Can Vols Turn Cheeks?

As the nations No. 2 ranked shooting guard in the Class of 2009 Dominic Cheek falls into the most coveted category, but already standing 6-foot-7 some 20 months before the start of his freshman season in college he may become the country's top small forward.

Wherever and whatever he plays Cheeks is great candidate to become an instant star and his upside is even more exciting. That's why it's little wonder he already has offers from UConn, Florida, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Texas, Villanova, Wake Forest, Miami, North Carolina and Tennessee which comprise his current list of favorites.

Every ounce a top 10 prospect, Cheeks only needs to add some muscle on his 185-pound frame to take his game to the next level. That potential prompted ace basketball analyst Dave Telep to write: "Dominic Cheek, while playing with the Playaz, showed he's an elite level wing. We contend that while a Top 10 talent, he's even more prospect than player at this stage and that speaks to his tremendous upside. Every time we see him at a different venue he's grown an inch!"

Cheek's hardwood skills are augmented by a hard work ethic and that synthesis push him into the upper echelon of elite prospects last summer as the Jersey City, N.J., native opened eyes during the AAU campaign.

"It was the best summer I've ever had," Cheek told Telep. "Before the summer started I told my coach that I had a big goal and I promised him I was going to be one of the best players in the entire country. Me and him made a little bet about it."

Following a foolproof formula that says if you want to be the best you have to beat the best or at least play with the best, Cheeks became a summer sensation among the rail birds that follow the circuit.

"I just competed against everybody that were supposed to be the top players," he explained. "I knew I had something to prove to everybody and to prove that I was one of the top players. Every tournament that I went to I played my heart out for everybody because I want to be one of the top players in the country, too."

That mission has been unmistakably accomplished as he's currently ranked the nation's No. 7 prospect overall in the Class of 2009. Now the search for the best place to display his play is fully underway. Up until this point Cheeks has been focused on his junior season at St. Anthony's, but with a perfect 32-0 campaign in the books and USA Today's No. 1 ranking locked down he's ready to look in earnest.

He has made unofficial visits to North Carolina and the Tar Heels are regarded by many as his unofficial frontrunner, although there are conflicting reports about how strong the relationship remains. Cheeks has stated his intention to go through the process. He has also visited Wake Forest unofficially and has expressed strong interest in Villanova, Ohio State and Texas. Some Insider's regard the Wildcats as the school to beat, but if grades are an issue, as has been reported albeit not confirmed, he could spend a year in prep school.

That might be a positive given Tennessee is still attempting to break into the lead pack and tap into the deep talent reservoir at St. Anthony's, which has been directed by legendary high school coach Bobby Hurley for the past 34 years. During that time Hurley has amassed an incredible 22 state titles while posting an astounding 873-100 record. What makes that ongoing feat more remarkable is the fact St. Anthony's is a small Catholic school with a bare bones budget. The appropriately nicknamed Friars don't even own a gymnasium.

What they do have is basketball players that are as fundamentally sound and positively selfless as they are immensely talented and aggressively driven to succeed. Cheeks, who has been compared to Tayshaun Prince, may just have the best set of skills of any prospect over 6-foot-4.

Whether Cheeks plays D-I ball in 2009 or 2010, he'll be worth the wait.

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