TOC: Dwight Howard Spotlight

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Dwight Howard solidified his Top 5 ranking Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center, and afterwards discussed his recruitment and the recent developments with North Carolina.

If there was any doubt about whether 6-11 PF-C Dwight Howard belongs in the top five players in his 2004 class – he certainly answered the question today with an exclamation point.

He sure as heck does. And that isn't up for debate at all.

Playing in an up-tempo game versus the Illinois Fire , the Atlanta Celtic big man thrived. Handling the ball in the open floor, throwing sick no-look passes on the break and finishing plays in the paint with authority – Howard is a versatile and skilled big man with plenty of athleticism.

And his defense was quite superb, too, as he racked up rebounds and blocked shots by the buckets.

And he's easily been one of the biggest draws at the Tournament of Champions, as fans, recruiting analysts, newspaper reporters, scouts and other forms of basketball media crowded the sidelines to watch the superstar this afternoon.

And after his win today at the Smith Center, he was mobbed with reporters who all rushed in with the same question…

"I'm just wide open to everything," he said rather quickly, when questioned about a school list. "I'm wide open to it all."

However, the more experienced reporters weren't too satisfied with that answer and dug for more.

Finally, Howard gave it up:

"North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Florida will get official visits, that's for sure. But I'm still wide open for other schools too."

Howard, whose game is comparable to former No. 1 NBA draft pick, Kwame Brown, is an excellent student who carries a 3.0 in the classroom and is scheduled to take the SAT on June 10th.

"I want to score a 1400 on it," Howard said. "I've been taking pre-SAT classes for awhile now. I have been learning some math tricks and really trying to discover how to make the best out of it.

"I want to get an education. It's really important to me and to my parents. I've always thought about the possibility of the NBA and if it's there, it's there, but I'm preparing for college," he said.

On the UNC front, Howard noted that he's already had a one-on-one meeting with the Tar Heels' newly appointed boss.

"I met with Roy Williams a couple weeks ago at my school," he noted. "Him and Coach (Steve) Robinson came down and they offered me a scholarship."

And despite Carolina's recent offer, we asked the big guy about the rumors of him leaning to Georgia Tech if he were to attend college….

"I can't deny that," he replied. "They're at the top. They've always been at the top of my list, so I really can't stand here and tell you that isn't the truth because it is."

And while the Yellow Jackets try to fend off Duke, North Carolina and Florida – they've also got to worry about Howard going straight to the NBA out of high school.

"I'm going to keep an eye on my status," he said. "If I'm projected to go in the top five or so, I'm going to go to the league, but if my status isn't that high, like at least a lottery pick or something, I'm going to college. I value my education very much."

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