The unofficial visit by Greenville (S.C.) Class of 2011 product Damien Leonard over the weekend “was extremely impressive,” according to his traveling team coach Willis Holliday.
In fact, the trip went so well, that Leonard wants to take in the campus again officially in the fall before signing in November, Holliday told me Sunday night.
For those who care about the Rivals.com star system, it appears that UA coach Sean Miller and his staff took a significant step toward landing their first Five-Star recruit (which includes their time at Xavier). Rivals.com’s initial Class of 2011 ratings show Leonard, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard/wing from J.L. Mann High School, as the No. 14 prospect, good enough for a Five-Star rating at this point.
“The facilities and the people are what impressed us the most,” said Holliday, who coaches the Carolina Cougars AAU program. “When you walk into that arena (McKale Center) and you see what Lute (Olson) did, you just come away amazed. Damien saw first hand how committed that university is to the basketball program.
“He also got to meet some academic advisors and they did a good job presenting the academic side of the university. I don’t think the visit could have gone any better for Damien.”
Leonard’s visit went without a hitch despite the fact that school is out and most of the Wildcats have departed to their hometowns.
Next in store for Leonard is a visit to Oklahoma State on June 3. He already has unofficially visited South Carolina, which “ranks right up there with Arizona in terms of how they hosted Damien’s visit,” Holliday told me. Leonard also has Clemson and Virginia Tech high on his list.
“I wouldn’t say I have a top five,” Leonard told me Friday before he departed for Tucson. “I guess you can say all of those schools are right up there.”
Holliday indicated to me that Leonard now wants to concentrate on training and his academics. He added, “I think we’re pretty much set on the schools we want to look at. I don’t foresee any other schools entering the picture. That’s how we’ll handle it.”
Holliday also reiterated that Leonard wants to narrow his choice to three schools by the end of the summer and take official visits to those institutions in the fall. That means Arizona stands a good chance of being in his top three.
In the meantime, Leonard will be busy with summer events and tournaments, including the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions the last weekend of this month. Leonard is also slated to take part in the adidas Nations training camps and events in Las Vegas (next weekend), Portland and Chicago. He will also participate in the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando in late July.
“Damien realizes he has to start focusing on his skills,” Holliday said. “The biggest things he wants to work on are his ball-handling and passing skills. Believe it or not, despite the fact that he is almost 6-5 and still undergoing a growing spurt, he can play the point.
“He will show that he can handle that position this summer by working hard at it.”
Holliday added that Leonard, whose best attribute is his perimeter shooting stroke, can grow into being a wing player.
“I can definitely see that because he has the potential to grow to 6-6 or 6-7,” Holliday said. “You have to be able to handle the ball and distribute at the wing, so that’s his focus this summer.”
RECRUITING NOTES: Chris Hill, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Christian Faith Center Academy in Raleigh, N.C., told me Saturday night that Arizona continues to show an interest in him. When asked how much, Hill answered: “A lot … I deal with Coach Emmanuel Richardson.” However, Hill said his completion of core classes has yet to be approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Hill, who transferred from Stevens Prep in Raleigh to the Christian Faith Center this school year, will also attend three summer-school classes to earn enough necessary credits. … Nevertheless, Hill said that Richardson has expressed an interest in him to take an unofficial visit to the UA campus next month. Hill is not certain of the date. “When players get back (for summer school), but I don’t know that date though,” he said. The first summer-school session starts June 7. Hill scored 30 points with 14 rebounds and six assists when Stevens Prep played Doron Lamb and Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy earlier this season. … How about this for a recruiting twist involving Arizona and Kentucky? A Kentucky targeted recruit from that state has been offered a scholarship by Miller, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Darryl Hicks, a Class of 2013 shooting guard from Shelby County High School, has been offered a scholarship by Indiana and Arizona, but he lists his top three as Indiana, Kentucky and Cincinnati. In the last two weeks, primary Arizona targets Kadeem Jack of Manhattan (N.Y.) Rice High School and former Florida forward Eloy Vargas have focused their attention on John Calipari’s program instead. Vargas committed to Kentucky over the weekend.