Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tehvyn Brantley's great adventure begins

You may remember us telling you about Durham Mt. Zion wide receiver Tehvyn Brantley and his amazing travel plans for June--Brantley and father Leroy plan to attend 22 combines and college camps in 28 days, criss-crossing the country from coast to coast.

Today the Great Adventure began, as Brantley participated in a Scout.com combine in Los Angeles. He called not long after it was over to catch us up on his status.

The first thing you should know about Brantley is that his nickname is "The Martian," because he doesn't seem human in that he never seems to get tired. Get back to me on that after you're finished with this insane month, Tehvyn.

Anyway, Brantley said the trip couldn't have started any better. The Scout folks already knew him from their combine in Charlotte when he was the offensive MVP, and were aware that he could play.

"This was a wonderful day," he said from his LA hotel room. "I woke up to a call from Florida--they're recruiting me the hardest, along with UCLA and Arizona State. It's kind of funny; I'm getting more love from the West Coast than from the East."

Brantley said he measured in at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and that may be part of the problem for some schools. But he improved his 40-yard dash speed, clocking a legit 4.57, and had his best pro shuttle time ever of 4.28.

"And I killed 'em in the one-on-one (receiving) drills," he said, his enthusiasm spilling over the phone.

Someone wanted a picture when he was done for the website, and asked if he wanted it taken with that Clemson hat he was wearing. Brantley laughed and quickly removed it.

"I was like, 'no way!" he said. "I need to keep all my options open."

Brantley is ready to keep it rolling.

"I've been in the weight room, getting set for this, and I aced all my exams, so I'm ready to go," he said.

The Great Adventure continues Monday, at the camp of Arizona State. --Stan Olson

Charlotte Christian's Brown gets two more offers

Kelby Brown, the only one of Charlotte Christian's three highly recruited linebackers yet to make a commitment, has received two more offers, with Louisville and Boston College adding their names to the list, coach Jason Estep said today.

Brown is a member of possibly the strongest group of LBs in North Carolina. He also has offers from Syracuse, East Carolina, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern and Arkansas.

Fellow LBs Ty Linton and David Durham already have committed, to North Carolina and Ohio State respectively. --Stan Olson

Keep me posted at solson@charlotteobserver.com if you have any recruiting news.

Friday, May 29, 2009

S.C. speedster our Sleeper of the Day

JERRELL PRIESTER, RB, Allendale-Fairfax

Jerrell Priester can flat-out fly.

I watched him rip through a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at a combine last month, and the first thing he said afterward while still gasping for breath was, “I ran a 4.31 last week.”

I believe him. The 4.5 was over a grassy, bumpy practice field, and was the second-best time of the day out of the best efforts of perhaps 200 players.

Priester grinned. “I ain’t used to this kind of surface,” he said, still wheezing. “I’m used to smooth surfaces.”

Priester, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back at Allendale-Fairfax High, makes our sleeper list because he has legitimate, big-time, BCS-caliber speed. While it took many area schools a long time to notice him, others got in early.

He was first offered by S.C. State, but since then East Carolina and—ahem—Notre Dame have offered scholarships. Kentucky joined them last week.

They saw a kid who piled up 1,194 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior. And a young man who would be happy to play defensive back or even linebacker if it will get him on the field.

“I’ll play wherever I’m needed,” Priester said. “I didn’t play until my ninth-grade year, but I’ve loved football all my life.”

Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Virginia Tech are among others showing interest. They better show more than that quickly; Jerrell Priester has begun using that speed of his to take off. –Stan Olson

Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at
solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Recruiting slowing down--momentarily

The spring college evaluation period for high school football players ended with last week, and now things should calm down for awhile as far as offers and commitments.

Don’t think that colleges didn’t take advantage of their visiting time, though; they swarmed over prep campuses across the country.

“We had over 40 Division I-A and I-AA colleges visit our school,” said Independence defensive backs coach Josh Kranish.

The break, though, is momentary.

Colleges will now host summer camps—mostly in June—and many of their top recruiting targets have been invited. After weighing and measuring them and watching them work out, the coaches will sort through all the numbers and tape and weed many off the list.

Those that remain will likely be offered scholarships. –Stan Olson

Hear of an offer? Pop me an email at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

South Stanly standouts receive more offers

South Stanley DE Justin Taylor has collected a trio of new scholarship offers, adding N.C. State, Virginia, Auburn to his list, South Stanly coach Luke Little said this evening. Taylor, who is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds with 4.7-second speed in the 40-yard dash, has also been offered by Louisville and Arkansas.

Taylor is one of three South Stanly players drawing considerable interest from major programs.

WR Detric Allen has added an offer from Louisville to previous offers from Arkansas and East Carolina. And QB Desi Brown, who will likely play defense at the next level, has also been attracting attention.

Little says that all three players plan to attend the Wolfpack’s summer camp. Allen and Brown are both going to Wake Forest’s gathering, and Taylor will camp at North Carolina. Allen will also drop in at Duke. --Stan Olson

As always, if you hear of an offer or a commitment, drop me a line at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Sleeper of the Day: Seeing double

It took awhile, but now Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Johns can tell Ryan and Zach Cook apart. But it does help that Zach wears a No.40 jersey, while Ryan pulls on No.44.

See, Ryan and Zach are identical twins, and almost carbon copies on a football field. Both are outside linebackers. And if Zach’s a little longer, Ryan’s a little stronger, not that you’d notice in either case.

Both players are in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound range, and last season, Zach was in on 120 tackles, Ryan on 113. Ryan, though, missed one game or they might have finished dead even in that category as well.

Both, of course, run the same 4.6-second 40-yard dash.

“And they’re best friends,” says Johns. They also put the shot and throw the discus in track.

The twins come from good bloodlines. Dad Jeff Cook was a football letterman at Wake Forest.

Their lack of height has kept the area’s bigger schools away, but FCS schools like Elon and The Citadel, and Division II programs like Catawba are strongly interested. And their dad believes they might not be done growing.

“I was a 6-4, 245-pound outside linebacker at Wake Forest in the ‘80s, so they have a lot of growing left to do,” Jeff Cook wrote in an email.

