To start, how are you feeling about Ivan competing to potentially play on a team that’s traveling to Dubai?
Tammi Rabb, mother of five star power forward Ivan Rabb: I am really nervous for my son. It is an honor for our family to have a family member selected to try out for an Olympic team and represent our country and family. I am so proud of him getting this far, but hope that he makes it to Dubai.
What is the basis for the nerves?
Well, there are more than 30 players competing for 12 spots.
A lot of the early scouting reports rate him as one of the better players there, how do you react to those reports?
I’m glad that Ivan realizes that he needs to keep a great work ethic. It is easy for anyone young or old to be content and comfortable just because someone thinks they are the best at their craft. I’ve always told Ivan to never be complacent. Keep working and getting better. I couldn’t be more prouder of him because he continues to work and listens to my advice.
How do you think Ivan’s USA Basketball experiences have helped him grow as a person and a player?
Team USA has some of the most talented and well-respected Coaches and mentors in the sport from Sean Miller, Coach K, Coach Showalter and Coach Flannery. USA Basketball represents opportunity and personal development to me. Ivan has fresh eyes looking at this game and the various ways to improve it! He has the honor, duty and hopefully the opportunity to represent our country. There is no way a young man could not grow from an opportunity such as this.
One of the discussions occurring about Ivan at this camp is the potential discussions he’s going to have with friends like Malik Newman and Diamond Stone about playing together. What are your thoughts on those discussions potentially happening?
I think there is no letter “I” in the word team. I support Ivan in whatever choice he makes. If that choice is to play with Diamond and Malik, I don’t see where he could go wrong. Both of those players would be great for him on or off the court because they share similar values and character traits. However, the one thing I urge my son to seek out is a school that knows how to develop his game. What may be a perfect fit for Malik or Diamond may not be the best fit for him.
I understand—there’s also been discussion that Chase Jeter and his family may have talked with you guys. Is that report accurate and if so-how did the discussions go?
I have not spoken to Chase or his parents. However, Coach K said that he spoke with Chase prior to offering my son and Jeter said that he liked Ivan’s game and would like the chance to play with him. Maybe Ivan has spoken to them but i personally have not.
Speaking of Coach K and offer to Ivan—did a firm scholarship offer come recently from Duke?
Yes. He offered while we were at Peach Jam.
How did the discussion go? How was the offer presented and what were your thoughts on it?
Coach K reminds me of two people I respect the most. I like his directness and ability to represent his position about Ivan’s game and the recruiting process.
Can you share an example of that?
I’m glad that Ivan received the offer. I know he values Coach K’s opinion and is considering the school. Coach K makes no apologies as to why he didn’t offer sooner. In fact, he explained that he doesn’t need Ivan as he already has a solid coaching position with or without him. He told him he had a lot of work to do but he thought he could make him better.
How did you react to that when you heard that? What did Coach K discuss with you in the context of the offer?
I like folks that don’t kiss my behind and especially the behind of my child. I want him to be the best man he can be both on and off the court. Coach K said he needed to get to know and understand Ivan’s game and how he could make him better. I think Coach K spoke as honestly as he could. Coach K does not hand out offers without thought. I think the distance thing was a problem with him as well. It was a firm offer from Coach K and a 30 minute conversation with a commitment from him that he would be in the audience evaluating his game.
We had a 4way conversation with Coach K, Coach Lou, myself and Ivan. He implied that he thought Ivan would remain home or close to it. This is one of the reasons I made it a priority for him to make east coast visits first. I didn’t want my son limited to the West Coast.
How did Coach K seem to respond to your guidance that distance doesn’t appear to be a factor?
I spoke briefly about my background. I went overseas alone at 14 and matured quickly from my experiences. Life is about growing and development. I have given Ivan and his brother the best I possibly can but they have so much that they can learn from traveling and new environments, mentors and cultures from a new city.
Now that the Duke offer is on the table-what’s your thoughts on the situation there for Ivan ? Did the offer change how you guys felt about Duke before the offer?
That’s hard to say. Early on Duke was all Ivan spoke about besides Cal. As time moved on he has met some great coaches like Thompson, Williams, Calipari, Miller. Not to leave out the budding relationship with the new Cal coach either. Perhaps Ivan and Coach K will build a bond and trust with one another. I think it isn’t too late to do so ! My job as his mother is to give him permission to become a man and open his eyes to a world outside of the family nucleus. He will have to take my torch and run with it. I would do him a disservice to decide for him.
