CuseNation.com's Ben Sigel first reported that Syracuse was going to watch 2016 big man Cheickna Dembele on Wednesday. It is, in fact, assistant coach Gerry McNamara that will be making the trip to watch Dembele and Scotland Performance Institute (SPI) play in their final regular season game. This will be the second time that the Orange have watched Dembele.
"These guys should be worry about the Sweet-16 and they're still finding time to come see him," SPI head coach Jareem Dowling said. "We're not dumb. We know what point of the season they're in. That speaks volumes."
Dembele is an intriguing prospect. He holds offers from Iowa State, Missouri, NC State and Providence, among others. He is somewhat of a late arriver to the recruiting scene, having just come to the United States from Mali (Africa) immediately prior to the 2015-16 campaign.
How he ended up with coach Dowling at SPI was a simple story, but one that was time consuming and has resulted in his name emerging as schools are able to evaluate him.
"A friend of mine that knew Cheick and knew his family," coach Dowling said. "He wanted a chance to come to America. We got him. It took a while to get him and get him through the Embassy, but we eventually got him. It was just a friend of mine that knew his family, knew that he played basketball and had some potential.
"He went to all of the camps over there and really worked on his skills over there. We were just lucky to get him, that's all, being honest."
As a player, coach Dowling says it is easy to see why schools have offered and are showing interest. He believes Dembele is a talent that can play and contribute at the division one level.
"I think if Cheick goes to the right institution, Cheick is going to be one of the most productive freshman bigs in the country," coach Dowling said. "I don't care about rankings and all that stuff. He goes to the right situation and he gets adequate minutes, which he will earn and not be given, he will produce. He will be one of the most productive freshmen in college basketball next year.
"I always tell people, he's a pre-cooked meal from Wal-Mart that you just have to follow the instructions. If you want extra sides on it, you just add the extra sides. But if you follow the directions, you can't mess it up. That's how good Cheick is. His work ethic is what makes him great because he brings it every single day."
Coach Dowling says he sees Syracuse as one of those potential "right institutions" along with a handful of others. He says he has no problem sending one of his players to Syracuse and thinks highly of the program.
But Dembele's recruiting process is just starting to gain focus. Right now they are focused on the final game of the regular season. The plan after that is to give him a week off where the coaches do not speak about recruiting with him. After that, they will have a discussion about the schools recruiting him and come up with a plan.
That plan will include which schools to visit and most important factors in Dembele's decision. Visits will then be scheduled sometime in April. After visiting the schools of choice, Dembele, the SPI coaches and Dembele's family will have a discussion about the trips. If they feel comfortable making a decision at that point, then one will be made.
For now, keep an eye on Dembele's recruitment as Syracuse continues to express interest. Adding a big to the 2016 class is something the Orange feel is necessary, and Dembele would certainly fit the mold. There are frontcourt minutes available next season, so picking up someone who can contribute right away is critical.