Recruiting Heats Up For 'Best Shooter in Michigan'

Before Erik Kangas blew out any candles to celebrate his 17th birthday Saturday, he shot the lights out Friday at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. And when it comes to "shooting the lights out," no player in the state of Michigan's 2005 class has been better than the DeWitt High School shooting guard.

When you ask Michigan Mustangs AAU coach Van Mayfield about 6-foot-4 shooting guard Erik Kangas, he doesn't mince words.

"He's the best shooter in Michigan," Mayfield said. "It's funny when you run screens for a guy from behind the 3-point arc, but he's shooting over 50-percent from out there."

Ah yes, the shot. Kangas said he taught himself how to shoot.

"I spend many hours everyday shooting in the driveway at home," Kangas said.

In a losing effort Friday at the Adidas Three Stripes AAU tournament in South Bend, Ind., Kangas connected on seven 3-pointers in one game for the Mustangs.

This is the first summer Kangas has played AAU ball. It was his play for DeWitt (Mich.) High School in last season's state tournament that put Kangas on the radar of many college basketball programs, including Central Michigan University.

"That whole tournament was just crazy for me," recalled Kangas, who was named to the 2004 Lansing State Journal All-Area Dream Team.

Although DeWitt finished third in the Capital Area Activities Conference Division 3 during the regular season, Kangas led the Panthers (19-8) to within one win of a state championship in the state tournament.

Along the way, he averaged 27 points and set a state record with 17 3-pointers in the final three games. In the Class B Championship game against nationally-ranked Detroit Renaissance at Michigan State's Breslin Center, Kangas connected on 5-of-8 triples in a 61-42 loss.

The college coaches did indeed take notice, including CMU head coach Jay Smith, according to Kangas.

"Coach Smith offered a scholarship," Kangas said. "It would be a great honor to play D-I basketball for CMU."

Kangas said there is a lot to like about the Chippewas. He camped at CMU from June 21-27, attending individual and team camps.

"I like the coaches, campus and style of play at CMU," Kangas said. "They run four out and one in and like to feed the post, which creates a lot of shot opportunities when defenses collapse inside."

Kangas said he is also interested in Oakland University of the Mid-Continent Conference. He added that the Golden Grizzlies offered a scholarship last Tuesday.

"I like the fact that Oakland likes to shoot a lot of threes," Kangas said. "Oakland's in a weaker conference than CMU, but that might mean it's easier for them to make the NCAA Tournament."

Kangas said he's visited Western Michigan and is also hearing from Eastern Michigan, noting a phone call from Eagles head coach Jim Boone last week and another call from assistant Adrian Townsend yesterday.

"I want to make a verbal commitment before my senior season begins," Kangas said. "My plan is to sign in November."

Before he begins to focus on his senior season at DeWitt though, Kangas said he plans to play with the Mustangs in Las Vegas this weekend (July 22-26). Kangas will be joined on that 17-under team by Zane Gay, who verbally committed to CMU last month.

"Zane and I have become good friends and we always compliment each other," Kangas said. "I wouldn't have any trouble playing with him at CMU. Coach Smith said he would like to play Zane at the three and me at the two."

Perhaps in the near future, Kangas will indeed be "shooting the lights out" at Rose Arena and other venues around the Mid-American Conference. The great hope for the Chippewas, is that Kangas will be wearing a maroon and gold uniform in the process.

"I talked to coach Smith again this week," Kangas added. "He wanted to reassure me that CMU is interested and that they want me to be a part of the program."

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