Hoops Recruiting Roundup: Jabari Bird, Zach LaVine on recruiting rise
After taking a month off, forward Jabari Bird is back in action at USA Hoops trials
Zach LaVine has grown three inches this year and is rising on the scouting radar
PG Steve Clark will visit UCLA; Sam Craft could also play basketball at Memphis
Another week of recruiting is in the books, and there was no shortage of prospects that impressed. As the college classes of the future continue to take shape, here's a recap of the latest Division-I happenings.
For most of May, Richmond (Calif.) Salesian small forward Jabari Bird kept a low profile. The No. 16 prospect in the class of 2013 needed some time off. Now, he's back in action in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he's trying out for USA Basketball's 18-and-under national team.
"I took a month off, but I'm back at it now," Bird said. "I just needed time off to rest."
A long and athletic wing with a developed mid-range game and the ability to finish at the rim, Bird isn't taking the opportunity to represent his country lightly.
"It's a huge honor to get invited to play for USA Basketball," he said. "It's always been a goal of mine to play for them since I was young."
Since USA Basketball could potentially keep him occupied for the better parts of June and July, Bird isn't focused on recruiting visits. He did take an unofficial trip to California a few weeks ago, and the Golden Bears are among his frontrunners, along with another Pac-12 program.
"UW (Washington) and Cal are at the top," Bird said. "Then Arizona, Oregon and Colorado."
He added, "I like both [Washington and Cal's] respective styles of play and I love their coaching staffs."
For now, Bird has no target date for a decision, as he is fully committed to making the USA team. That doesn't mean he's ignoring the recruiting process completely: After his experience, he anticipates scouts will see -- and covet -- a much more diverse player this fall.
When scouts saw point guard Zach LaVine last summer, he was intriguing. The Bothell (Wash.) High product could score and boasted above-average athleticism.
In 2012, LaVine still possesses both qualities. However, he's also grown three inches, to near 6-foot-4, and has similarly elevated his game to a new level.
With an explosive first step, impressive ball-handling skill and deep range, LaVine has developed into one of the nation's most skilled perimeter scorers. He can connect from deep, set up plays for others and drive to the lane and finish above the rim in traffic.
"I've grown a lot in the last year," LaVine said. "But I think with my game, people are just getting a better chance to see what I can do."
While in Southern California for last weekend's Pangos All-American Camp, LaVine snuck in a visit to UCLA. For now, it appears that the Bruins have a leg up on Arizona, Washington, Gonzaga, Washington State, Oregon, Louisville and Memphis in his recruitment.
LaVine will have another chance to impress at the NBPA Top 100 Camp next week. At the moment, he's one of the class of 2013's fastest-rising stars.
Over the past few years, the Illinois Wolves have not only emerged as one of the top AAU programs in the Midwest, but they've established themselves as one of the best teams throughout the entire country. This week, many Wolves players furthered that reputation, making college visits and earning scholarship offers.
It was only a few weeks ago that Keita Bates-Diop, the No. 39 prospect in the class of 2014, took a visit to Illinois, but he's already received an offer from the Illini. He also recently made his way to Louisville and Purdue, and plans head to Michigan over the weekend.
Malek Harris, a class of 2014 high-activity forward, also traveled to Louisville. He'll visit Indiana on Friday and will also drop by Michigan this weekend.
While he hasn't made an official declaration, point guard Stevie Clark has been leaning toward remaining in the class of 2013. He's expected at next week's NBPA Top 100 Camp, an event in which many of the nation's top 2013 and 2014 players will be in attendance.
The 5-foot-10 four-star prospect has been targeted for both 2013 and 2012, if he decides to enroll early. Most recently, UCLA has increased its effort, and, per Clark's mother, he'll visit the Bruins at the beginning of next week.
Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are among those that have been involved for a while, and Stanford, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Memphis are other potential options. Clark has interest in taking more visits during June, but with his current camp schedule, setting up dates thus far has been a challenge.
One of the top shooters in the country is 6-foot-6 shooting guard Steve Haney of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. A native of Michigan who moved to Florida before his junior year, Haney has big-time range and a very crisp stroke. He already owns offers from Detroit, Drake, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, South Florida and Central Florida, and has recently seen increased attention from Wake Forest, Stanford and Miami, among others.
Louisville scored an important commitment from 2012 power forward Montrezl Harrell over the weekend. However, he wasn't the only visitor. Virginia Tech combo forward Dorian Finney-Smith just wrapped up a visit, and 2013 four-stars Jajuan Johnson and Jordan Mickey were both on campus over the weekend.
A lot of players indicate that they want to play both football and basketball in college, so we'll see if Sam Craft has the opportunity to make that happen. The 5-foot-10, three-star point guard from Olive Branch (Miss.) High committed to Memphis on Tuesday for football (he's a three-star athlete), but says he also hopes to give hoops a go. If that's the case, the Tigers, by a stroke of luck, just landed an exceedingly tough floor general and a natural leader.
Class of 2015 high school and AAU teammates Elijah Thomas and Austin Grandstaff will take part in the Nike Elite 100 this weekend. While making their way from Rockwall (Texas), the duo squeezed in some unofficial visits. On Tuesday, they stopped by Oklahoma, and on Wednesday, they hit both Kansas and Missouri.
In the latest example of the it's-never-too-early mindset, class of 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton recently landed an offer from USC. The Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon product more than held his own at the Pangos All-American Camp, and on Wednesday, the 5-foot-11 prospect took an unofficial visit to the Trojans. Thornton will be a freshman during the 2012-13 school year.
For more recruiting coverage, visit Rivals.com basketball recruiting hub.
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