Behind the scenes with Ivan Rabb

The nation's top power forward, five star prospect Ivan Rabb recently cut his list down to 10 and the Blue Devils are amongst that final group. We sat down with Rabb and his mother, Tammi, to learn about the player, the student, and the recruiting process.

As a parent, what have your impressions of the recruiting process been?

Tammi Rabb, mother of Ivan Rabb: I appreciate the experience because a lot of kids his age don't get a chance to have this kind of process and I've really enjoyed it, it's been a nice process so far. It hasn't really upset our household at all, it's just a lot of positive decisions to make for his future is what I've really gotten out of it.

Have you set a set of ground rules for how you are going to handle it all?

Really I just try to get people to respect that I'm the parent and to have everything go through me so that Ivan isn't hounded and so that he can concentrate on his work, both his schoolwork and his basketball work. As long as he keeps his priorities straight, he will go a lot further in life and so we've just let the recruiting process primarily go through me and I decide who the schools are that we are serious about and then I open up the communication lines with them and my child and with the coaches of those schools.

How have you balanced and coordinated your questions with those of Ivan?

First of all, it's really hard because all of these places have great programs, so it's really hard to start deciding who's who because you start by looking at their rankings, you look at their coaching careers and who they have on their team playing for them currently. You also look at the school overall and what your child's goals are, like my son wants to be a real estate developer, so a business school is very important to him. I go from the standpoint of the education first, so my main goal is finding a place that will develop him academically first and also develop him for his basketball career as well.

What has been the basis for your approach to balancing your wishes with those of your son?

Well, I have a great mentoring coach, Lou Richie, he's kinda outlined certain questions that are important for me to put forward to coaches and I also know my son, I've been living with him for close to 17 years and I know what  his dreams and aspirations are, so I have to take everything into account and not just look at it as a basketball opportunity, but a life-long career decision for him as well. I just take into account my child's needs and how do I feel that a school can better position him for a great life, not just based on basketball, but based on his educational goals as well.

What got Ivan so interested in being a real estate developer?

Well, his little brother wants to become an architect, and they both want to partner to build complexes, they want to work together. They've wanted to do that since Ivan was very little, he's just always wanted to do real estate business. He just loves the entrepreneurial side of things.

Based on what you've seen so far schools wise, are there any that you feel really good already about their Business Schools and academic programs that they offer?

From the educational standpoint, I know that Berkeley has a great Business School, Georgetown has a great Business School, what's the other school, Arizona has a good Business School. So really, Georgetown, Arizona and Cal have good business school program. Currently the schools that I really like are the coaches at USC, I like Arizona, I like Cal and I like Georgetown and North Carolina, not because I like the Business School, but I really like the coach there, Roy Williams.

The coaches that you like so far, what it is about them that you have come to enjoy?

Well I like USC because of the development process they informed me about what they would do for Ivan, and I really liked that the coach there shared with me in different ways about how he would improve Ivan's game and I think college is all about developing skills of a person, it's not just basketball, but also education. I think he did a really great job at outlining what he would do for Ivan if he were to go to USC in terms of developing his game and his mind. North Carolina also was good at that, as well as Coach Montgomery and Coach Sean Miller, those are the schools that have really just outlined how they would develop both my son's mind and his physical game.

Those schools you just mentioned in the previous two answers, are those the schools that have been recruiting Ivan the hardest?

Yes, Kentucky I've talked to quite a bit, Duke I talk with them every once in awhile, those are probably the schools in my mind that stick out the most as far as schools that I keep in contact with and schools that Ivan is considering.

With the Kentucky interest, is that with Coach Calipari or the assistants mainly?

I've spoken with Coach Calipari several times and I've spoken to some of his assistants. I think my main thing is the media right now is kinda pigeon-holding Ivan that he's definitely going to be going to play for either Arizona or Kentucky, Ivan's going to go to a school that's going to benefit him and develop his game and his mind the best. Whether that's on the East Coast or the West Coast, Ivan can go wherever he wants to go to in the country.

What makes you as a parent so comfortable with Ivan potentially going clear across the US to school?

Well, I was an international model, so I left home when I was 15 years old and took care of my business. I think I raised my son very well and I think he's ready to make any decision that he needs to make and I know he'll make the right choice. There's no problem in my mind to sending him to a school on the East Coast because I know he was raised right. He can handle that and I can come see him.

