Although most people probably have already heard of Dallas Lauderdale, if you haven't, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with him. Lauderdale is one of the top players in the entire country in the class of 2007, and his stock is only rising.
Standing right about 6-9 and weighing about 220 pounds, Lauderdale is an emerging force in a deep and talented class in the state of Ohio.
A native of Solon, Ohio, Lauderdale led the Solon Comets to a 20-0 regular season record and Western Reserve Conference North Division championship averaging 17.9 points a game and 13.0 rebounds a game, while blocking near five shots per game.
The most imposing part of Lauderdale is his intimidating wingspan, which makes Lauderdale more like a 7-footer. Much like Greg Oden in the class of 2006, Lauderdale's defensive prowess changes the entire course of the game, although Lauderdale's physique could not be compared to Oden's -- and who really could?
Already, schools such as Ohio State, Michigan, Syracuse, Arizona, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, and N.C. State have been showing a ton of interest.
Just Tuesday evening, coaches from Illinois and Georgia Tech were scheduled to be in attendance, watching Lauderdale's first playoff game.
One man perhaps most familiar with Lauderdale is the AAU coach for the Cleveland-area Titans, Tim Hewitt.
Hewitt, who also coaches David Lighty on the same team, believes Lauderdale is a special talent, and could get better and better as he gets older.
"He reminds me at this young age of a Patrick Ewing," Hewitt said. "He's very intimidating defensively, he blocks a lot of shots, and honestly, he alters probably twice as many. He really affects the entire game with his presence."
"I really think for as good as he is now, and as good as he can be, he will be one of those kids that gets better with each new challenge and each higher level he goes," Hewitt added.
The amazing thing about Lauderdale, who is ranked as the 46th-best player by Scout Hoops in the class of 2007 (a ranking that figures to continue to skyrocket), is that he has had to function facing largely double and triple teams.
For many young kids, that's something that could frustrate and impede the progress and development, much less the psyche of a fragile personality.
Hewitt will have none of that talk, however.
In Hewitt's mind, Lauderdale is not only good enough physically to overcome those obstacles, but mentally, the competition the Titans face in the spring and summer has equipped Lauderdale to grow and get better from that type of challenge.
"The thing you have to understand about Dallas and the rest of our kids is that they face some of the best competition in the country all summer," Hewitt explained. "We played 94 games last summer, and 75 games this past summer, and we've done so against some of the top players. For instance, we played a team from Texas with the (Darrell) Arthur kid, and Dallas did very well against him, and had a big game. Dallas has faced that competition before, and he's used to it."
In most years, Lauderdale would probably be the top player in his class, if not the top player in the state. In this particular class, he has the misfortune of being in the same group as O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker, but Lauderdale is nearly unanimously listed as the third-best player in the class of 2007, even ahead of Aaron Pogue of Dayton Dunbar.
Regardless of ranking, Ohio State is very interested in Lauderdale, as well as his AAU teammates Lighty and David Jackson of Sharon (Kennedy Catholic), PA, who is a 6-7 junior wing/ power forward averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game.
Ohio State's interest in Lauderdale makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider some of the things college coaches have said about him.
"The biggest thing that has stood out to me was what (North Carolina head coach) Roy Williams said to me about Dallas," Hewitt recalled. "Roy said that for his age, he has never seen someone as long as Dallas."
"That's the thing, he (Lauderdale) is about 6-9, but really he's more like 7-1 because he's so long and has such a reach," Hewitt added.
If you're getting the image that Lauderdale is all defense and nothing else, don't be deceived.
During the AAU circuit, Hewitt has made a lot of strides to make sure Lauderdale is a very good all-around player. Much of that has been easy considering his natural talent and instincts.
"He's very patient, he's a great passer, and he's very unselfish," Hewitt described of Lauderdale. "He's got to keep working on his 15-foot jump shot. But, he can put the ball on the ground and he's pretty agile for a big guy. I keep encouraging him to put the ball on the floor more in the summer and work on those things to get better."
No one in the coaching profession will be overlooking Lauderdale from here on forward, including Ohio State. Make it a point that you don't either.