Bloomington – In case you didn't think there was a lot of interest in Brewster Academy forward Emmanuel Negedu, Coach Jason Smith's cell phone suggests otherwise.
As word circulated that the 6-7, 220-pound Class of 2008 forward had been granted a release from his Arizona letter of intent earlier this week, the Brewster Academy coach said he received 150 calls on both Monday and Tuesday. He said he was inundated with even more text messages, with 900 of those coming his way since last Friday.
Many of those inquiring about Negedu, though, were quickly disappointed. Smith said earlier this week that Scout.com's 71st ranked player in the '08 class would be headed to one of four schools – Indiana, Tennessee, Memphis or Georgia Tech.
Indiana and Tennessee were two of Negedu's finalists the last time around, while Georgia Tech also pursued him as well before his Arizona pledge. Memphis, meanwhile, became a possibility when his primary recruiter at Arizona – Josh Pastner – joined Coach John Calipari's staff last month.
Smith said he's talked with the coaches from all four schools since Negedu's release and made it clear where they should be focusing their recruiting efforts.
"I'm just trying to help him through the process," Smith Smith. "I do recruiting (at Brewster) as well, so I know how it works. I've told each of them they don't need to waste their time recruiting me. They need to spend their time with Emmanuel."
Each figures to do that in earnest. The IU staff is the only one that Negedu had no dealings with the first time around, but Smith said Negedu's other ties to the area made Coach Tom Crean's program a possibility.
"I know the IU program has a new staff, but there's a certain level of familiarity with the program due to his playing with the Indiana (Elite) AAU team and some of his former teammates that are there," Smith said.
Incoming IU freshmen Matt Roth, Kory Barnett and Daniel Moore were Indiana Elite teammates with Negedu, while recently signed Tijan Jobe is a fellow product of Mark Adams' A-Hope Foundation, which provides a means for basketball players from various African countries to come to the United States to pursue a U.S. education.
Those are all things that could help the Hoosiers in their pursuit of Negedu, who is a native of Nigeria. He'd be a huge addition to IU's 2008 recruiting class, a player who would undoubtedly play a big role immediately. He averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds this past season, helping Brewster Academy to a 31-4 record, a NEPSAC Class A title, and a semifinal berth in the National Prep School championships.
Negedu is a tremendous athlete, someone who can run the floor, is explosive around the basket, and can finish with anyone in the 2008 class. Those are traits that caught the attention of many college recruiters ever since he arrived in the U.S., but he's made strides in plenty of other areas of his game at Brewster.
"His overall skill level is a lot better," Smith said. "When he came here he was just a freak athlete. He couldn't dribble very well, and he didn't have too many post moves."
His time at Brewster has helped him improve in those areas, but it's still his athleticism that separates him from many players his age.
"His strengths are his athleticism and how hard he competes," Smith said. "He has to continue to develop his perimeter skills, but he plays so hard and his athleticism is in the top 1 percent."
That's what originally caught Arizona Coach Lute Olson's eye, and it's why Negedu's four finalists are tripping over themselves to try to make him a late addition to their class. While Smith doesn't expect Negedu to drag out his recruitment too long, he knows his attention right now is directed elsewhere.
Negedu will graduate from Brewster Academy on Saturday, and both of his parents will be in attendance for the event. They arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday, marking the first time either has been to the country. Upon their arrival, they gave Smith a native Nigerian dress, which he said he will wear at Saturday's graduation ceremonies.
"Emmanuel is ecstatic to have them here and be able to show them around," Smith said.
Once graduation comes and goes, Smith suspects that Negedu will sit down with his parents and his host family to make some decisions on potential visits and eventually a college decision. Signing a national letter of intent is no longer an option since the spring signing period having wrapped up Wednesday, so he's free to take some more time before making his college decision.
"He won't rush into a decision," Smith said. "He's going to take his time, and if a school takes someone ahead of him that's what they do. I don't think he'll take too long, though. He won't wait until August or even July, I don't think. I think he'll probably take a couple of visits and then probably decide by early June."
Is Negedu's Decision Coming Sooner or Later?
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