Also helping is the twins’ athleticism; both previously were highly rated competitors in youth soccer and wrestling.

They've been invited to 22 college summer one-day camps, and they hope to attend college together, but it's not a requirement. Now, if dad’s genes can give them an inch or two more, look for the area’s bigger schools—including the Deacons—to take serious notice. –Stan Olson

Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today's Sleeper: Sherrill is healthy, wide awake



KANE SHERRILL, Offensive Tackle, Lake Norman

If Kane Sherrill was an inch or two taller, most of the country's college elite might soon be recruiting him to play on their offensive lines. He’s not.

Make no mistake, Sherrill, an offensive tackle at Lake Norman High, is huge compared to you and me. He stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 270 pounds.

“It’s just that he isn’t one of those giant monsters, those 6-6 and 6-7 guys that the big schools want to play OT in their programs today,” said Lake Norman coach Scott Sherrill.

Kane was also slowed by a serious ankle injury that cost him half of his junior season, a year when exposure is considered vital. Now, after the spring evaluation period, the larger schools know of him, but they want to see a little more.

Sherrill has been invited to the Junior Day camps of N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest, along with those at Wofford, Appalachian, Gardner-Webb and Elon. He’s planning on going and making an impact.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s a coaches’ son, and that even when he was hurt, Scott was bringing home game DVDs to his boy for study.

Sherrill, who has 5.2-second speed in the 40-yard dash, can bench-press 300 pounds. And he has the position’s techniques down. Last season when he was hurt, he spent considerable time passing them on to his replacement at left tackle, Tyler Thrasher.

And we will leave you with this: “He’s been in the lineup for over 500 passing plays in his career,” said Scott. “He’s given up no sacks.”

--Stan Olson

Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Arkansas offers Charlotte LB Brown scholarship

Charlotte Christian LB Kelby Brown added another bigtime offer to his list last night.

“Arkansas called and offered,” said Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep.

Brown, who is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, is a member of possibly the strongest group of LBs in North Carolina. He now has offers from Syracuse, East Carolina, Duke, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern, Estep said.

“I think he wants to wrap this up by the end of June; that’s his timeline,” Estep said. “He’s never been to Arkansas, and I think he wants to go there before deciding.”

Brown’s fellow linebackers are North Carolina commitment Ty Linton and Ohio State commitment David Durham.

–Stan Olson

Area schools chasing S. Columbus' Farmer

Ethan Farmer, the defensive tackle from South Columbus High in Tabor City, continues to draw big-time offers.

Most recently, he was offered by East Carolina, and now has seven, as the Pirates join Alabama, Clemson, Duke, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Tennessee in the scholarship parade.

Farmer has blown up big recently, spurred on by numbers at recent camps. He is 6-foot-2 and 257 pounds with 4.9 speed in the 40-yard dash.

He was most surprised by the Alabama offer. And he’s still waiting on one from North Carolina. A source close to the Tar Heels’ program, though, said that might be awhile in coming.

“They like Ethan, but they figure because of his height, he is a defensive tackle in college, and they are already recruiting six DTs. And they only plan to take two this year. That doesn’t rule Ethan out, but an offer might be awhile coming.”

Meanwhile the list of suitors is expected to keep growing. Wake Forest, Tennessee and Virginia have also been to recent practices to scope Farmer out.

*By the way, check back later for our Sleeper of the Day. At one time, it could have been Farmer, but every school seems to know all about him now.

–Stan Olson

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sleeper of the Day, and a leader of the band

MARCUS BYRD, DE/OT, Hickory St. Stephens

Marcus Byrd had had a forgettable freshman season. He had been a too-skinny kid who attracted little notice on the Hickory St. Stephens junior varsity team. He decided to change all that, though, and over the winter, spring and summer of 2007, he pumped and pushed the iron in the school’s weight room, getting bigger and stronger by the day.

And in August of that year, when the first day of one-on-one drills began in preseason practice, Byrd lined up at defensive end and ripped past every offensive lineman the team had.

Then he wandered over to where the varsity lines were practicing, and asked the coaches for a chance to go one-on-one with the upperclassmen. The coaches, who barely remembered this kid from the previous year, smiled and said, why not?

So Byrd proceeded to go head-to-head with one varsity lineman after another, once again beating every one.

St. Stephens coach Fred Whalen chuckles now at the memory.

“We took his jayvee jersey off right there and gave him a varsity jersey. I’d never seen that happen in my 13, 14 years of coaching football. Nobody applauded or anything—I think the varsity kids were in shock.”

Byrd has been surprising people since, playing offensive tackle and DE for St. Stephens. And he’s not your ordinary two-way player. How about being a standout on the football team and at the same time playing saxophone in the school band?

While he obviously can’t play on game nights, Byrd is with the band in weekend step competitions. And his days are full with off-season conditioning workouts and in-season football practice, along with working on that sax. He is a band section leader. He also plays in the Indians’ jazz band, which plays at fund-raising events.

Because Byrd is 6 feet tall and 225 pounds, the big colleges are paying little attention. He already has an offer from Lenoir-Rhyne, though, and is drawing considerable interest from Appalachian, Benedict, Elon, Liberty and Richmond.

As a junior, he graded out at 89 percent on his blocking, with 31 pancake blocks and no sacks allowed. Defensively, Byrd had seven sacks, 52 tackles and 21 assists. Throw in a 3.78 GPA (out of 4.0) and he appears college-ready.

They always say you can’t teach height, and Byrd’s may be impossible to overcome. But he does have good 4.7-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and he does have that take-no-prisoners attitude on the field, so don’t bet against him. Those St. Stephens offensive line must be glad they didn’t. Stan Olson

Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recruiting eyes on Providence Day's Litton

Suddenly, Providence Day rising junior QB Price Litton is a hot ticket. And that’s without even having had a starting gig yet.

Litton was a backup to Anthony Boone at Weddington last season, and would be again had he stayed at the school. So he transferred to Providence Day. In the meantime, he has been going to camps and combines, and recruiters have begun to take notice. I saw him throw at a recent combine and was impressed with his accuracy and arm strength.

