head-to-head in a series of contests.

"It really helps us," Heath said. "We are involved with some guys that we are really high on, feel good about and feel like we are in good shape on. Now we get to see them all go head-to-head and kind of see if the cream can rise to the top."

"We are going to get to all the locations and try to do a really good job evaluating," Heath said, "and make sure all those guys see that we are recruiting them, we are on them, we really want them and we have a good situation for them."

Numerically, Arkansas will go into the 2005 recruiting class with three scholarships to offer since a couple of players are no longer with the program and since 2004 signee Al Jefferson declared for the NBA draft and was selected with the 15th pick in the first round by the Boston Celtics.

After two strong recruiting classes, Heath thinks he and his staff are in position to put a stamp on the program with this upcoming class.

"Every year is different, but we feel like we are going into the July period in a position of power," Heath said. "We have all of our players returning (for 2005-2006) but one senior and that gives us the luxury of really trying to pinpoint the guys that would be the best fit for us."

"We are going to try and be as smart as we can, but we also don't want to sit down and rest," Heath said. "We have got to be aggressive."

Arkansas' coaches will also be at the Nike Peach Jam July 14-17 in North Augusta, S.C., the adidas Showtime National Championship in Atlanta, a trio of Las Vegas events going on at the same time and in Orlando for both the Nike Super Showcase and AAU 17-and-under national tournament.

While there were some who questioned the recruiting ability of Heath's assistants when they were first hired, they have proven themselves over the course of the last two years.

"I looked at my staff and tried to target certain areas in recruiting, including ones that I thought would do well in our own state," Heath said. "I think we did a good job getting that together and they have done a great job in each of the last two seasons getting the top players out of state and some great ones from outside of Arkansas."

Recruiting is not an exact science, Heath said.

"Recruiting is a tough job, one of the hardest parts of the job," Heath said. "You get your good news, you get your bad news, but it is the lifeblood of your program so you never get to high or too low, you just keep working hard and never rest."

Headed To Prep School?

McGehee forward Michael Washington (6-9, 210) said Saturday he is considering spending next season at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C.

Mount Zion is the prestigious prep school that has established itself as a top-notch basketball program and has sent several players into college basketball and also has new Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady as an alum.

Not only would that be a big locale change for him, but it appears that Washington will also be reclassified from a senior to a junior and thus would be a 2006 prospect instead of a 2005 one.

"They just called the house out of the blue," Washington said. "I was very surprised."

"I am going to go down there to North Carolina and visit and see what it's like," Washington said. "It's something that I am definitely considering. I know it could make me a better player going against all that great competition that they play and I would get that extra year."

He averaged 21.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals and had 68 dunks for a team that finished 15-15 during the regular season.

Washington shot 47 percent from the field overall and also connected on 76.4 percent of his free throw attempts.

He's continued that impressive play this spring and summer with the Arkansas Wings and that's drawn the interest of schools such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Florida and Miami to name a few.

Recruiting tidbits:

•As first reported on the Hawgs Illustrated Web site last week, Abdul Herrera, the 6-11, 247-pound center from South Miami (Fla.) High and a cousin of former Razorback Dionisio Gomez, is now involved with the Razorbacks.

Herrera, who averaged 19.1 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks per game last season, is scheduled to be at the adidas event this week.

•Miami prep guard Denis Clemente (6-1, 170) is slated to be at Nike while Tennessee's Delk twins -- Richard (6-5, 180) and Reginald (6-4, 180) -- are headed to Reebok.

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