Sounds like Duke has ground to make up from what you described—fair read?
First of all, Ivan can’t make a bad decision. The legacy of Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, UNC or a Cal, Arizona or UCLA are all great programs with great coaches. Ivan is a smart young man. Coach K spoke with honesty and integrity. It’s not like Ivan wasn’t under his radar, he just didn’t officially offer until he felt Ivan had earned one. I think Ivan can respect the candid conversation and make a fair decision from there.
Do you guys pay attention to the various opinions and conjecture regarding the recruitment from the media and other outside sources?
Not really. Other than people that just assume my boy will stay home. He may or may not but if I can say anything…a fact about my son is he is a leader, not a follower and he is a thinker with very few words. He will make a non-emotional decision about his future. It won’t be built on spontaneity and other folks opinions.
How much pull do you think there is for him with Malik Newman and Diamond Stone since they are all good friends and they are likely talking with Ivan about playing together in college?
I think Ivan will definitely consider where they go and if they all make the USA Team this year, they can develop an even better bond. Whoever has Malik, Diamond and Ivan among the kids they offered is probably in a good position for a commitment from Ivan. This is just me as his mom talking, I am sad I won’t be able to go with him to Dubai but if they make it, I will be home cheering my 3 boys on.
So it sounds like schools who have offered all 3 will definitely have an edge with Ivan—is that an accurate understanding?
I think so. They like playing together. You might do well to ask Ivan that as well. I tell him if he goes to the NBA he won’t pick his teammates so it could be another opportunity for him to develop his game if he heads into the unknown. Your guess is as good as mine is at this point. After USA I may have a different outlook.
How much conversation-if any-are you having with Malik or Diamond’s parents about your sons’ recruitments?
No, for some reason we haven’t reached out. I do watch their sons’ processes and stats as well as Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman.
Is it important for you to discuss things with any of those players’ parents’ before Ivan’s process is completed?
I am open to it, when the that times comes but it is still early.
Do you think you guys need a firm sense of where any players are going to college before Ivan makes his decision?
I think a guard that is unselfish is important but I think it is of the utmost importance that you have a coach that understands that a big 4-man needs touches.
Are there any coaches in your estimation that you think really know how best to utilize Ivan?
Certainly, Coach K, Thompson, Calipari, Williams and Martin are my picks. You can talk with Ivan and get his.
You mentioned it’s still early in the process—do you guys have a firm idea of where Ivan’s official visits are going to be?
Ivan has narrowed it down to 7. I may end up paying for two more. He has said Kentucky and Georgetown for sure. Although he won’t make an official to Cal, they are very much on his list.
Does the fact that KY and Georgetown are for sure official visits signify that they occupy a higher level of interest from Ivan and you?
That’s a hard question to answer. They are all great schools.
Do you think there are any schools in the final 7 that are not likely to receive another visit from Ivan-either unofficial or official?
No. Ivan is going to watch all of the games of the schools carefully. He may attend some but we had a plan prior to this if i can save enough money he will go wherever he needs to go to observe and make his decision. Not receiving an official visit doesn’t mean that you won’t get a commitment from Ivan. He just likes to think and observe and see things as they are. A coach might not even know he is at the game. He wants to see the real thing.
Based on that observation time-do you think Ivan is likely to wait until the Spring signing period before he commits. Or is the plan to verbal and sign before the end of the November signing period?
He hasn’t told me. I think it will be a late commitment. He will put a lot of thought into this.
How much are projected depth charts going to factor into his decision?
Rankings don’t mean a lot of a high school recruit moving into the college realm. They are an indicator. Some recruits rise to the occasion and others do not. Many people thought Duke, Kansas or Kentucky would win it all because their recruiting class and existing roster indicated so. It didn’t happen for them last year. The numbers I am concerned with are my son’s. If he is scoring 12 points a game his first year and he needs to develop, I pray he is scoring or improving his second year.
Do you guys envision Ivan staying longer than a year in college?
Ivan wants to have a real college experience. He loves school. I can see my son waiting and developing until the optimal time for him to move onto the next level comes. If that means 2, 3 or even 4 years, my boy wants to get bigger, faster, better and stronger. It doesn’t hurt him to wait on God…what God has for you is not to be played with. Who knows, it may not be basketball at all. Ivan will get an education though. You can count on that.
In closing, what makes you have that mindset you just described?
You can go to the NBA and just play..or you can develop your mind, body and mature a second or third year and have a career.