While it’s a bit early for offers, Litton is being courted by Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA and Virginia.

At the moment, he’s planning to attend the camps of Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Apparently, sometimes all those camps and combines can make a difference, particularly for a player who has had little game exposure. –Stan Olson

Sleeper of the Day: TE/LB Andrew Wilson

ANDREW WILSON, Tight end/linebacker, West Stanly High

As a sophomore, Wilson was an offensive and defensive tackle, big enough for the position in high school but nothing outstanding. Last year, though, he morphed into a linebacker/tight end.

Defensively, he had 48 solo tackles and 19 assists, plus five fumble recoveries and an interception. Offensively, he caught 16 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. And although his numbers weren’t overwhelming, those who watched his games could see the promise of things to come.

Now it’s time. Wilson has grown to 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, and can run a 4.9-second 40-yard dash. He’s also athletic, winning all-conference honors as a power forward in basketball. And he's strong academically (a 4.6 grade-point average) and can meet the standards of any school.

“He’s real athletic, but he’s also hard-nosed,” said West Stanly coach Mark Little. “All of a sudden, a lot of people are starting to look at him. Schools like Virginia Tech, N.C. State, North Carolina and Elon have come by recently, plus a bunch more.

“I think he’s definitely a Division I player.”

Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com. –Stan Olson

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Team Final wins Tournament of Champions

CHAPEL HILL - The CP3 All-Stars, who were loaded with North Carolina talent, fell short Sunday in a bid for the 17-and-under championship at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions club basketball event.

Syracuse-bound guard Dion Waiters of Burlington, N.J., scored 27 points to lead Team Final to a 72-64 defeat of CP3 in the tournament final at the Smith Center. Waiters was named the tournament's most valuable player.

Mike Gilchrist, a 15-year-old forward who's among the top players in the Class of 2011, added 22 points.

Reggie Bullock, a North Carolina commitment who scored 27 points in the semifinals, was held to five in the final.

- Ken Tysiac

Jones' TOC rise unprecedented

Chris Jones’ emergence as a big-time talent this weekend is unprecedented in the 16-year history of the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.

Jones, a 6-foot guard for the Memphis Stallions, was averaging a tournament-high 40 points per game before an injury limited him to 11 points in his final game Sunday.

“In 16 years, I can’t think of one that was virtually unknown,” said All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons, who runs the club basketball even each year at gyms throughout the Triangle. “I’d never heard of the kid.”

Jones scored 50 and 41 in two games Saturday. Although the tournament roster lists him as a Class of 2010 player, apparently he’s in the Class of 2011.

It’s impossible to say who’s recruiting him at this point because until this weekend almost nobody had heard of him. He plays on a Melrose High team in Memphis where he has been overshadowed by forward Adonis Thomas, who’s considered one of the top players in the Class of 2011.

After this weekend, Jones will be, too. Gibbons compared his shooting form to J.J. Redick’s, and said Jones is an example of a player who will benefit tremendously from his work on the often-criticized summer club basketball circuit.

“He’s just a very complete scoring guard,” Gibbons said.

- Ken Tysiac

TOC evaluations: Bullock, Leslie shine

Reggie Bullock and C.J. Leslie were every bit as good as expected.

Ryan Harrow was even better than advertised.

Along with hundreds of other highly recruited basketball players, they spent the weekend in the Triangle performing for their club teams at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. Here is an evaluation of some players of local interest with the tournament about to conclude:

Reggie Bullock, 6-7 WG, Kinston, North Carolina commitment: Excellent 3-point shooter cemented his status as a high-level talent. He has very good size and defends and rebounds well for his position, but isn’t a great finisher in the lane. He sometimes gets criticized for letting the game come to him, but he turns it on when necessary, as evidenced by his 27 points against the Atlanta Celtics in the semifinals.

Josh Hairston, 6-9 PF, Spotsylvania, Va., Duke commitment: He can handle the ball and shoot a mid-range jumper, and knows how to get fouled on a post-up. He is athletic enough to be a solid defender on the block and could be a solid presence on the boards if he gets stronger. He won’t be a dominating power forward in the ACC, but he is the kind of player who can play a quality role in keeping Duke hovering around the top 10.

P.J. Hairston, 6-6, WF, Greensboro: Rated the top player in the Class of 2011 in North Carolina, Hairston is a solid 215 pounds and isn’t afraid to get up on the glass and mix it up with the big boys. He isn’t nearly as good a shooter as Bullock, but probably is a bit tougher.

Ryan Harrow, 6-1 PG, Marietta, Ga., N.C. State commitment: He’s just 158 pounds, but don’t let his tiny frame fool you. Harrow has a great handle and uses his tremendous quickness to get into the paint and score over bigger, stronger players. His no-look, creative passes helped him lead the tournament in oohs and aahs. He does need to get stronger to improve on defense, though.

C.J. Leslie, 6-9 PF, Raleigh, uncommitted: Overshadowed by Class of 2009 point guard prodigy John Wall at Word of God Academy last season, Leslie has established himself as one of the top handful of players in the Class of 2010. He can block shots, run the floor, finish in transition and even handle the ball some in a halfcourt offense. The only knock on him is that he plays in spurts. But when he turns it on, few are better.

Tashawn Mabry, 6-6, WF, Rocky Mount, uncommitted: Has a sweet turnaround jump shot from the baseline. When he’s hot, he also knows how to fake the shot and get to the rim to finish. Longtime observers say he is maddeningly inconsistent, but when he’s good, he’s really good.

Melvin Tabb, 6-8 PF, Raleigh, Wake Forest commitment: Tabb seems like a “Tweener.” He’s not quite quick enough to defend small forwards, but not quite big enough to dominate inside as a power forward. He’s physically strong and undoubtedly an ACC-caliber talent, but needs to get craftier at finishing in the lane.

Tyler Thornton, 6-1 G, Washington, D.C., Duke commitment: Had a quiet week during which he didn’t even seem to be one of the best five players on the floor when the D.C. Assault played high-quality competition. Sometimes unselfish players such as Thornton don’t shine in the “me-first” culture of summer basketball, but it’s difficult to name Thornton’s best trait after watching him at the Tournament of Champions.