You mentioned having received some interest from Duke-can you share who you have talked with from the staff and what you've discussed at this point?

I don't have my notes with me, I've talked with the head coach and the assistants a couple of times and they are going through the examination process but they have not offered yet.

Duke hasn't extended an offer at this point, correct?

All I know is Ivan definitely has them on the list of schools that he could go to and he's narrowed his list down to about 10 schools that he could go to. It's his schools right now that are in the running but he always keeps an open mind, but right now we've narrowed it down to 10 schools.

How do you compare schools who have offered Ivan versus schools who have not, is that a big deal in your evaluation?

I don't think it matters really because Ivan's game wasn't as good as a freshman as it is now as a junior. Of course not every school is going to offer back in 2009 or 2010, and I think Arizona was his first offer I believe going into his freshman year so if they see something early on that other schools maybe didn't early on, then more schools are going to be coming on the boat and offering now that they see him improving. I think several schools have offered over the past summer, like Kansas, Louisville, he's got more offers as his game improved and that's completely normal.

On the other hand, I think Duke and Kentucky waited to offer because, number one, he wasn't ready developmentally, but he has really progressed as a player, so it just took awhile for them to step up with more interest. Also I think with places like Duke and Kentucky, they are wondering is it really likely that Ivan is going to leave the West Coast, like they will ask me, is Ivan free to go to Kentucky or elsewhere because they want to reserve their offers for players they know who will go. It was brought up in discussion  after Kentucky offered whether Ivan would consider going there and I tell them, he's going to go wherever he wants to go, it's a decision that he's going to need to make for himself, I'm not going to stand in the way of him going to Kentucky or Georgetown or wherever, it's up to him.

Does Ivan approach the recruiting process in a similar fashion to the way that you are?

I think we talk about each school, we talk about coaches, we also talk about business programs and life after college, we have a great line of communication, so I think he thinks pretty much the way I do, I kinda knew who was likely to be on his list, as well as Coach Lou. We think a like because we talk a lot about things and there's no surprises. The only thing that's been surprising maybe is some of the schools that have been kept on the list but ultimately this is his decision to make, not mine.

Have you made any visits so far?

We're talking about visiting Arizona, we're talking about visiting Georgetown, Duke, he still talks about Duke a lot, they haven't offered, Kentucky, we're really going to spend a great deal of time going to visit these different schools and to see what's there and we're going to visit some schools on the Midwest and West Coast as well.   The visits outside of the West Coast, are those likely to be tied to AAU Travel schedule permitting, or will it happen before or after AAU Season ? We're going to go visit Georgetown real soon, I really want to get out there and to Arizona for a game. I think those are the immediate two schools and I really want to go see USC too. I know we really like Coach Roy at North Carolina and I know we'd like to get out there and to visit as many schools unofficially out of my own pocket, so that when it comes down to officials we can take those next year.

Are you guys likely to take all 5 official visits?

Well I think we're going to take official visits during his senior year, but right now I want to visit unofficially on my own that I can and then use the official visits during his senior year.

From your answers it sounds like you've got a growing relationship with Coach Williams at North Carolina…

I really do like Roy Williams, I like his assistant coach too, Hubert, I like them and like I said, I like Georgetown and USC and Arizona, they are all great.

And, of course, Ivan is still very interested in Duke, but like I said, he's going to be narrowing his list down and if they don't offer pretty soon, he needs to realize or deal with what's presented to him.

Has the Duke staff discussed with you or Ivan why they have elected not to offer Ivan at this point?

They just say they were going to review his game for awhile, they like the way he plays and watching him and they enjoy going to his games. That's all they said, but I haven't really talked with them in awhile. But I do know for a fact that Duke is still on that list of 10 schools for Ivan.

What is it in your opinion about Duke that's meriting them staying on that list of 10 without having offered a scholarship to Ivan?

Well I think he's keeping his options right now and I think he definitely likes the Duke coach and he's just taking a wait and see attitude.

You mentioned earlier that you were looking for a time to narrow his list further, any idea when that would be?

