White, Cousins turn down top programs for familiarity of home
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. --
"I know that schools on the coasts like North Carolina and UCLA don't get to see you every day like the people on their coasts," White said Monday after he and the Howard Pulley Panthers finished a game at the Nike Peach Jam. "I took that into account, and I still thought Minnesota was the best place for me."
A month earlier, another top-flight recruit turned down the big boys to help his hometown team. LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) High center
Though the low-key White and the fiery Cousins have completely different games and personalities, they do share one trait. They are cornerstone recruits for a pair of coaches who are letting their actions prove that they might have been run out of their previous jobs -- both at iconic programs -- a tad too early.
If White follows through with his commitment and lands at Minnesota in 2009, Golden Gophers fans will owe a thank-you to former coach
White, meanwhile, paid special attention to how the Gophers handled the transition from Monson to Smith. He had offers from Michigan State and Illinois, and the aforementioned national powers had jumped into the fray as well, but Monson's recruitment had left an impression. "When coach Smith came, I watched closely -- how he coached, his intensity, how he was looked at off the court, his reputation and what he did for the team," White said. "He brought that team really far with the talent that he had. ... I just liked the way the program was going."
Cousins also bonded with the first coach to recruit him hard. Three years ago,
In the meantime, Cousins was thrown off his high school team for disciplinary reasons. (It wasn't a legal issue, said Cousins, who declined to reveal specifics.) That scared off some college coaches. "A lot of schools stopped recruiting me," the 6-11, 269-pound Cousins said Monday. "Mike Davis didn't." Cousins understands some coaches may have reservations about him, but he appreciates the fact that Davis gave him advice to help guide him through his troubles. "I don't take it personally," Cousins said. "They're just doing their jobs. Some of them think I'm a headcase. ... I'm OK."
Some of those coaches resumed their recruitment of Cousins, but he wanted to reward Davis for his loyalty with a commitment. Now, Cousins hopes to team with Davis to help make UAB a legitimate challenger to the Conference USA throne currently occupied by Memphis. "Birmingham is where I'm from," Cousins said. "I want to represent. If we can bring a championship back home, that would be big for me and my city."
Coaches attending the Peach Jam usually try to stand out as much as possible. NCAA rules forbid college coaches from speaking to the players, so whether they're scouting a player on their board or babysitting a committed player, coaches want to make sure prospects see them. To achieve this, most coaches wear clothes that leave no doubt as to who their employer is.
This year's winner for best use of a garment as a billboard is Mississippi State coach
Meanwhile, Memphis coach
Players at the Peach Jam probably aren't heading back to their hotels and breaking down film, but the officials are. Most of the refs working the tournament work in Division II or III or in the mid-major conferences, and most would someday like to jump to the power conferences. So for the past five years, SEC officials have run a camp of their own to train and identify up-and-coming officials.
"It's spring training for them," said
Veteran SEC officials such as
"This sends a statement," Boudreaux said. "Guys don't just pick up their uniforms in November and get on the floor."