Omar Wilkes is a rare recruit who has everything that intrigues Cardinalmaniacs™: a national profile since his sophomore year, superlative bloodlines, a strong academic profile, Curtis Borchardt-esque infectious smile, soft shooting touch, great decision making, a tight relationship with David Padgett and longstanding mutual interest with Stanford. And the list goes on.
So when I heard that the #1 Pump N Run team with Omar and David were going to be playing in the Mats Madness tournament in Fresno this past weekend, rather than the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in North Carolina as previous planned, I knew I had to make the drive down Highway 99. Indeed I was rewarded, with the chance to watch the Pumps play five times and take the tournament title. I specifically was able to see a lot more of Omar's game, and also had the chance to chat with him throughout. The former can help me better convey to you as a Cardinalmaniac™ just what kind of player Omar is and could be, while the latter helps to fill in some of the blanks in his recruiting picture.
The one overarching down note for Omar this weekend was his health. He felt ill throughout the tournament: on Sunday opining that he had got some Kobe'ish food poisoning, while on Monday being overwhelmed with a head and chest illness. Stack that on top of the demand of playing seven games in three days at the high pace of AAU competition, and it's amazing this kid kept up at his level. Monday was his weakest and most miserable day, with three games in the span of just five hours against the top performing teams in the tournament's finals bracket. Thus you might guess the young Wilkes would wilt, but he instead scored 18, 17 and 14 points in those final contests.
Despite his anemic condition, Omar played very well throughout the tournament. One important difference I would note was his position and responsibilities. When I last saw him in early April in Vegas for the Pump Easter tournament, he was playing half or more of his time at the point, alternating with Mike Watson. The Pumps have made some changes since then, bringing on board a few outstanding sophomores (rising juniors - class of 2004), and parting ways with Mikel Watson. The most relevant addition was fellow Loyola standout Vincent Oliver, a very impressive point guard. Oliver's presence boosted the entire team's play, and also allowed Omar to play the lion's share of his minutes at the off-guard position. I have little doubt now that the "2" is where Omar is best suited to play in college, and that allowed me to get a better glimpse at what he could bring at the next level.
Omar is still growing, and now is roughly 6-3 1/2, rather than the 6-2 number you've long seen attached to his profile. Makes you wonder what he might become, with his 6-7 father and 6-8 younger brother Jordan... His handle is solid, but I can not see him as a Pac-10 level point guard. I mention that specifically because Stanford has likely three scholarships in this class, and one of them would ideally go to a "ballhandler." That is not necessarily a true point guard, like a Ryan Appleby or Derek Raivio, but could be a shooting guard with a strong enough handle and quickness that could fill in at the point at times. I can't see Omar fulfilling that requirement, though his handle and point-guard-like abilities are ahead of a Casey Jacobsen or Matt Lottich, by comparison. I could see him bringing the ball up the floor against some good pressure and running the offense, though not against USC pressure or Cal's AJ Diggs. Thus I see Omar filling the wide-ranging roll of a "wing" in this class, which could range from a shooting guard all the way up to a big small forward like (arguably) Sean Phaler.
Omar showed this weekend that he runs the floor very well, gets out quickly on the wing on the break, can shoot a smooth and silky shot outside the arc, and dribble penetrate. A couple of his favorite plays I saw had him drive to the basket and spin to make the pass to a forward when he draws the defensive help... as well as the the give-and-go from the top of the key with a big man in the high post. I comment on those plays because you just don't see that level of offensive design and execution in AAU games.
Omar is a good passer and a very clear on-floor coach for his team. When things get riled up, he settles his guys down. He leads both by example and by words, on defense as well as offense. And while he doesn't have Julius Barnes hops, he is a good leaper with long arms that helps him play against forwards inside. Still, I wouldn't say that he is an overall athlete at the elite level like some other guards you'll see his age. He does a lot of things very well similar to a Dan Grunfeld or Casey Jacobsen, but smaller with better overall skills.
On top of all this, Omar is a great kid who you absolutely want to have in your program. From all the kids I've met and talked with in both basketball and football, I tell you that Omar is truly one of the most special and enjoyable. He carries himself so well on and off the court, and is one of those kids who just acts more mature than he should be for his age - comfortable with his peers as well as a group of coaches.
On the recruiting front, the most notable event for Omar Wilkes has been his official visit to Kansas with buddy David Padgett. As I reported a couple weeks ago, David was particularly positive on the people on the team he met in Lawrence, and the ease he felt there. Similarly, Omar told me that he came away with a high comfort level with the Jayhawks.
"It's like a family there. Coach Williams is like a father, and the guys are all like brothers."
Omar also told me that Kansas tendered an offer during the visit, though they are not rushing him into a decision. With his talent level, that is a sensible thing for the Jayhawks. Indeed, Omar will wait until the fall to take any more official trips, focusing this summer on his basketball. Those plans include the upcoming NBPA camp in June, ABCD camp in early July, Adidas Big Time later in July, and the Best of Summer event that follows.
There has been some question as to where Omar might take his remaining visits. The last time I talked to him, he clearly had more schools on his list than he had official visits to take. With Kansas now under his belt, Omar told me in Fresno that the only two places he is sure he will take official visits are Stanford and Cal. Kansas, Stanford, Cal and USC are the teams he says are giving him serious attention and enough love right now, with UCLA mysteriously to him lagging. Of course, those who know about UCLA's slack recruiting will not be surprised.
The other schools of real interest to Omar have been Maryland, Arizona and Florida, though he says Florida has taken or is about to take someone at his position. Arizona has stopped recruiting him, which leaves just Maryland to watch in this group. Additionally, if there is one outside team he'd love to still hear from, it's Duke. He has always been a fan, and would love a visit.
I have heard rumors that Omar's interest in Stanford has been waning of late, and asked him directly if there is any truth to that. He was a little taken aback and bristled at the suggestion.
"I don't know who told you that, but whoever did doesn't know what they are talking about. I'm filling out the admissions application right now, and if I didn't have interest in St