Conley Keeping A Close Eye On Favorites

Point guard Mike Conley of Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North is one of the elite prospects in the 2006 class. Kyle Lamb spoke with Conley last night about his most recent list of favorites, plus some thoughts on the season and Conlye's friends Daequan Cook and Greg Oden. Read on for more.

If he's not playing basketball, he's watching it. If he's not watching it, the chances are, Mike Conley is talking about it. He grew up with a basketball in his hand, and now he's got a great handle on the game he loves.

Growing up with the basketball, he's got quite the handle on the ball itself—and that's why so many people are talking about Conley.

The 6-1 point guard from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, In. is quite arguably the nation's top point guard prospect in the class of 2006. In fact, Scout Hoops does in fact rank him as the top point guard, and the 18th-best overall prospect nationally.

A couple of weeks ago, Conley's Lawrence North team (now 8-1 on the season) dropped a tough 70-60 decision to Arlington High School in Indianapolis.

Conley, who averages 12 points, nearly seven assists, and five steals a game through nine games played doesn't let these sort of setbacks affect him. They only inspire him to do better.

"We played really bad that game," he said of the uninspiring performance that his 7-0 teammate, Greg Oden, fouled out in. "It was something you just have to come back the next game and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Even despite school, spending some time hanging out with his friends, and opening the dozens of letters he gets in a given week from college recruiters, Conley has plenty of time for more basketball.

Through it all, Conley is a fan of college basketball.

Whether it's watching one of his favorite teams, one of his potential schools, or just watching for sheer entertainment, he admits to being sure he watches every game on television he can see.

"I watch college basketball a lot. What can I say, I love it," Conley said. "So yeah, I watch whenever I possibly can."

Has Conley had any favorite basketball games since November that stood out or any other game of interest that he's seen?

According to him, he has.

"I really liked the Texas-Wake Forest game that I went to a lot," Conley noted. "I have also seen a couple of Ohio State games so far this year. Like the Texas Tech game for example—I liked that one."

"I would say I've seen a lot of Ohio State so far, in fact. I love watching them play," he added.

For a long while, Conley has enjoyed watching fast-paced and high-octane college basketball whose teams execute the offense with precision. But for Conley, it all starts with the point guard.

It's for that reason, that Conley has taken a liking to Wake Forest for a couple of seasons.

The Deamon Deacons have, especially under Skip Prosser, had played an up-tempo style of basketball and depend on quick guards and good shooters.

It's no coincidence that the arrival of sensational point guard, Chris Paul, has sparked his interest in Wake Forest even further. It's in fact a poorly kept secret he favors them.

"I would say Wake Forest still leads, but it's close," he explained. "I've been steady (on Wake Forest) for a while, but my eyes are opening wider with every game that I see from other teams and I'm realizing there are a lot of other good options available to me to look closely at."

"Besides Ohio State and Wake Forest, I would say that I'm looking at Michigan State, Illinois, and Arkansas," he added.

But, what is it exactly that has appealed to Conley?

The aforementioned playing style has been one motivating factor. In fact, the Buckeyes have done a number on Conley's opinion of them.

"It fits very, very well with what I would like to do in college," he said of Thad Matta's offensive philosophy this season for Ohio State. "Ohio State is a top school of mine because they play basketball the way I like to play it. They are really exciting to watch this season from what I have seen."

There have been a lot of other factors that make give Conley something to chew on.

One of those factors has been his close friendship with 6-5 guard Daequan Cook of Dayton (Oh.) Dunbar. Cook, if nothing else, would love to be playing his college ball with Conley on the same campus.

"We (Daequan and I) talk about the schools a lot, and Greg too," Conley noted. "It's mostly Ohio State and Wake Forest. Well, actually those are the only two we all are considering together."

For Cook, it's a similar story but slightly different.

Cook has a lot of ambition to play close to home, which may give the edge to the Buckeyes right now because of his desire to play within the region.

Still, both teams weigh on his mind.

"I would say that's about right (about Cook's current preferences)," Conley agreed. "One day he will say one thing, and the next day it's another. He likes both schools but there's no doubt it's much easier to stay home."

Staying home is also a preference for Oden, for now.

"He (Oden) likes Indiana a lot right now," Conley said. "It's a good program, it's close to home, it's probably comfortable for him. Greg is still very wide open. We all three like Ohio State and Wake, though"

The families of both Cook and Oden are more concerned with them staying close to home than leaving their individual and collective regions.

Conley says that's even a factor in his case—at least it's a preference.

"Oh sure, my mom and dad would just love to be able to drive 30 minutes to come watch my games," he concurred. "My mom has my brothers and sister to take care of, and they would like to be able to drive to see all of my games, so yeah my parents would love for me to stay close to home. What parents wouldn't, really?"

"It's probably a factor. I'll go where I feel is the best place for me in the end, but it is important to me and I will want to make sure I weight everything before making my final decision," Conley added.

Conley has a lot of season left before that decision will come.

He still plans and expects to make his decision sometime shortly after the season—probably in March or April. In the meantime, his next priorities are continuing his high school career to the fullest, leading his team to a hopeful state championship, and studying everything he can about the five schools he's looking at.

Of course, watching more basketball.

The next stop on the Conley itinerary will be to watch an Ohio State game with Cook and Oden. That's tentatively scheduled to take place in January, probably the 19th for the Ohio State-Minnesota game.

"That's the date I think we're looking at right now," he noted. "We have been pulling the calendars out and comparing schedules to try to figure out when we all three could get over there at the same time. Right now, sometime in mid- or late January we all hope to go watch Ohio State play."

For him, there's still a lot of basketball to be played—and watched. But for Conley, that's par for the course.

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