John Wilkins has gone from unknown to the hottest commodity on the college basketball recruiting scene.
That's what happens when an athletic and skilled 6-9, 205-pound forward comes out of no where to shine on the AAU circuit in front of hundreds of coaches. It also doesn't hurt that it's July and Wilkins is a 2008 recruit who's more than capable of helping a college team immediately.
The end result has been a firestorm of interest in a very short time for a player who came over to the U.S. from France about three weeks ago.
"Pretty much everyone who is looking with an '08 scholarship still in hand is making inquiries about him," said Illinois Wolves AAU Coach Mike Mullins. "I'm sure after this (Phoenix AAU) event is over and (coaches) can contact us again it will get extremely busy for us. He's going to have a lot of positive choices."
There's no disputing the quality of quantity of choices Wilkins will have in front of him. Mullins said approximately 40-50 schools have offered scholarships – Indiana included - and all of those offers have come since he first arrived in the U.S. in mid-July.
Wilkins came to the U.S. at the urging of his father, Jeff, who was a second round NBA Draft choice in 1977 and spent six years in the NBA. Now a resident of Gary, Ind., Jeff wanted his son to come to the U.S. during the July evaluation period to test his skills against the best high school players in the country.
Jeff reached out to one of his former college coaches at Illinois State, Bill "Flash" Flanagan, for help in finding an AAU team that would provide a good opportunity for his son, and the Illinois Wolves seemed like the perfect fit. The elder Wilkins and Mullins (whose son, Bryan, is the starting point guard at Southern Illinois) had actually known each other from their playing days in the Chicago Catholic League in the 1970s.
"I think there was a comfort zone for everyone immediately, and I think it's worked out great," Mullins said.
Word first leaked about Wilkins' arrival in the U.S. and plans to play college basketball a couple of weeks ago, and the interest has continued to intensify thanks to his play in a couple of high-profile AAU events. Wilkins helped the Illinois Wolves to a 5-1 record in Las Vegas last week, and he's now in Phoenix where the team is undefeated and last night advanced to the quarterfinals of the Desert Duel Summer Prep Memorial with a win over Triple Threat.
Wilkins has managed to fit in on an Illinois Wolves team that has been hit extremely hard by injuries, and he's helped them re-establish themselves as a force in the final couple of weeks of the AAU season.
"John has fit in pretty easily because of his personality," Mullins said. "He has a smile that lights up a room and he gets along with everyone."
While the personality is a plus, his skills have been just as important and welcomed by the Wolves' players and coaches.
"He's 6-9, long, athletic, a good shooter, ball handler and passer," Mullins said. "At this stage he's more perimeter oriented and he needs to do some strength work, but he's a great teammate and he's fit in great with all the kids."
Plenty of college programs think he'd be a great fit for their program as well. A very good student who speaks both French and English fluently, Wilkins will begin the process of getting the necessary paperwork together to submit to the NCAA Clearinghouse when he returns from Phoenix. Once that process is complete he'll be able to start giving serious thought to where he wants to play college basketball starting this fall.
His father figures to be a big help, since he's very familiar with the top college coaches and programs in the United States.
"I think his father is very aware of the basketball situation here in the U.S., and that's unlike most foreign players coming over here," Mullins said. "I think he's familiar with that, and his father will be a great guide. His family seems very supportive and I'm sure they'll do their due diligence."
Indiana figures to be one of the programs the Wilkins' will look at very closely, but Mullins said at this point it's premature to speculate about favorites or front-runners.
"We kind of went in that it is very flattering to have a program of the stature of Coach Crean and the staff there to have them interested in him," Mullins said. "What we'll do is talk about everything when we get back. We wanted everyone to have a chance to see him, go out and play against the best teams and best people, and then see where he stood."
Programs Lining Up for France's Wilkins
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