Utica Big Man a Prime CMU Target

Last week Central Michigan University received a verbal commitment from Olivet, Mich., shooting guard Zane Gay. Now, the Chippewas can focus attention on the post. One of the best centers in Michigan's 2005 class is also focusing on CMU.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about 6-foot-11 center Phil DeVries of Utica (Mich.) Eisenhower High School is that he did not start one game last season.

In fact, he only averaged 1.5 points per game for the 21-4 Eagles, champions of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and winners of the school's first regional title since 1980. That year, the Eagles lost in the state semifinals to Lansing Eastern.

Eisenhower head coach Brandon Lemley said it was in the state tournament when DeVries really began to take over, averaging five blocks per game against teams like Grosse Pointe North and Southfield-Lathrup.

"He created so much havoc in the paint, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds," Lemley said. "The most appealing thing for college coaches is Phil's athleticism and leaping ability.

"This summer, his biggest thing has been to gain weight and work on his offensive skills," Lemley added. "Phil's become a vocal leader and was recently voted captain for next season."

DeVries spent a week last month attending Central Michigan head coach Jay Smith's big man camp. DeVries said it was a great experience.

"I like Coach Smith a lot," DeVries said. "There aren't too many Division I schools that have a head coach who provides the hands-on coaching for the big men like he does."

One day at camp, DeVries got to meet former CMU center Chris Kaman, now playing for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. DeVries said Kaman told him that CMU is a great place to play if you're a big man.

Could DeVries develop into the next Kaman though?

"A lot of people are beginning to draw that comparison because of my athleticism," DeVries said.

He added that CMU was the first school to offer him a scholarship and has been recruiting him hard ever since.

"Jay came down to the school in April and offered him a scholarship," Lemley said. "He (Smith) thinks Phil has the same potential as Kaman at the same period."

"I've been up to CMU three or four times already," DeVries said. "I like the atmosphere and the environment. It's the perfect place to go if you're a big guy."

DeVries said he'd like to make a verbal commitment by the end of the summer, but that his family would like him to wait and think about it.

DeVries said he has high interest in CMU and noted it's the school to beat. He said he also has interest in Dayton and Bowling Green and was expecting an offer from the Falcons very soon.

This summer, DeVries is playing AAU ball for the Michigan Hurricanes. Later this month (July 22-26) he said he plans to play with the Hurricanes at the Reebok Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

Perhaps by the end of the summer, DeVries will indeed make his college choice and then focus on his senior year at Eisenhower.

"I think Phil would be a great fit for CMU, knowing how well Jay Smith develops the big guys like Chris Kaman," Lemley said.

Only time will tell.

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