Road Report: Guede Seizes Opportunity

SANFORD, N.C. – Joe White had a vision for his player. Paul Guede was to make it to the United States, find a high school and play college basketball. Entering his senior season at Grace Christian, Guede is on track to make it happen.

In recent years, a number of players have found their way from England to the United States. Everyone knows about Luol Deng and Eric Boateng but Paul Guede's story is equally compelling. He's been in the United States since his sophomore year, courtesy of a dying man's final wish.

Joe White, Guede's coach from London, was dying. He had a dream for his 6-foot-5 star player and needed some assistance to make it happen.

"The last thing my coach said was that Ben should take care of me and find a good school over here for me," Guede said.

Enter Ben Sheffler, an American whose wife was abroad studying at Cambridge. Sheffler began helping out with Guede's team and through him, at the request of White, Guede made his way to Grace Christian in Sanford, N.C., in the fall of 2003.

Guede said Sheffler contacted Central Park Christian in Birmingham, Ala., on his behalf but they didn't have any room. Grace Christian was recommended and Guede's been there ever since.

"They didn't know what they were getting," Guede said. "I was excited."

On Tuesday night, Grace Christian rode its star right past Laurinburg Charter. The hope was the Laurinburg's prep team would be in the house so Guede would face some stiff competition. That didn't happen but the senior delivered the goods anyway before fouling out as his team hung on for the 79-65 victory.

In the contest, Guede scored 33 points (10-for-18 FG, 0-4 3s) and pulled down 8 boards. To watch him with his high school team reveals an athletic, sturdy and determined small forward. Because the caliber of competition he faces and the needs of his team, he gets to do a lot of things on the court.

From handling the basketball, to posting up, Guede is getting a full taste of what it's like to play multiple positions. His comfort zone is at the small forward spot where he can be versatile, defend guys his size and bigger (because of his quick feet courtesy of soccer) and play in attack mode.

Guede says that his strengths are his ability to attack the rim and finish or in Tuesday's case, get fouled. Against Laurinburg, Guede 13 of his 16 free throw attempts. Admittedly, he's got to improve his perimeter shot but that's not to say he isn't efficient and versatile.

As his recruitment reflects, he's a young man who has the ability to participate on two different levels. There is no doubt he could get minutes at a high-major program. Coachable and willing to learn, he'd be a team guy with room to improve.

On the mid-major level, he's capable of stepping in and helping an already strong mid-major squad get even better. He has the ability to be an all-league performer at the mid-major level. Either way, he's going to make a collegiate contribution, you can tell from the way he carries himself. This young man is a player.

Nevada and Milwaukee-Wisconsin, two of America's premier mid-level programs, offered early and hosted him for campus visits which speak to his talent and ability. The signing period came and went; Guede wasn't ready to pen scholarship papers.

"I just didn't feel confident enough at the time," Guede said. "They were great visits. I wanted to see what else opens up and just concentrate on my education."

Enter Wisconsin and Virginia Tech, a pair of teams that have recently scouted him. Wisconsin sent an assistant down to a tournament he participated in over the break in Florida. Taking it a step further, there's a Wisconsin connection in place.

When Guede was looking into coming over to the States, Sheffler sent out some tapes of him. One of them was to the Wisconsin Swing, coached by Bo Ryan's son. Guede would eventually lace them up last summer with the Swing and the connection was forged.

Chattanooga is also involved with Guede and so is UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks sent assistant Byron Jones up to Sanford to scout Guede Tuesday night. What directions his recruitment takes remains to be seen.

Guede's story is nearly complete. Once he signs with a school this spring, the wishes of his former coach in London will be fulfilled and a dream realized. As far as what Guede does in college, well that's just an added bonus for a young man who has clearly made the most of his opportunities in America.

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