Padgett is back!

You have probably been following David Padgett's recruitment so closely this past few months that you may not have realized that he hasn't been playing. Well, he returned to his first action since the winter this past weekend when he hit the floor in Fresno. He showed little-to-no signs of rust, and instead showed why he truly deserves all the attention he receives.

For someone who has been such a great focus in this 2003 Stanford basketball recruiting class, it sure has been a long time since David Padgett actually played basketball.  David dislocated his knee back in January in a game, and has been out of commission ever since.  While he has been able to work out in the weight room, and do some skill work with his father and coach, Pete Padgett, he hasn't hooped it up against any competition for better than four months.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw David play at a very high level this past weekend at the Mats Madness tournament in Fresno - his first games since the injury and rehab.  To play seven games in three days en route to the tournament championship with his Pump N Run team, against top West Coast teams like EBO (Elite Basketball Organization), IEBP (Inland Empire Basketball Program) and Inland - well that should have been way more than he could handle for his first return to action.  Instead, David dominated through his first two days of play on both ends of the floor.  His first two games showed little rust, hitting for 23 and 18 points.

Though Sunday was when he really hit his groove.  As is a David Padgett trademark, he ran the floor exceptionally well with the high octane offense of the Pumps.  He showed only a little of his midrange and perimeter shot, but he absolutely killed defenders attacking the paint.  Some of that work came with his back to the basket, but much of it came facing the basket from the high post off the dribble.  His money move, which I saw over and over, was to attack along the baseline and hit the reverse lay-up.  Pause and think about the descriptions I am giving for David's size.  It is increasingly evident why he may be built and measured like a center, but with the skills that have Stanford and others recruiting him as a power forward.  And I do not have any reservations at this point in comparing him with the Collins twins.  When he starts to add some go-to low post moves, he should devastate opponents just as the Collins twins did in their final years.

Just for kicks, David showed off a running mini-hook across the lane.  There was no chance to defend it, and the ball went straight down the basket.  Another play that struck me came as he was running the break ahead of the defense.  One of the Pump guards through a long lob pass three-quarters of the length of the court, hitting David on the run.  He showed his soft hands receiving a hard and long pass, and looked smooth for someone his size catching it on the break like that.  Obviously, he had an easy finish at the basket.

On the other end of the court, David forced opponents' offenses to move completely to the perimeter, as he blocked just about anything near the basket.  While he does not have quite the reach and athleticism of a Curtis Borchardt, he has the timing and size that will make him a game-changer on defense.

His conditioning was greatly helped for the weekend's overload by a running regiment that has been part of his rehab process.  While the recovery from the injury did take David off the court, but it put him in the weight room three to four times a week.  Much of that work was understandably on his upper body, which has helped him add 15 pounds this year.  That 6'11" high school junior now tips the scales at 245 pounds, bringing a body developed and ready for college basketball much like his game.

As you might expect, though, AAU basketball does not often afford true big men like David the chance to bang inside, or even play against other true bigs.  With the pace of the game that moves so quickly up and down the floor, it is not at all uncommon to see a "center" on a team's roster generously measure at 6'6" or 6'7".  That is an important caveat to keep in mind, as David didn't receive much in the way of opposition from talented big men.  Nonetheless, his skills were clearly elite and rare for his size.

Make no mistake - David Padgett is back and better than ever.

Monday was a less notable day for David.  He might have had some fatigue from the prior days, but the real limiting factor was foul trouble.  He went up against a couple of guys who decided to try to neutralize him with very physical play on both ends of the floor.  That led to very frequent fouls from David, and sent him to the bench for long stretches of the game.  It didn't help that the referees were calling more fouls to try and settle down the games.

This was the first time I had been able to watch David actually play since last summer, and it is very clear why Stanford has David unwaveringly at the top of their list.  Speaking of recruitment, there isn't much news to share.  David's visits are done, and he won't really address his options until after the summer period is over.  The design of this timeline was such that David could get some good fact-finding under his belt and take some of the recruiting pressure off him.  Then focus on basketball exclusively during the summer.  And when someone like David is in such exceedingly high demand, he can afford to dictate the time schedule of his decision process to schools.

A few notes, though:

  • The top three of Stanford, Kansas and Arizona are still the same, and there is nobody else really challenging those top three at this time.  Though a final official visit or two to other schools could still happen this fall.
  • I had previously been under the impression that David and his parents were to take a return visit to Kansas.  His father had accompanied him to both Stanford and Arizona for unofficial visits, so the desire was to get that perspective on Lawrence to round things out.  While it is true that Pete and Debbie Padgett are looking at taking a trip to check out Kansas, David would not accompany them, as planned today.  That trip for the Padgett parents is not yet set in stone, in fact, hinging upon scheduling availability in June.
  • David plays things very close to the vest, and it is unlikely that you will be able to read from him who is favorite will be until his final decision is made.  But from what I have gathered, I would venture a guess that Kansas leads Stanford slightly, with Arizona trailing both.  I would not rule out Arizona, but a few signs point away from Tucson.  I see this as ultimately a Stanford/Kansas battle, not unlike what we saw with Josh Childress two years ago.
  • David is heading to Colorado currently for the 18-and-under US National Team tryouts.  He will be one of 34 high school juniors and seniors who will compete in four sessions from Friday through Sunday in the quest for 12 final spots.  Very recent Cardinal verbal commit Tim Morris will be there, as well as Stanford recruit Ryan Appleby.  Fellow Pump N Run standout forward Trevor Ariza will be there as well.

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