Dezmine Wells, 6-5, PG, Raleigh, uncommitted: Wide-shouldered Class of 2011 standout from Word of God Academy has a knack for getting to the rim and scoring. He’s strong on the boards and defensively, and handles the ball extremely well considering his frame. He needs to develop a perimeter and mid-range game and become a better passer. He’s young, so he still has time to do that.

- Ken Tysiac

TOC notes: Harrow eliminates Duke commits

Josh Hairston, a 6-foot-9 D.C. Assault forward from Spotsylvania, Va., said Duke’s coaching staff has him penciled in for a role similar to Kyle Singler’s with the current program.

That would mean Hairston could play any of the frontcourt positions at Duke but could be used primarily as a power forward. He said that role fits his skills.

“If I have a bigger guy on me, I’m going to take him off the dribble to the basket,” Hairston said. “If I have a smaller guy on me, I’m going to post him up.”

Hairston and D.C. Assault teammate and fellow Duke commit Tyler Thornton lost unexpectedly in overtime to the Southern California All-Stars on Saturday evening at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. Hairston scored 24 points and Thornton added five in the game.

The Assault still advanced to the 16-team championship bracket Saturday night in the 17-and-under division, but were eliminated by the Atlanta Celtics and N.C. State commitment Ryan Harrow.

A 6-foot-1, 150-pound wisp of a point guard, Harrow spun between defenders and darted one-handed, no-look passes to teammates en route to a 26-point performance.

Guard Jordan McRae, a Tennessee commitment, added 25 points for the Celtics, who will meet the New York Panthers in the quarterfinals at 9 a.m. today at the Smith Center.

- Other teams in the quarterfinals include the New Jersey Roadrunners, CP3 All-Stars and Grassroots Canada.

The Roadrunners are led by guard Kyrie Irving, whose 40-point performance Saturday morning in a game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium included a 10-for-11 effort from the foul line.

Irving is the second-leading scorer in the tournament and includes Duke on his list of 10 schools of interest.

North Carolina wing commitment Reggie Bullock of Kinston has guided CP3 with a steady hand. He scored 16 in a playoff defeat of the Nashville Celtics late Saturday night.

Tristan Thompson, who’s committed to Texas and regarded as a top-five prospect in the Class of 2010, is the headliner for Grassroots Canada.

- The prospect who’s come out of nowhere to take the Tournament of Champions by storm is 6-1 guard Chris Jones of the Memphis Stallions.

His team is in the consolation bracket because of a narrow loss to Harrow and the Atlanta Celtics, but it was no fault of Jones, who’s in the Class of 2010.

As word spread of Jones’ eight 3-pointers against the Celtics, observers left the main arena and flocked to the practice gym at the Smith Center where the game was being played.

Jones scored 50 points in another game and totaled 131 points over three games Saturday. He is averaging a tournament-high (by far) 40 points per game but isn’t listed in the top 100 in his class by scout.com or rivals.com.

Suffice to say, that will change.

- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pack commit Harrow shows hops at Reynolds

Late in a blowout of the Mid-State Magic on Saturday afternoon, Atlanta Celtics guard Ryan Harrow called for the ball on a breakaway at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions club basketball event.

With no defender in sight, Harrow tossed the ball hard off the backboard, then leaped to catch it and dunk it all in one motion.

“My players always want me to throw it off the backboard because they say it’s my signature dunk,” Harrow said after wowing the crowd at Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State, the school he’s committed to.

Harrow, a 6-foot-1 point guard in the Class of 2010, said he is lobbying top players such as Red Springs Flora McDonald forward Luke Cothran to join him at N.C. State.
More notes from Saturday afternoon at the Tournament of Champions:

- The great thing about the TOC is spotting a young guy with a nice game whom you’d never heard of before.

In the lopsided loss, Mid-State Magic Class of 2010 forward Jake Lliteras of Hillsborough, N.C., rained 3-pointers against a 2-3 zone until the Atlantic Celtics were forced to come out and guard him.

Then Lliteras squeezed through a double-team and drove for a layup. On the next possession he drew a charge.

He’s not athletic enough to be a high-major player, but the curly-haired, 6-foot-7 left-hander from Cedar Ridge High would be a nice find for a mid-major as a spot-up shooter.

- North Carolina commitment Reggie Bullock of the CP3 All-Stars recovered from a slow shooting start in the tournament with three second-half 3-pointers in a 50-47 defeat of the Illinois Wolves.

Bullock, a 6-foot-7 wing who’s rated among the top 20 players in the Class of 2010, finished with 18 points. His teammate, Class of 2011 guard Dezmine Wells of Raleigh Word of God Academy, said N.C. State is showing interest in him.

Wells is a muscular 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds with the ability to penetrate and finish in the lane. He said he has scholarship offers from South Carolina and Baylor, and is being heavily recruited by Virginia Tech, though the Hokies haven’t offered a scholarship yet.

- Highly recruited Class of 2012 point guard Tyler Lewis of Forsyth Country Day hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with two minutes remaining , but the Carolina Flight 16-and-under team lost by one point to Team Philly and couldn’t make the playoffs in its division.

Lewis has scholarship offers from the Charlotte 49ers, Auburn and Virginia Tech.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, May 22, 2009

TOC notes: Leslie to visit North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina, which already has a commitment from one of the state’s top two basketball prospects in the Class of 2010, soon will host the other.

Raleigh Word of God Academy forward C.J. Leslie said Friday night that he will take an unofficial visit to North Carolina some time next week.

Leslie, who’s 6-foot-8, scored 17 points in a Carolina Cobras opening night win in the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions on Friday at the Smith Center. He recently withdrew his commitment from N.C. State but said he still is considering the Wolfpack.

He said he is wide open in terms of schools, and said he is being recruited by every school in the ACC except Duke.

“Seeing all the great people that came from out of the school (North Carolina), I guess I’m really going to see what they’re about this week,” said Leslie, who also said he likes N.C. State’s coaching staff and head coach Sidney Lowe.

