Up until about a month ago, Vargas, ranked as the No. 10 recruit in the class of 2008 by
To be playful, not impolite, Vargas, who was born in Moca, Dominican Republic, an agricultural city with a population of 60,000, and only began playing basketball when he was 14, got creative. Instead of saying he did not know, the shy, but sly, big man with big-time talent, stated simply that he would attend nearby Nova Southeastern University, which plays in the Sunshine State Conference. That was misleading, though. The 6-foot-10, 215-pound senior at American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.) already knew he planned on committing to the University of Florida. "I am glad to know where I will be going to school next year," said Vargas before he sent in his signed National Letter of Intent Wednesday night. "I met a lot of good coaches and people, but in the end I wanted to be a Gator."
For Vargas, 18, the road to Gainesville has been longer than for most instate recruits. In just three years of living in the U.S., Vargas has gone from being Heritage's third option on offense, who could barely speak English, to a nationally acclaimed prospect. At the start of his sophomore year in 2005, he left his parents and two sisters behind and arrived on the campus of Miami's Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School without knowing any English. The next winter, after transferring to Heritage, Florida's largest private school with more than 2,000 students, Vargas opened the season with three consecutive 20-point, 20-rebound games. He went on to average 20 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks per game while leading the Patriots to 20 wins and the state regional semifinals, their most successful season in history.
"Eloy's come a long way," says his coach,
Although Vargas is called "Yao" by his teammates (in reference to
As a reigning second-team All-State selection, Vargas did not ease up his regimen last summer. Rather than soak in the sun and bask in the afterglow of his accomplishments, he spent most hours training and traveling with Team Breakdown, which won the AAU 17-under National Championships in Orlando. In the final game, Vargas caught a no-look alley-oop pass from Heritage teammate
To shift into higher gear this season, especially with the Patriots' aggressive schedule featuring top out-of-state competition like the marquee match up with American Christian (Aston, Pa.) star guard