Not much was expected of Griffin McKenzie – at least not right away.After all, the season was winding down, and McKenzie, a junior, had missed all of it because of a back injury the previous summer. He hadn't played competitively in months, so his coach, Carl Kremer, didn't think he'd burn up the nets any time soon.
McKenzie, though, had other plans. And when he was OK'd to play the final three games of the season – which were his first three games of the season – he was back to his old tricks.In those three games, McKenzie went nine-for-11 from three-point land.
"I'm not saying he's an 85 percent three-point shooter," Kremer said in an interview with Purple Reign. "But he's a legit 40 to 45 percent three-point shooter. He can really shoot. And that's coming off not playing the entire year. So I kid him a lot – I was sure he led the country in three-point percentage."That McKenzie, at 6-foot-9, has that kind of versatility should have Northwestern fans drooling. The three-star 2010 recruit from Cincinnati holds more than a dozen offers, and having narrowed it down to four, the Wildcats remain in the running for a commitment.
And judging by McKenzie's visit to Evanston last week – and what he told Purple Reign in an interview Sunday – he's taking NU seriously.Let the drooling begin.
"I think the great thing about Griff is not just what he has now, but he has a lot of upside," Kremer said. "He has missed a lot of time and hasn't had a chance to develop his body a lot because of the injuries. But he's a kid who can guard big guys, he's tough, he's got a good frame. He can guard a big but a big would have a hard time guarding him."Sounds like the total package. And that's why Griffin – who entered the summer with but two offers – now has a host of colleges to choose from. From his dozen-plus offers, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Xavier are the three left standing.
Along with Northwestern, of course."With Northwestern," Kremer said, "their system is so good for a guy like Griff because he's going to get guys guarding him who aren't as good as he is away from the basket. But again, he can rebound the ball, too. He's a physical kid."
Kremer says that despite the injury-induced slow start, he was none too surprised that McKenzie's recruitment picked up like it did this summer."He's always been very good, he's just healthy now. He's a very talented kid – he's a 6-9 guy who can shoot it and dribble and pass. He's also very hungry and very mature. He was just under the radar. I wasn't surprised by how he took off. We very much anticipated that it'd all blow up this summer."
And Kremer knows a thing or two about the process. His Moeller High School teams have produced a bevy of Division I players, including Josh Duncan from Xavier, Andrew Brackman from North Carolina State and Ryan Childress from Tennessee.
All of those players were big guys – like McKenzie – and Kremer says that his most recent stud stacks up just fine."We've had lot of Division I kids," Kremer said, "and he certainly would be toward the upper slot of the kids we've had. So I believe wholeheartedly that he's going to be a good Division I player."
Kremer also reiterated McKenzie's zest for academics. It's no surprise that Wake, Vandy and Xavier are all upper-level schools, and not just basketball teams."Ohio State offered him, and here he is, an Ohio kid, and (OSU) coach (Thad) Matta is going after him, but he made a decision that he wants a 40-year degree. And Tennessee offered, but again, he is really focused on the academics. Those schools (that he's considering) fit that academic mold that he wants."
And Griffin, likewise, fits the mold that NU wants.
To reach David Vranicar, publisher of Purple Reign, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org/