Leslie and his teammate, Tashawn Mabry of Rocky Mount, overwhelmed the Mississippi Basketball Elite on Friday night as homegrown talent shined simultaneously on two of the three courts at the Smith Center.

While the Cobras ran out to a 13-0 lead, the Chris Paul-sponsored CP3 All-Stars scored the first 12 points of their game against an opponent from Colorado. CP3 features 6-7 wing Reggie Bullock, the North Carolina commitment from Kinston who’s considered a top-20 prospect in the Class of 2010 along with Leslie.

CP3 also has Wake Forest commitment Melvin Tabb of Raleigh Enloe and Greensboro Dudley wing P.J. Hairston on its roster. Hairston is considered the top player in the state in the Class of 2011.

Some additional news, notes and observations from the Tournament of Champions, a summer club team tournament that continues Saturday and Sunday at gyms throughout the Triangle:

- Duke backcourt target Kyrie Irving of Elizabeth, N.J., got off to a strong start for the New Jersey Roadrunners.

He scored 23 points in a win and appeared extremely comfortable in a motion offense. Irving said he and his father spoke with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski before he left for the tournament.

At Duke’s practice facility on Friday afternoon, he ran into incoming Duke freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee while they were working out in the weight room.

“It’s a great program,” Irving said. “The name itself stands out. It’s a blessing to be recruited by Duke.”

Irving is a long way from making a decision. He said he has interest in 10 schools and could add more schools to his list. He plans to trim the list to five schools and make campus visits in the fall before committing.

- After scoring 12 points in a tournament-opening win, Nashville Celtics wing Casey Prather of Jackson, Tenn., said he planned to walk around the North Carolina campus Saturday to get a feel for the school.

He said North Carolina is one of many schools recruiting him, and he has heard from Duke a little bit. But he doesn’t have a scholarship offer from either school.

- Forward Mike Gilchrist of Elizabeth, N.J., scored 24 points for Team Final in its tournament-opening win over the Michigan Hurricanes.

He is one of the top-rated players in the Class of 2011, but said it’s too early for him to have a list of schools he is interested in.

- Ken Tysiac

Linton's North Carolina choice, in his own words

A few minutes ago, Ty Linton told me why he picked the Tar Heels:

WHAT WERE THE KEY REASONS FOR YOUR PICK: “Carolina just fit me as a player for baseball and football. I was going to wait until after the summer, but they are going to let me play both sports, and I really like the school, so I figured, why wait? Why not make the decision? And that was easy. Now it lets me concentrate on my summer baseball. It’s the place for me; I just felt the most comfortable there.”

HOW WILL THEY USE YOU FOR FOOTBALL?: “They are saying as a safety or a linebacker, wherever I fit in best. It depends on their needs; I could be a sort of utility man.”

PLAYING BOTH SPORTS ISN’T A PROBLEM? “I talked to both coach (Butch) Davis and coach (Mike) Fox, and they just said of playing both, ‘Do it until you think you can’t do it anymore.’ That was a key part to my decision, and a key part too is that it’s so close to home. My parents and friends can come to games without having to fly somewhere.”

HOW BIG A PIECE OF THIS IS BASEBALL?: “I play center field; I just finished my school season with 12 home runs, about a .415 batting average and, I think 55 RBIs. I’m hearing I might be drafted in the fourth or fifth round (in 2010), and I’m working over the summer to increase my stock with the scouts.”

AND IF THEY WAVE A BIG BONUS AT YOU? (laughs) “If they throw a bunch of money at me, I may just have to reconsider everything. But as for Carolina, my commitment is solid.”
--Stan Olson

It's official; Linton to North Carolina

It’s done; Charlotte Christian linebacker Ty Linton is a Tar Heel.

Well, not signed and sealed, but Linton has committed to play football at North Carolina and calls his decision a strong one, according to his coach, Jason Estep.

“It wasn’t a tough decision for him,” Estep said a few minutes ago. “I always told Ty to go where he feels not liked, but loved. He felt that way about North Carolina.”

Linton, one of the school’s trio of BCS school-recruited LBs, had more than a dozen offers, but said recently he had narrowed his top five to Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and West Virginia, along with UNC.

An outstanding center fielder in baseball, he has been told by the North Carolina coaches that he can play both sports in Chapel Hill, something he really wants to do.

“He’s really good at both sports,” Estep said. “He’s going to get drafted for baseball next year, and that may throw another element into all this. He’s a safe bet to go in the top ten rounds, maybe even in the top five.”

Linton, who is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, is a power hitter who is batting over .400.

The recruiting focus on Linton had exploded in recent months.

“More and more people saw what he can do; his athleticism and speed,” Estep said. “That's so important in the college game today. If they want him to play immediately, I feel he can do that. If he needs to wait awhile, he can do that as well.”

Linton has remarkable 4.49 speed in the 40-yard dash, and projects as an outside linebacker in college.

"The thing I love about him is the way he competes," said Estep. "If you ask him to run through a wall, he'll go through it at 100 miles an hour."

Linton is the Tar Heels’ second commitment. --Stan Olson

Sleeper of the Day: safety Damon Magazu


Our Sleeper of the Day item targets under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. It will run regularly to start with, then morph into a Sleeper of the Week and finally, as we exhaust the possibilities, maybe into a Sleeper of the Every Now and Then. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

DAMON MAGAZU, safety, Providence High

Magazu’s inclusion on this list is a bit unusual, since he recently committed to East Carolina. But had he waited to make his choice, other area schools would have offered as well. Duke and Wake Forest were already interested. Magazu, though, had such a comfort level with the ECU coaches and the school itself that he saw no need to.

The Pirates are getting a player with great bloodlines. His dad Dave is the Carolina Panthers offensive line coach. And his two older brothers are both playing college football.

Damon Magazu began attracting attention in a big way last season, when he made 11 interceptions from his strong safety spot. He also piled up 124 tackles, broke up seven passes, forced two fumbles and recovered two.

Taking advantage of his excellent quickness and 4.55-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Providence also used him on offense—usually in a formation where he could catch the ball—and he scored six touchdowns. He returned punts as well.

