Could a former Mr. Basketball in Canada land in Fayetteville after a detour in Florida?
Marvell Waithe, a 6-9, 215-pound versatile combo forward from Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College who was Canada's best back in 2006, will take an official visit to the University of Arkansas on Oct. 9-11.
It comes after a sterling high school career where he averaged 35 points per game, two years of playing at prep schools while working to get clearance from the NCAA Clearing House and eventually just taking the junior college route.
"Man, it was very frustrating, the most frustrating thing I have ever been a part of," Waithe said. "But they say everything happens for a reason and good things come to those who wait and that is how I have approached this situation. I am just looking ahead and not behind."
Waithe, who has drawn comparisons to NBA players Tayshaun Prince and Corey Brewer, will visit Arkansas Oct. 9-11, has a visit scheduled to Rutgers for the following week and could possibly also visit Alabama.
"Those are really the only schools that I am going to look at and I am definitely going to sign early," Waithe said. "I think those are some great choices."
Waithe, who averaged 18.9 points and 8.6 rebounds for TCC last season as a freshman, has developed a nice bond with Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and assistant Tom Ostrom.
"The thing about Arkansas is it would give me a chance to play in the SEC, which is a great conference and Coach Pelphrey and Coach Ostrom have really impressed on me how I could be an impact player for them right away," Waithe said. "It is a very diverse school and program and I am really, really interested in getting up there and checking it out."
Tallahassee CC head coach Eddie Barnes is impressed with how his player has handle recruiting and how the Arkansas staff has pursued him.
"I think they are doing a great job recruiting Marvell and that is evident by how he is taking a visit there first and how he has got it down to just the three schools – Arkansas, Rutgers and Alabama – even though he has a lot of schools wanting him," Barnes said. "I have known Tom and John for a long time and they are both great guys, going to recruit him hard and be upfront and honest with him."
Barnes believes Waithe, who shot 39 percent (45 of 115) from 3-point range, 53.4 percent overall from the field and 76.3 percent from the line while getting there 139 times, has the ability to be one of the best.
"I had somebody ask me the other day if I thought he was a pro and I told them that he certainly has the skill set for it," Barnes said. "He has the length, can really shoot the ball and does a great job at taking advantage of mismatches. He is not a back-to-the-basket guy, although he can score. He is a gifted forward that can put it on the floor, can shoot it really well from 3-point range and just will keep getting better."
That was not the case when Waithe first arrived in Tallahassee after spending a pair of years at Toronto Prep Academy – after he graduated from Laurier Collegiate Institute.
"In all honesty, when he first got here, Marvell had never met a shot he didn't like," Barnes said. "He thought his time to shoot was as soon as he turned. But that is what they needed and wanted him to do. Since he has gotten here, we have worked with really hard on his basketball IQ and he has really come around.
"He now know how to come out screens, he knows what is a good shot and what is now, he knows how to move without the ball to get himself open," Barnes added. "He's also really learned the value of being good on both ends of the floor and really improved his defense. It really has been an amazing transformation for the young man."
The fact that he came in and averaged nearly 19 points a game as a freshman was impressive to Barnes.
"I think that fighting the NCAA was certainly a setback for him and probably not the greatest idea," Barnes said. "He came in and definitely had to shake off the rust. To his credit, that is what he did and he put up great numbers in a league that is extremely tough and filled with a lot of Division I players."
Waithe, who signed with Loyola-Chicago out of high school over Rutgers, Cincinnati and Duquesne, thought it was the best route.
"I could have played at any university in Canada, but I wanted to come to the United States and play the best basketball players around," Waithe said. "So I decided to just try to wait around and work with them to get cleared. It just never did work out. It was just a matter of the courses not being accepted."
He would sign a national letter-of-intent with Rutgers after his first prep season, but still the NCAA was unable to clear him.
At that point, Waithe decided to just got the juco route and landed in Tallahassee, Fla.
It was quite the change from Canada.
"People were laughing at me as first because I got off the plane with a coat on and all that," Waithe said. "It's certainly a lot different weather. But I have been here over a year now and I am getting real used to it."
He's also getting real used to being in a structured system.
"Marvell's basketball IQ has just improved so much and so has his work ethic," Barnes said. "He has really put the effort into becoming a much more complete player. He wasn't too excited about the defensive end of the floor when he first got here, but he really does see how important a part of the game it is."
Tallahassee CC went 15-13 overall last season, but just 4-8 overall with a team that only had one sophomore.
It should come as no surprise that Waithe believes his team's experience and talent gives them a shot to get to the national junior college tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
"I really believe we have the team to make it Hutch this year," Waithe said. "We have a lot of Division I prospects, our center's already committed to Florida State, our guards are signing Division I scholarships. We have a lot of experience from last season, playing together and playing against some great talent in our conference. But we believe we can be as good as anybody in our league and when you are, you have a chance to win it all."
Waithe thinks the team has really come together.
"Last year I might go out and score 40 points one game or need to grab 20 rebounds to help my team win," Waithe said. "But we really know our roles better this year and I think are really coming together as a team. I think we just have some many good players that are ready to play as a team and do whatever it takes to win."
Barnes, who indeed does have a 6-10 center in A.J. Matthews and several Division prospects, thinks there is a lot of potential.
"These kids learned a lot of about themselves and a lot about how tough this league was last season," Barnes said. "You have to come out every night and play a great game or you will get beat.
"We had so many freshmen last season – we only had two sophomores on the team – but you know as a junior college coach when that happens, that you have a chance to be very good the next season if the kids learn how to win.
"I think we have a chance to do very well this year," Barnes continued. "With the way the rules have changed, these kids have been going at it hard since Aug. 29 and I am very impressed with what I am seeing."
Tallahassee CC will host the Southeastern Jamboree this upcoming weekend.
"There will be 16 teams that will be playing all day and it will be great to get some games in," Barnes said. "These guys are ready to play somebody else instead of themselves. It's really a great opportunity for these guys because there will be some 100 coaches from four-year schools that will have a chance to look them over."
The actual season doesn't get going until Nov. 5 with the Wing Zone Tip-Off Classic in Tallahassee at the Eagledome.
The Eagles will face Middle Georgia College and College of Coastal Georgia on back-to-back nights.
"I can't wait to get the season going," Waithe said. "I certainly should know where I am going by then and then can just concentrate on having a great season."
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