Vargas to Kentucky with NBA on the mind; Leonard sincere with UAby Javier Morales on May. 15, 2010, under Sports
Some of this entry is part of the “Nothing but the Notes” package at WILDABOUTAZCATS.com
In the last year, I have interviewed a number of potential UA recruits and their parents and coaches.
The one who I believed showed the most interest in Arizona before committing was Phoenix North shooting guard Daniel Bejarano, who talks as if he wants to wear the Arizona uniform yesterday.
Another recruit has now surfaced who is showing a genuine interest in Arizona like Bejarano is a Class of 2011 Rivals.com Five-Star recruit. Although Greenville (S.C.) J.L. Mann wing player Damien Leonard told me Friday he remains “wide open” with his recruiting choice, he sounded like he is sincere about wanting learn about the advantages of attending the University of Arizona. Leonard is taking an unofficial visit of the UA campus this weekend with his traveling coach Willis Holliday.
“I’m going over there wanting to learn everything I need to know about the school and the program,” Leonard told me. “I would not be going there if I didn’t think it was worth the trip. This visit is very important to us in this process.”
Meanwhile, former UA target Eloy Vargas announced Saturday he will sign with Kentucky after visiting the Lexington school Friday. Vargas, a former Florida forward who attended Miami-Dade Junior College this season, was originally scheduled to visit Arizona but that hit a snag because of the uncertainty of Vargas’ role next season with Arizona.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Vargas committed to Kentucky partly because Kentucky coach John Calipari has promised him playing time to improve his NBA stock, as long as the prospect works hard.
“Eloy was impressed with how blunt (Calipari) was,” AAU coach Kenny Gillion told the Courier-Journal. “He told him there was an opportunity to play and get to the NBA as long as he was as good as he says he is and as long as he comes in and works hard … That was a huge selling point for Eloy.”
Miller has gone on record saying he recruits players who want to play within his team concept first and foremost. Therein lies the difference in recruiting philosophies: Calipari talks more about individual agendas and working with the player to meet those goals. Miller is more geared toward talking to the recruit about how he might fit in to Miller’s system.
Others who took visits to Arizona seem to treat it as an exercise, saying in essence that the visit would not sway their opinion one way or another. That’s not the case with Leonard, who is using the visit as a gauge to help narrow his choices to three schools after the summer high-profile events and AAU circuit of tournaments.
The other schools high on his list include Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
“We’re hoping to take what we learn on this trip and use it as a future reference,” said Holliday, coach and director of the Carolina Cougars’ AAU program in South Carolina.
Although news of Leonard’s visit surfaced last week, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound player has been on Miller’s radar since last summer.
“The way coach Miller has recruited Damien has been by the book, and he has developed a very good relationship with us,” Holliday said. “Damien has wanted to take this visit for a while because of his relationship with some of their coaches and now he finally gets that chance.”
Leonard has played in Arizona before at the “Duel in the Desert” in Phoenix so he knows what to expect about Tucson’s weather.
“Oh yeah, I’ve packed some T-shirts and shorts,” Leonard said with a laugh. “I’ve been in the desert before. I just haven’t been to Tucson before but I’m looking forward to seeing what the city and the school are all about.”
Leonard and Holliday left Greenville, which will be in the 80s this weekend, but the humidity there is listed as almost 80 percent. Tucson could reach the 90s this weekend but as the saying goes, it’s a dry heat.
Miller and his staff likely view Leonard as a versatile wing player who can also occupy the shooting guard position. By the time Leonard graduates from high school, he may grow a couple of inches to 6-foot-6, a height befitting of a small forward.
The UA is in need of a wing player who can accurately shoot from the perimeter to extend the defense. That idea is exemplified with the recruitment of JUCO transfer Jesse Perry, who can play either on the wing or at power forward. Otherwise, the UA does not have a pure shooter from the small forward position.
Therefore, the recruitment of Leonard does not necessarily interfere with having Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep guard Nick Johnson high on their Class of 2011 list. “This is not only my opinion but also that of others: Damien is the top shooter in his class in the country,” Holliday said.