Magazu, who is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, is also an outstanding point guard on the basketball team.

—Stan Olson

Linton a Tar Heel, according to web report

North Carolina has received a huge local commitment, landing Charlotte Christian linebacker Ty Linton, according to Scout.com.

Linton, one of the school’s trio of BCS school-recruited LBs, said recently he had narrowed his top five to Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and West Virginia, along with the Tar Heels.

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds with 4.49 speed in the 40-yard dash, Linton projects as an outside linebacker in college.

He’s also a prominent baseball prospect.

He is the Tar Heels’ second commitment. More on this later today.

—Stan Olson

Duke commit Thornton ready for TOC

Stephen Turner calls Duke commitment Tyler Thornton one of the best defensive guards he has seen in the country.

“He’s very tenacious on the ball, does a great job disrupting the other teams point guard,” said Turner, who coaches Thornton at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.

Thornton will play with his D.C. Assault club team at gyms throughout the Triangle this weekend at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. The D.C. Assault roster also includes Josh Hairston of Spotsylvania, Va., a 6-foot-8 forward prospect who has committed to Duke.

The team opens play at 8 p.m. today at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. There, Thornton will be able to show Blue Devil fans the skills that could help him fill a position that’s been a sore spot for years for Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Thornton will be a freshman in 2010-2011, and his disruptive skills could make him an ideal fit for a Krzyzewski defensive scheme that relies on pressure.

“That was one of his main focuses and why he enjoyed looking at me and getting me to come to his school,” Thornton said by telephone from his high school last week.

Turner raves about Thornton’s leadership ability. The coach said Thornton likes to distribute the ball first, but isn’t afraid to take the ball and the game into his hands when necessary.
He is a good rebounder for his size (6-foot-2), and Turner said his teammates enjoy playing with him.

“He’s got that million dollar smile,” Turner said. “He could be the president of his class. I describe him as a guy that in the school could be the president at Princeton and on the court could be one of the defensive hawks and plays with the defensive intensity that you saw in those old Arkansas and UNLV teams.” – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lowe, Pack, finish strong with spring signings

No, N.C. State didn’t get John Wall.

But on the final day of the spring signing period (Thursday), the Wolfpack’s basketball future looks brighter than it did at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Coach Sidney Lowe desperately needed to add punch this spring to a front line that was scheduled to have just three players – Dennis Horner, Tracy Smith and Richard Howell – to fill two positions.

Lowe delivered, landing 6-foot-9 DeShawn Painter of Hargrave Military Academy, one of the few top-100 players who hadn’t already committed to a school. Seven-foot Australian Jordan Vandenberg and 6-6 Josh Davis of Raleigh’s Athens Drive High also signed in the spring, giving N.C. State a six-player class ranked No. 11 in the nation by ESPN.com.

The prize of the class remains Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga., who can play point guard and shooting guard. Scott Wood gives the Wolfpack a pure shooter with some potential, and Howell is an athletic, top-100 big man who can play either forward spot at 6-7.

It’s a class that demonstrates that Lowe has some skills as a recruiter after his third full season. He got off to a rough start in that aspect of his job as he made the transition to college coaching from the NBA.

Lowe also has a top-50 point guard committed in the Class of 2010 in Ryan Harrow of Marietta, Ga. N.C. State still realistically doesn’t have a good shot at gaining an NCAA Tournament bid next season because Lowe’s first few recruiting classes weren’t stellar.

But the 2009-10 team no longer looks painfully thin in the post. And players like Brown, Howell, Painter and Harrow are good enough to form the nucleus of an NCAA Tournament contender in the future.

After two straight seasons with no postseason berth, that’s a welcome glimmer of hope for Wolfpack fans even after coveted Raleigh Word of God Academy guard chose to leave his hometown and play for Kentucky.
- Ken Tysiac

Tournament of Champions schedule

Many of the top high school basketball prospects in the nation will compete at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at sites throughout the Triangle region of North Carolina, including Duke, N.C. State and the University of North Carolina.

Here is a link to the complete schedule:

http://www.bobgibbons.net/index.php?/weblog/article/2009_bob_gibbons_tournament_of_champions_schedule

Players to watch include:

- North Carolina commitment Reggie Bullock of the CP3 All-Stars.

- C.J. Leslie of the Carolina Cobras. If Bullock isn't the best player in North Carolina, Leslie is.

- Duke commitments Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston of D.C. Assault.

- N.C. State commitment Ryan Harrow of the Atlanta Celtics.

- Tristan Thompson of Grassroots Canada, who's committed to Texas and is one of the top players in the Class of 2010.

- Michael Gilchrist of Team Final, who may be the best player in the Class of 2011.

- Wake Forest commitment Tony Chenault of Team Philly.

Magazu's a Pirate, and other things...

Quick stops along the recruiting trail:

*Providence High safety Damon Magazu recently committed to East Carolina. We’ll have more on Magazu, the son of Carolina Panthers offensive line coach Dave Magazu, soon. For now, we have to mention that he had 11 interceptions as a junior.
Stephen Curti
*Sumter (S.C.) High QB Stephen Curtis—No.16 on our S.C. Top 25 Prospects list, is receiving more and more attention. Sumter offensive coordinator Grayson Howell noted that in the past two weeks, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee, N.C. State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Rutgers have come to the school to check on Curtis and OL Marques Pair.

No offers yet, but interest is picking up. While the Tigers and Gamecocks don’t seem overly interested, others obviously are. Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Ted Cain was in on Monday and is came back Wednesday to watch Curtis throw during practice.

*Finally, South Carolina has offered Duncan Byrnes WR Nick Jones a scholarship. Jones, who caught 68 passes for 814 yards and six scores last season, also has offers from Northern Illinois and Georgia Southern. But more of the big boys are coming; Penn State, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan have also expressed interest in him. --Stan Olson

Today's Sleeper: West Rowan's do-it-all kid

We have started a Sleeper of the Day item that will target under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. It will run regularly to start with, then morph into a Sleeper of the Week and finally, as we exhaust the possibilities, maybe into a Sleeper of the Every Now and Then. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

JON CRUCITTI, Wide Receiver, West Rowan High

No BCS school would ever offer Crucitti a scholarship based on his workout numbers. But watching him in one-on-one drills or better yet, in a game, and any recruiter would have to be intrigued.

