Baru Opens Season to Strong Start

AMELIA, Va. --- Even when tucked away in the tiny town of Amelia for a Thursday night contest, there's no hiding for Adjehi Baru. The senior big man stands out both in size and in talent for Richmond (Va.) Steward and against its small-school competition.

Standing 6-9 and wielding an aggressive style and attitude, Baru doesn't shy away from his natural physical advantages. Steward is 2-0 this season and Baru is averaging 19.5 points per game early, and his head coach certainly appreciates the strides he's made in his game.

"The main thing I see with Adjehi is how much he has worked," Steward coach Elliott Gravitt said. "His skills are absolutely improved, and obviously he has worked on his jumpshot to 15-to-17 feet."

Baru's improvement owes in part to his summer travel with Team Loaded, a talented group that competed against many of the nation's elite club teams.

"He's more of a defensive guy out in the summer, and he can do more scoring for us," Gravitt said.

The obvious big question facing Baru this season will be his recruitment. As one of the best unsigned prospects nationally, he'll draw increased scrutiny as the spring signing period draws closer. The four primary contenders are Maryland, North Carolina, Charleston and Virginia Tech, but as of yet Baru's list isn't closed.

"The four main ones are still there, but he can take another visit later this season if he wants," Gravitt said. "I don't think he really has a timetable because he wants to sort of get us going and then sit down and think about it after that."

Gravitt doesn't serve as the primary conduit in the recruiting process, as that role belongs to Baru's host father, Tim Branin. The Branin family hasn't wanted to publicize Baru's recruitment and thus has been elusive with the media and with internal team sources, but Gravitt isn't completely out of the loop.

Over the course of the past several weeks, he has heard regularly from North Carolina.

"I hear from the North Carolina on the phone and get some emails, too," he said. "They obviously are very interested."

Steward will play in some upcoming higher-profile events, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch tournament in a couple weeks. They'll also compete in the Henrico High School tournament after Christmas.

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