Recruiting Notebook: Tommy Amaker luring elite prospects to Harvard
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Harvard grabbing eye of top recruits
Mohamed Bamba and Wendell Carter are two of the top three players in the 2017 recruiting class. They have their pick of colleges. Their suitors include the usual heavy hitters like the Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats and a host of others. But their lists also include a name that may surprise you: Harvard.
Their involvement with each prospect and the legitimacy of it has been a big topic in the recruiting world. Carter has been adamant that the Crimson have a shot and even scheduled his first official visit for the weekend of Sept. 17. Bamba is expected to visit as well.
But whether the Crimson land Carter or Bamba isn’t necessarily the story.
Harvard’s incoming class is ranked in Scout’s top 25 and on paper is arguably the best class to enter the Ivy League. They’ve won five of the last six league titles and boast a player, Jeremy Lin, who for a stint was all the rage in the NBA.
“I think we’ve had some success with how the program has been viewed,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker told Scout. “We’ve had a few years now that’s been pretty strong for us. I think it’s been well received in the basketball community.”
That would be an understatement.
Harvard’s 2016 class consists of six players: three four-star prospects and a trio of three-star recruits. Their highest rated recruit, point guard Bryce Aiken, turned down multiple high major schools to go to Harvard, as did others in their class.
Harvard has a unique pitch. The academic niche is a significant component, and Amaker and his staff are using that—plus their track record of winning—to their advantage.
“I think kids are looking for interesting opportunities,” Amaker said. “We’ve been able to present ourselves as one of those. Kids aren’t afraid of doing something that may be viewed different or differently from the others or the norm. I think we are seeing that.
“We try to present who we are and what we think this opportunity could mean for them. No more or less. Just being brutally honest and straight about it. It isn’t for everyone, but for the right kid it can be imaginable.”
Harvard may swing and miss on both Bamba and Carter. In fact, it’s probable that the school will, but the fact that it is a legitimate option shows just how far the program has come—and where it’s going.
“We are seeing that these things we are talking about aren’t impossible,” Amaker said. “It’s all doable. To talk about it is one thing, but going out in doing it, having evidence of it, having a point of reference, there’s no doubting it. It’s not a pipe dream; it’s a track record. That’s what we try to present.
“The next part of that is to take it up another level, and that’s what we try to emphasize to these other guys that are coming along now, that we aren’t done yet. There’s more here to be had. How cool is it going to be when that actually happens? I think we are scratching the surface of some things. We are still trying to scale and climb other mountains.”
Romar, UW gets another elite talent
Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar has had five players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft in the last five years. That number should grow by one each of the next two seasons as well.
Markelle Fultz, Scout’s No. 1 point guard prospect in 2016, is already on campus and will be one of the best guards in college basketball next season.
Romar received more good news last week when his godson and top-five prospect in the 2017 class, Michael Porter, opted to commit. Although Porter’s pledge wasn’t a surprise, considering his father was hired as an assistant coach, it’s still a significant deal for Romar and his program.
Porter’s talents are evident upon first glance. He is 6' 8", has a lengthy set of arms and is gifted athletically. Offensively he’s skilled, and his shot from long-range is a weapon. He projects as starter and impact player from day one.
Realistically the family ties and Porter’s relationship with Romar is why the talented wing will put on a Huskies jersey, but his track record of preparing players for the NBA helped as well.
“When you turn two guys into first round draft picks that didn’t make the McDonald’s [All-American Game], people are going to notice,” one NBA executive told Scout, referring to Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. “What other program has taken two guys that weren’t supposed to be first round picks and didn’t play in the McDonald’s game and turned them into first round picks?”
Creighton nabs Kobe Paras
Kobe Paras, a 2016 wing, was expected to play at UCLA, but after being denied admittance to the school, Paras was forced to pursue other opportunities.
Late Sunday night, Paras found his new home with Greg McDermott and Creighton.
It could be tough for Paras, who ranks as the No. 21 small forward in his class, to be a major contributor for the Bluejays this coming season, but he certainly has the talent and ability to help them in time.
“Kobe Paras has the size, length, athleticism and skill to help Creighton,” Scout analyst Josh Gershon said. “He can play either wing position on offense and has a smooth stroke. He’s shoot-first but has good vision and has the ability to make teammates better.”
“Paras is more athletic vertically than laterally but has the size and length to make an impact on defense. If everything comes together for him he should be a good piece to the puzzle at Creighton.”
Paras joins Davion Mintz to make up Creighton’s 2016 class.