I think Ivan's going to be very open until his senior year even though he has 10 schools in mind. Let's say that a school that's not on his list that he really likes offers, he'll probably open it back up, I don't think he's going to make any decision until his senior year and I also think he's going to watch the teams develop, who commits where at his position and he'll try to figure out his position on the team and where he fits and what his position would be on the team. We're definitely looking at how teams use their big men and we're definitely watching how they develop. As far as watching guys and where they commit, I know that Georgetown has a very good record of bigs, I know they had the number three draft pick this past year as far as big men. Kentucky of course does very well with development of bigs. I think those schools, hopefully there's a role for Ivan on the team, I just don't want to see him on the bench, I think that's one of the things that scares me about some schools. Arizona, I know they are ranked very highly right now and they haven't talked too much about development, I think USC has talked a lot about development more than anything. I know Arizona right now has Aaron Gordon and Kaleb, the big kid from the Northeast, and Brandon Ashley, I've watched his development, so like I said, I'm looking at all schools and what their track records are towards development and their programs and their education offerings.

Have you watched the east coast schools as closely in regards to big guys?

Well, with North Carolina I haven't really looked into his development of bigs, but I've looked into his demeanor, I like his demeanor and what he's said about development, but I have not really dived into what Coach Williams does with developing bigs and how he would develop Ivan yet. With USC, like I said, the coach there is new, so I need to look at his track record when he was coaching at that school in Florida. With Duke, I'm not sure I can answer that yet other than I know Duke is a really good school, it's a tough school to get an offer from and any kid that goes to a school like Duke would pretty much be a king. All of these schools have great programs, that's what makes it so hard. It's a blessing that he's even in this position.

Based on the conversation so far, is it fair to assume that Duke is the only school of 10 to not extend an offer?

Yes, that's correct. I know my son wants a Duke offer primarily because he likes the Coach out there. He wouldn't want an offer from them just to have a Duke offer, he doesn't want to waste anybody's time.

Let's switch gears to USA Basketball, does Ivan have close friendships already with guys that he's come to know through being a part of it?

Oh yeah, you know that he really wants to go to school with Malik Newman and Diamond Stone? Diamond and Ivan's game are so  close but I know that Diamond can really be a center while having that power forward capability as well, so we have to look at that. I don't want Ivan to go to a school that fits so equally close with him and Diamond playing wise. He's looking at it from the point of view that he needs to look at it from an adult perspective and make independent choices.

So do you think it's a serious option then in your estimation that Diamond and Ivan are going to play together in college?

Well, he wants to go to school together with Diamond Stone and Malik Newman, they were talking about it during USA Basketball and talking about wouldn't that be great. I'm looking at it from the point of view that Ivan and Diamond are very close, they basically both play the power forward position, so how will that benefit Ivan? I don't see that as much I see how Ivan playing with Malik Newman, they blend together well, I think him and Diamond are a little more similar to each other position wise, unlike with Malik where they play different positions. But that's just my position on it.

You talked earlier about you raised Ivan to make his own decision when it comes to his decision so let me ask, if Ivan comes and says Mom, I really want to go play alongside Diamond at School X, how do you see that discussion going?

Well I think ultimately it's his decision, like I said, I've lived my life, I've traveled the world and done some amazing things so now it's Ivan's turn and he needs to make decisions that will help him cultivate success, and I know he will do that because he's been raised that way.

Is Ivan a four-year student-athlete in your estimation, or is he more likely to go pro early and finish his degree later on?

Well, I think he will entertain the NBA option but I also think I've been dealing with Ivan from the start of this process that let's say you go to a school and you are one and done, or two and done, you need to make a commitment to me that you are going to finish school. Whether you have to do that during the summer, or after, I just want that degree done. He's definitely going to finish school, but he's probably going to have a different way of doing it from how most kids typically do. But he definitely owes me those four years from a mom standpoint.

Are you telling coaches that your expectation as a family that Ivan is going to be a one and done player in college?

I'm not actually, in fact I personally would love to see Ivan go to school for at least 2 years. I think he would be more NBA ready if he went to school for two years, he would mature as a young man and keep working on his development. I think Ivan is a kid and I think he's going to do whatever advice somebody gives him, especially if it's from somebody like our family friend who works for the Mavericks, we've known him for a long time or Lou Richie and his college coach and myself and probably his dad, we're all going to sit down and evaluate his game and try to make the best decision possible, but that time hasn't come yet, we haven't even graduated high school yet and you know, that's what's so great, at least he'll get a college education out of this whole thing.


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