|This story originally published on Bucknuts.com|
For a recruiting process that has lasted a lifetime, it’s strange it could end in the blink of an eye. That’s the possibility facing Detroit Renaissance star Malik Hairston as he could finally select a college at any time.
On Monday night, Bucknuts.com spoke with Malik’s father, Richard Hairston, as the recruiting process has just about come to a halt for the Hairston family. Mr. Hairston shared a lot of insight to the forthcoming decision.
“I think he’s ready to make it now,” a reluctant father said. “Or at least, he’s very very close. I think we’ll talk one more time just to make sure.”
The 6-6 Hairston is ranked as the nation's No. 2 small forward and No. 9 prospect overall in the 2004 class by TheInsidersHoops.com. As a senior, he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds a game for a Renaissance team that went 27-0 and won a state championship.
Hairston, a second-team All-USA pick by USA Today, then played in the McDonald's All-American Game and scored a team-high 23 points in the Jordan Capital Classic.
Before the Hairstons were ready to finalize any plans, they first decided to make an official visit to Oklahoma for 24 hours from Friday to Saturday. They then met with Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker on Sunday unofficially.
Hairston said both visits went well, and spoke about their conversation with Amaker on Sunday.
“We talked for what seemed like a couple of hours,” he said. “We asked him some tough questions, and I credit Coach Amaker for being up front with us. It was a good conversation. He said if he ever needed anything that he would help regardless of where Malik went, so I appreciated that sentiment.”
For as busy as the Hairstons were this weekend, Monday apparently was an even bigger day.
The Hairston family received telephone calls on Monday from Ben Howland of UCLA, Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma and Bill Self of Kansas. Former Kansas head coach Larry Brown also phoned Mr. Hairston, something he termed as the “highlight” of this process — getting to speak with Brown. (Keep in mind, Brown'sDetroit Pistons had a playoff game Monday night.)
Hairston said his son has all the information and all the control now.
“I think we’ve equipped him with all of the information he needs now,” he said. “I’ve had to play what I call a junkyard dog a few times in this process when things weren’t going to our liking. Malik pretty much controls the reins now. It’s his call.”
The “junkyard dog” that Mr. Hairston had to become, was the result of some foul play. He indicated there were a couple of coaches who made more phone calls in a given week then were allowed by rule, and he said there were some programs with “a lot of money floating around.”
Naturally, Mr. Hairston expects the utmost credibility and integrity out of coaches involved, and that was one of the things the Hairstons graded on their chart of each program they recently made.
“There were a couple of coaches involved that we scored a five out of five,” he said. “There were some who were fours, and even one who was a three. Fortunately, I think even the coach who was the three, Malik would have done O.K. for.”
Mr. Hairston said he has been impressed with certain coaches in this process.
“I’m truly amazed the level of commitment shown from a few of these programs to us,” he said. “Even more amazing, is that they’ve shown these commitments to us, and promised some things without jeopardizing their integrity and they’ve done so with credibility. We just had to examine what they’ve done in the past and make sure they could live up to it.”
Mr. Hairston insisted that there are two programs that stand out the most as far as he is concerned. He believes Malik shares his opinion of most of the coaches.
One of those coaches is Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien.
“I should tell you that Coach O’Brien called us Sunday,” Hairston pointed out. “We put him on speaker phone with myself, Malik, and my wife, who was in and out of the room. We talked for about an hour. We asked him a lot of key questions that we believe are very relevant, and he answered them perfectly. It was really an extremely compelling conversation. I know without a doubt he would take care of Malik at Ohio State.”
When Mr. Hairston was asked if he had a preference of schools if Malik asked for his assistance, he was very matter of fact.
“Yes I do,” he said. “There are really two schools that stand out way above the rest in fact. Don’t ask who they are, but I’ll tell you that without a question Ohio State is absolutely one of those schools.”
Mr. Hairston constantly mentioned playing time as being one of the biggest factors. But he also suggested winning a national championship was still a small factor.
We asked Mr. Hairston what he thought about Malik’s contention that he may be at a disadvantage somewhat at Kansas or Michigan because of not getting as much playing time.
“I would say I have to disagree with Malik on that a little bit,” he said. “At least at a school like Kansas, I think he could still average 10 points a game and do well for himself as a career. Kansas offers the prestige and a chance for exposure.”
One other obvious remaining factor is closeness to home. Mr. Hairston indicated that might be looming large.
“Early in the process, we decided as a family that until Malik got an idea of where he wanted to go, we wouldn’t talk about proximity as much as possible,” Hairston said. “However, I’ve started to see lately that Malik does definitely have something in him where he wants to be home or close to home, and by close to home I mean Ohio State. He loves his mother very much, he likes his girlfriend, and he’s very close with his brothers and brother-in-law.”
If Mr. Hairston or Malik has worn from the process, you wouldn’t know it by his comments. But Mr. Hairston attributes that to prior trials and tribulations.
“Malik has already dealt with several obstacles,” he said. “He’s been in a situation where he’s faced with certain challenges. For instance, there are some programs who are expected to keep all of the players in their state. Malik has been able to overcome that obstacle.”
As the process nears its end, Hairston has few regrets. He felt he would steer Malik only when necessary, but that’s no longer the case.
“I really didn’t want to become that junkyard dog,” he said. “That’s not something I have ever wanted. But when people were starting to take advantage of Malik, or when things were losing control, I felt I needed to crack the whip. He’s O.K. now. He will make the right decision.”
That decision could come at any time. So don’t blink. If you’ve waited this long, it would be a shame to miss the finish.