2006 Focus: Mike Conley Jr.

It may not be an infatuation, but Mike Conley Jr. isn't shy to admit he's quite fond of one particular college point guard - and that gives one program a clear edge for his services.

Mike Conley Jr. makes no secret of his affinity for Wake Forest or the reason he holds the Demon Deacons in such high esteem these days.

``Chris Paul's my favorite player in all sports right now," Conley said. "I first saw him playing in AAU in Orlando and ever since then, I've watched him as much as I can. It's a sight to see. I want my game to be like his."

Conley has some of the same attributes. He has the poise of a floor leader, makes terrific decisions on the court and displays a team-first attitude that translates into winning.

The problem is that Conley is often overlooked because of the talent that surrounds him – namely 7-footer Greg Oden, who is his year-round teammate at Lawrence North High (Ind.) and also with the Spiece Indy Heat.

``Most people that come in talk about Greg, but I've got the best point guard in the nation," Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer said. "He understands the game more than anybody out there."

``He's got enough toughness, even though he's only 6-1, that you can't outman him with size," added Keefer. "His hands are too quick. We're very good with Greg, but we win games because Mike Conley's at the point. He's special. "

Conley's numbers – 10 points and 4 assists per contest as a sophomore - were as modest as you'd find among the elite players in the Class of 2006, but numbers don't tell the whole story in the case of this junior point guard.

``I think what separates me from some of the other point guards is that I know how to win," Conley said. "I try to make everyone on the court better. I'm not going to put up 20 points every game like a lot of guys, but I try to keep people in the game and have good team chemistry."

``He understands the game so well and that only thing that really matters to him is winning," said Mike Conley Sr., the former track star who coaches his son during the summer with the Spiece Indy Heat. " However, Conley can do his share of scoring – as he displayed during the summer. His toughness can't be questioned, either, as the lefty ended up shooting exclusively with his right hand at the Kingwood Classic after suffering a severely sprained left wrist.

Conley is quick, has terrific ballhandling skills and plays a Paul-esque game in terms of how smooth he operates on the floor. He can knock down the perimeter jumper, but he's trying to improve his mid-range game.

The 3.2 student has been tutored by his father, who has coached his son during the summer since the fourth grade. Conley, a former gold and silver Olympic medalist in the triple jump, is also the Executive Director of the Elite Athlete Division at USA Track & Field.

``My dad is away a lot because of his job, so that's precious time to me that I get to spend the whole summer with him," the younger Conley said. "That's why I love to have him as my coach."

Conley Jr. also dabbles in his father's expertise, track and field. He put up the ninth-best long jump in the state a year ago and also excels at the 100-meter dash. But his future is clearly on the hardwood.

``I do track more for conditioning," Conley said. "I like it, but I don't have that same desire to practice as much as basketball. My dad's been very supportive in whatever I wanted to do and he never told me to do track."

``I think it's better for both of us that basketball is my main sport because instead of always being compared to him, I'll create my own name," he added. "Because it'd be impossible to match what he's done in track."

Conley has already taken unofficial visits to all of the schools he's considering – Wake Forest, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois and Arkansas. However, it's clear that Skip Prosser's program holds the edge.

``I really want to go back to Wake one more time," Conley said. "I had a lot of fun when I was up there the first time, but I'd like to see what it's like during the basketball season. There's really not much left for me to see before I make my decision."

As for whether or not Paul remains on campus beyond this year, Conley has a slightly different view than most coming in searching for playing time.

``I think it would be better for me to play with him (Chris) for a year," Conley said. "There's so much I can learn from either playing behind him or with him. He'd make me a lot better because I've got a lot to learn."


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