Crucitti, who is overshadowed at West Rowan by the talented DL Chris Smith, isn’t particularly big (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) or fast (4.75 40-yard dash). But he is a monster when it comes to intangibles.

He worked as a receiver in one-on-one drills at the Scout.com Combine in Charlotte, and showed off good hands and a scrappiness in competing with his defender for the ball. But Crucitti is a lot more than that.

“This guy’s your sleeper,” said West Rowan coach Scott Young. “He does a little bit of everything for us—last year he played some quarterback, some wide receiver and some running back. And he’s a heck of a punter.”

Young said Crucitti threw for about 500 yards and five touchdowns, ran for 350 and four scores, and had 600 receiving yards and three TDs.

“He’s such a smart kid; it really is like having another coach on the field,” Young said.

Crucitti is also an outstanding baseball centerfielder, and may play both sports in college.

He hasn’t attracted much interest from the big schools yet, although Duke and East Carolina are paying attention. He’s also being recruited hard by the service academies. –Stan Olson

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

North Carolina, Tennessee offer Shembo

Ardrey Kell High LB Prince Shembo has added scholarship offers from North Carolina and Tennessee.

Shembo continues to use outstanding camp and combine performances to increase his offers, and now has 11 and counting.

That shouldn’t be surprising, since he is a muscular 6-foot-2, 225-pound force who can rip off a 4.62-second 40-yard dash. As a junior, Shembo had 90 tackles, including eight sacks, and picked off two passes. Combine all that with an academic performance that will gain him admittance to any school in the country.

Shembo’s earlier offers are from Duke, ECU, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Stanford, West Virginia and Illinois. –Stan Olson

Ty Linton to North Carolina? Just a rumor.

A rumor sprang to life early this week that Christian LB Ty Linton had committed to North Carolina

“Not true,” said Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep today. “He has not committed anywhere.

“Actually, even more schools are showing interest in Ty and in Kelby (fellow LB Brown). Neither of them is rushing into anything.”

Estep said that Notre Dame, Tennessee and Georgia have been in over the past week to look at the two players.

“And I talked to Arkansas over the phone and I think they might offer both players,” Estep said. “There is a lot of interest in them, and I believe both of them want to see where it goes.”

Linton does have an offer from the Tar Heels, along with Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia, among others. Brown has offers from Syracuse, Indiana, Wisconsin, Duke, East Carolina, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. –Stan Olson

Our Sleeper: Mallard Creek's Michael Tart

We have started a Sleeper of the Day item that will target under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. It will run regularly to start with, then morph into a Sleeper of the Week and finally, as we exhaust the possibilities, maybe into a Sleeper of the Every Now and Then. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

MICHAEL TART, Punter, Mallard Creek High

Kickers and punters get no respect. Schools tend to spend their scholarships on QBs and RBs, WRs and linemen and DBs. And, if any spots are left, they might toss one in a K/P’s direction.

But you have to have quality kickers and punters to compete at a high level, and sooner or later, some school is going to be very happy with the addition of Mallard Creek High’s Michael Tart.

Tart is ranked as the No.1 punter in North Carolina and No.7 nationally by ProKicker.com. That can mean as much as you want it to mean, since the kids ranked are the kids that show up at ProKicker’s camps. But it’s not bad any way you look at it.

“He’s a great punter,” said Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri. “He had no punts at all returned on him last year.”

Tart had a net punting average of 41.8 yards as a junior, with a long of 63 yards. He was selected to the MECA 7 all-conference team.

Palmieri said that while Tart hasn’t received any offers yet, schools like Furman, Duke and North Carolina are showing interest. Expect that number to increase dramatically in the future. –Stan Olson

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When Strength is not enough

On April 19, Winston-Salem Mt. Tabor High linebacker Sean Adams participated in the Schuman/Rivals Underclassmen’s Combine in Kannapolis. There, the 191-pound Adams bench-pressed 185 pounds 33 times.

That was more repetitions than any of the 250-pound defensive tackles could manage; more than any of the 300-pound offensive tackles could push up. The most, in fact, of any player in camp.

Then, at a Shrine Bowl combine in Burlington May 2, Adams threw up 31 reps on the bench, again the best figure in camp.

And it hardly matters. Problem is, Adams was also measured at those camps, and he is a tad over 5-foot-9. And today, strength is trumped in football by height and speed. With 40-yard dash speeds in the 4.9-second range, he isn’t quite big enough or fast enough to play LB in the ACC or SEC.

We tell you that only to make a point. Since I have jumped back into college recruiting again, I’ve had several emails from folks pointing out the statistics of this guy and that guy, and wondering why I didn’t include them on our recent Carolinas’ Top Five prospects by position lists.

Invariably, the kids—while obviously great prep players—aren’t big or fast enough to be considered top flight college prospects. Recruiters aren’t ignoring them because they don’t know about them. They know, and they also know, that at the BCS level, size combined with speed and strength is everything.

Still, I can’t help but pull for Adams. His tremendous strength points to an obviously good work ethic, and you can expect him to have an enjoyable college football career. It will just have to happen at a lower level. –Stan Olson

Presenting our first Football Sleeper of the Day

We’re starting a Sleeper of the Day item that will target under-noticed Carolinas football recruiting prospects. It will run regularly to start with, then morph into a Sleeper of the Week and finally, as we exhaust the possibilities, maybe into a Sleeper of the Every Now and Then. As always, if you have a candidate, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

CHRISTIAN INSLEY, Linebacker, Gastonia Ashbrook

Insley is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound inside linebacker who is starting to attract considerable notice from BCS schools.

Right now, his only offers are from Akron and Buffalo, but a number of schools have recently dropped by during the spring evaluation period, including Clemson, East Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina and Wisconsin, and he plans to visit the summer camps of most of those programs.

