In a few months once the spring AAU season hits full swing players will begin to put separation between them. Just who decides to crank their games up a level is to be determined. Allow us to introduce a player with the potential to make his move: Kenny Kadji.
The 6-foot-10+ center out of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy by way of Cameroon has all the potential to ascend into the next tier of prospects.
When Kadji came to the country last season his primary task was familiarizing himself with the English language, which by the way is no small task.
Last summer at the adidas Superstar Camp, Kadji was good. Above all else he was big and that was his calling card. By the time we saw him again in September at the Florida Fall Workout, his was big and on his way to being good.
At the event, Kadji was pitted against highly-regarded big man Eloy Vargas, a prospect in his own right. For Kadji, playing well against Vargas was a stepping stone. From the perspective of an evaluator, one could sense the confidence building in the big fella with every possession. For Kadji, confidence has been a big reason for his development.
"My coaches made me feel comfortable," Kadji said of IMG and his Florida Rams AAU coaches. "When I came here last year I had no confidence. This year I'm much more confident.
"Even in school in the classroom I feel like I can do a lot of things. I can go to the next level."
According to Matt Ramker, the director of the Rams, Kadji is learning the nuances of the game in the United States and the attitude needed to succeed.
"The biggest single difference is the understanding of how hard he needs to play every possession to be a factor at the next level," Ramker said. "Coming from overseas he had a little passive nature about him. Now, after working at IMG and over the summer he started realizing the level he has to play at night in and night out."
Playing hard is an area Kadji is self-aware in. "This year I'm more prepared for the games. I learned to work hard and run the floor and get easy baskets. I learned how to play with my teammates. They trust me more because they know I can score now."
Kadji, who oozes potential and has a thirst to learn and improve, pulls no punches when he speaks of his weakness. "I wouldn't (be tough) in Europe it's not the same thing. We didn't train to be tough. We don't know that over there. Now I see people play and see the college games and been to practice and I've seen it. I know what you have to do to go far."
Provided Kadji keeps improving on the court and in the classroom, he may ascend to the level of a spring priority recruit for high-profile programs. He's already commanding attention from the hot names in the game.
"Kansas State, Bob Huggins has said that he'll take him right now and he can use him right now," Ramker said. "They've been there from Day One. They started recruiting Kenny immediately when they got the job."
Then there's the matter of the defending national champions being 170 miles from his doorstep. Last Friday night, Billy Donovan stopped in to watch Kadji. The Gators are the only campus he's visited unofficially. Florida State, Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Memphis get heavy mention and play when it comes to schools on his list.
Kadji's out there watching and evaluating his options. "I watch a lot of games especially the team who are recruiting me. I'm watching them to see what I have to when I'll be in college. I'm watching the plays to see where I can fit in with the team."
In short, the big fella is falling in love with the game and that's a terrific sign. He's saying and thinking the right things about his long term abilities. If he had a month to work on a certain skill, Kadji knows exactly what part he'd focus on.
"I'd improve my post game," Kadji said. "I don't really have the post game right now. I'm not tough enough. I can get way more rebounds than I'm doing right now. I can get more around the basket."
So far, so good at IMG. "The special thing about IMG is not only do they play games and have traditional team practice, but they have skill work every single day," Ramker said. "He's learning the little things like sealing, ducking and establishing post position."
Soon enough he's going to want to seal it with one program and duck some others while establishing his position among the best centers in 2008.
With Kadji it really is one step at a time.