Illinois has been recruiting linebacker Harding Harper for the 2012 signing class. Harper, who moved to Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama, for his senior year, plays multiple sports. His basketball team was invited to participate in the Tournament of Champions at Washington High School in Illinois over Thanksgiving.
So in the midst of interviewing prospective basketball recruits, we found ourselves interviewing a football player. Harper is a reserve on an extremely athletic Carver basketball squad. Their senior star is guard Craig Sword, who is committed to Mississippi. Junior forward Jeremy Johnson is being recruited by Alabama, Auburn and LSU for both football and basketball.
"There's a lot of talent, a lot of talent. From the starting five to the next five, all the way up to the last man on the roster. There's talent everywhere."
Harper has a simple explanation for his involvement with basketball.
He is beginning to realize he has a sport preference.
"My first love is football. I've been playing basketball all my life, but I suddenly realized football is what I really want to do. So I'm focusing on that."
Harper was pleased with his senior season on the football field.
"From a team standpoint, our season went pretty good. We made a long run in the playoffs. For me, stellar season. I expected a good season, but I ended up with an awesome season."
He hasn't added any new offers recently. But he is beginning to formalize his visitation plans.
"Right now, I have an official visit set up with FIU. But I know I'm gonna take a visit to Illinois, one to Arkansas and probably Vanderbilt. I don't know where else yet."
Speaking less than 80 miles from the Illini campus, Harper regretted having no opportunity to see the school during the tourney.
"I know I'm close to Illinois right now. I wish I could take a drive and check everything out."
He claims no school preferences at this time. But in the long run, location may be a consideration.
"I prefer the warmth. But I don't know if I'll stay in the South. I don't really worry about that. I love the South; I've lived there all my life. So it could be a factor."
In the meantime, Harper has been doing some recruiting of his own. Not for a college but for his high school football team. One of his basketball teammates is Brandon Murphy-Blackmon, a dynamic and explosive athlete who can run and jump with players much smaller than himself.
"Big Brandon isn't a football player. He only plays basketball. He's about 6'-7", 270, and he's straight basketball. He'd be a great offensive tackle, defensive end, anything. I've been trying to convince him that as long as I've been at Carver. Maybe he'll get around to it."
Murphy-Blackmon may not yet recognize his best sport is football, but Harper has. Still, his aptitude in other sports makes him long for the challenge.
"I may play baseball in the spring. I haven't decided yet."