Bloomington, Ind. – While most are just now finding out about elite '09 shooting guard Nolan Dennis, IU Coach Kelvin Sampson has known all about him for years.
Scout.com's 23rd ranked player in his class, Dennis a 6'5", 180-pounder from Richland (Texas) H.S. who has been targeted by a host of big-time schools, including Indiana, Memphis, North Carolina, Georgetown and Florida, just to name a few. Big-time programs and coaches are flocking to Texas to try to get a foot in the door with the top-ranked player in Texas in the junior class.
"Last Wednesday, he had the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 programs' coaches in the building at the same time," said Richland H.S. Coach Richard Bacon. "He had (Memphis') John Calipari and (North Carolina's) Roy Williams both here."
Indiana's coaching staff, meanwhile, has also been down to the Dallas-area school, and IU has seemingly established itself as a major player for Dennis. He'll be in Bloomington this weekend for Hoosier Hysteria, making him one of at least three top-25 players in the '09 class in town along with point guard Dexter Strickland and wing Lance Stephenson.
Dennis has just recently emerged as a familiar name to IU fans, but Sampson has known about him for some time. That's because he recruited Nolan's older brother, Collin, when he was the head coach at Oklahoma.
Collin wound up going to South Florida, but the connection Sampson made with the Dennis family could very well pay off with the nation's sixth-ranked shooting guard.
"Indiana has been down here as well," Bacon said. "They've put in the work to be one of the guys who have shown a real sincere interest in him."
Bacon said there are about 15 major conference schools who have been down to Richland H.S., all in an effort to get involved with Dennis. As a sophomore Dennis was named the District's Most Valuable Player after averaging 18.2 points per game, leading his team in rebounding, and guiding his team to a 24-8 record.
With Richland's leading scorer gone from a year ago, Dennis will take on an even bigger role this season, and it's one Bacon says he's more than ready to handle.
"He can play three positions – 1, 2 or 3," Bacon said. "He makes things happen. He's really talented and can do just about anything. For me, he plays wherever he wants. When I say that it's within the rules of what our offensive schemes are, but he has the freedom to do whatever he needs to do."
In addition to his 18 points per game, Dennis also shot better than 50 percent from the field, knocking down 56 percent of his attempts inside the 3-point arc and 51 percent from 3-point range. Coupled with his athleticism, it's long made him a can't miss prospect according to Bacon.
"You can go all the way before he started organized basketball in middle school, and people knew then he had a chance," Bacon said. "He was dunking the ball in middle school. Here's a kid dunking the ball in middle school and no one could guard him. He had to tone his game down to make everyone else fit in. He was that far ahead of everyone else."
His game has continued to progress ever since, and now he'll be one of the most sought-after players in the '09 class. Despite the attention, Bacon said Dennis isn't someone who will let it go to his head.
"I think down deep he's excited about what's going on, but Nolan isn't a prima donna," Bacon said. "He doesn't have an entourage. He just walks around like any other normal kid, and kind of enjoys the ride."
Family Ties Could Help IU With Dennis
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