David Padgett: Behind the Poker Face

What does a publication do when the subject of a story isn't tipping his hand? Explore alternative avenues -- in this case, six exclusive sources. <i>Inside Carolina</i> presents an inside look at the recruitment of David Padgett.

If David Padgett is favoring any of the four schools on his final list, he isn't letting anyone know.

Interviews with the coveted 7-0 senior center from Reno (Nev.) High have yielded in-depth answers, yet few leads, sending Internet message boards to drown in a sea of speculation.

While Padgett's talents on the court -- the way he runs the floor, crashes the boards, blocks shots, and possesses an impressive mid-range offensive game -- bring high-profile coaches Lute Olson, Matt Doherty, Mike Montgomery and Roy Williams into his living room, his impressive interviewing talents keep the media, the fans and even the schools themselves guessing.

And that, said recruiting analyst Dave Telep, is quite impressive.

"David Padgett is a professional recruit," said Telep, who runs TheInsidersHoops.com. "The way he's handled it, in being accessible and informative, but not as insightful as people hope, he's done nothing to give any indication. Do you know how hard it is for an 18-year-old to be so consistently vague? With all these people trying to get info, to be able to answer all the questions without giving anything away is a definite skill."

"None of the coaches recruiting Padgett and those around him know which way he's leaning, but they've all formed great relationships," added Telep. "When David Padgett does make his announcement, three schools are going to be upset -- and all four will be surprised."

The situation certainly appears that way -- but perhaps that's not the case. Maybe some of the schools do know where they stand.

"I have no idea where he'll end up to be honest," said a source close to the Arizona program. "I think it's a dead heat between Carolina and Stanford, but I couldn't even take a guess between those two."

In other words, he apparently won't end up in Tucson.

But what about Kansas? The prevailing opinion among analysts throughout the year has been that the Jayhawks were the favorite.

"They have no reason to believe they don't have as good a chance as they always did," said a source close to the KU program. "They've always felt they were right up there in the trio of leaders for Padgett -- and they have no reason to believe otherwise. They've seen the reports -- they read the stuff on the Internet -- and still have no reason to believe they're not up there with Stanford and Carolina."

Analyst Rob Harrington, of PrepStars, concurs.

"I've thought all along that Kansas will be tough to beat," Harrington said. "The fact that Padgett's father is a big basketball person means that Roy Williams carries a lot of weight and I don't know if anyone recruits parents like Roy Williams."

But Harrington was not entirely firm in his opinion of Kansas as the frontrunner. He clearly had his doubts

"I figured someone would have to beat them," he said, "but maybe that has happened."

And who does that leave? Stanford? North Carolina?

"Just as I've thought all along that Kansas was No. 1, I've always seen Stanford as No. 2," Harrington said.

One of the nation's most prestigious universities, only four hours southwest on I-80, Stanford is simply impossible to ignore.

"From doing this a while, you tend to see trends," Telep said. "David's father moved closer to coach his son. Given the circumstances, I'd think his father would want him to stay relatively close. So, to discount Stanford would be a huge mistake.

"It's got the greatest combination of athletics and academics -- and sent two guys into the NBA draft last year [Curtis Borchardt and Casey Jacobsen]. They've got just as much, if not more, than any of the programs have to offer Padgett."

Yet one school just may have an arsenal to overcome Stanford's advantages. And that school is North Carolina.

Padgett's final official visit was to Chapel Hill earlier this month and his parents spent the last few days surveying the campus.

"Really, I think he'll choose Carolina," said Steve Sneddon, an established columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal. "He came back [from Chapel Hill] pretty impressed."

Sneddon, who has written several stories on Padgett's recruitment, is an experienced journalist. He covered Padgett's father, Pete, during his playing days -- but even more impressive is the fact that he was on-hand to watch the Tar Heels upset Wilt Chamberlain's Jayhawks in three overtimes for the 1957 national championship.

And as Sneddon is in touch with North Carolina's storied history, he thinks tradition will be the ultimate reason that UNC wins the recruiting battle for the local star.

"I think tradition means a lot to [the Padgett's]," he said, referencing that Padgett's grandfather coached at Cal from 1968-72 and then coached Pete at Nevada-Reno. "David really comes from a basketball family, so he can appreciate the Carolina tradition and [meeting] Dean Smith more than anyone."

And what does North Carolina think?

"They feel really good about their chances with Padgett," said a source close to the UNC basketball program. "There is a high level of excitement in the Carolina basketball office right now. They think they've got a very good shot at landing him."

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