Among other schools that are expressing interest are Duke and Louisville (he’ll attend their camps), Michigan State, Nebraska and Stanford. What is attracting their attention is Insley’s combination of speed (a 4.7-second 40), strength (300-pound bench-press) and academics (a 3.75 grade-point average).

On the field, he was an impact player as a sophomore, with 83 tackles and six sacks. Last season, Insley was in on 87 tackles, including three sacks, and had two fumble recoveries and an interception.

Watching video of Insley, you see a player with the speed to play sideline to sideline but who also knows when to “stay at home,” or remain in the coverage area he is responsible for.

Oh, and he sings in the chorus as well.

--Stan Olson

Monday, May 18, 2009

Duke lands another N.C. standout in Snead

We just confirmed the commitment of Smithfield Selma High running back/wide receiver/defensive back Joshua Snead to Duke today.

“He loved the fact that Duke never wavered on him,” his coach, Anthony Barbour, said this afternoon. “They really like his speed and ability to make plays in space.

“They are looking at him for their defensive backfield, but also like his speed on offense.”

Snead’s other finalists were Wake Forest and N.C. State, his coach said.

Barbour said that Snead has 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash. Last season as a junior, he rushed for 850 yards despite splitting time with three upperclassmen. He also played safety on defense and returned kicks, including two for touchdowns.

Snead is ranked No.17 on The Observer’s first Top 25 N.C. Prospects list for the coming season.

“Academically, he’s in great shape,” Barbour said. “He wants to do something in the medical field, perhaps become a doctor. That made Duke a perfect fit.”

--Stan Olson

Recruits rushing to commit to Texas

This is hard to believe around here, where it seems as if most of the top prep rising senior football players’ have narrowed their college choices to, oh, a dozen or so schools, but many of the best prospects in the country have already made up their minds and committed.

Texas, for instance, with that old smooth-talker Mack Brown, has already received commitments from 21 players, according to our buddies at Scout.com. Think of that; the Longhorns can almost field a starting lineup of future freshmen.

And they aren’t taking just anybody; seven are in Scout’s top 100, and all 21 have at least three stars out of a possible five.

Four other schools—all well-known—are in commitment double figures. And those four, Texas A&M (16), Florida (12), Alabama (12) and Michigan (10), will likely soon be joined by LSU (9) and Stanford (9).

How do Carolinas schools stack up?

Surprising Duke is the leader in our area, with a total of six if you count the expected commitment of Observer N.C. Top 25 prospect Joshua Snead today.

Next comes Clemson, N.C. State and South Carolina with four apiece, followed by East Carolina with two. Finally, North Carolina and Wake Forest have one each.

You can’t even see Texas from there.—Stan Olson

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Observer Position Review: Carolinas' DBs

For the past week, The Observer has ranked the top five prospects in the Carolinas by position as we track their recruiting. Today we present the best defensive backs in the area. The first four of these players are members of their state’s Observer Top 25 prospects list.

If you missed any of the rankings, check our College Recruiting blog. And if you have a question or can think of a player we’ve missed, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com

DEFENSIVE BACKS

1/KEENAN ALLEN, Northern Guilford: A remarkable athlete, the 6-foot-2, 194-pound Allen could play WR at a high level. But he has most schools thinking of him as a safety, and last year he had 48 tackles and nine interceptions at the position. He also caught 42 passes for 709 yards and rushed for 554, scoring a total of 19 times. He recently said his top five schools are Alabama, Clemson, Oregon, California and North Carolina, although he has offers from many more.

2/VICTOR HAMPTON, Independence: Start with ten interceptions and 50 tackles as a junior, a proclamation from coach Tom Knotts that Hampton is a “Sunday afternoon” player, and an early offer from and commitment to Florida. Hampton (5-9, 168 pounds) has good aggressiveness and closing speed, and he’s been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His long arms make him play more like he’s 5-11.

3/DEANDRE HOPKINS, Central (S.C.) Daniel: While Hopkins would prefer to play wide receiver, he is one of the best shutdown corners in the country with his quickness and 6-2, 175-pound frame. Hopkins has 23 interceptions over the past two seasons, including 14 as a sophomore when he set a state record. Last season while playing both offense and defense, he led Daniel to its second straight Western 3A title. He’s already committed to Clemson.

4/JOHN FULTON, Manning (S.C.): Some had early doubts about Fulton’s ability to play cornerback, but no longer. Not after he dominated opponents in recent combine one-on-one drills. He has 4.39 speed, good change of direction and the confidence needed to play CB. He also has a pile of offers, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Maryland.

5/DAVID AMERSON, Greensboro Dudley: Amerson dramatically boosted his stock at several area combines. His 6-1, 177-pound frame projects him as a college safety, but he has been impressive in man coverage. He runs a 4.48 40-yard dash, has a 36-inch vertical leap and had nine interceptions a year ago. N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Wake Forest are his early favorites.

--Stan Olson



Independence's Victor Hampton had 10 interceptions and 50 tackles as a junior, and he has committed to Florida. YALONDA M. JAMES – yjames@charlotteobserver.com

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Observer Position Review: Carolinas' LBs



(Linebacker Prince Shembo from Ardrey Kell High School performs an exercise with a medicine ball at April's N.C. Shrine Bowl football combine at Butler High School. STAFF FILE PHOTO)

Each day this week, The Observer will rank the top five prospects in the Carolinas by position as we track their recruiting. Today we present the best linebackers in the area—our Lawrence Taylor wanna-bes. The first four of these guys are members of their state’s Observer Top 25 prospects list. If you have a question or can think of a player we’ve missed, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com

1/CHRISTIAN MCCAIN, Northern Guilford: It’s highly likely that the 6-foot-5½, 196-pound McCain will bulk up and play DE in college, but he’s been an LB throughout his prep career and, with 4.7 speed in the 40-yard dash, could remain there. As a junior, McCain led Northern Guilford in tackles with 97, including 16 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also blocked a kick and produced a safety. Offers have arrived from ECU, Florida State, N.C. State, South Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia Tech, among others.

2/PRINCE SHEMBO, Ardrey Kell: Shembo is the reverse of McCain, spending time at DE in high school but, at 6-2 and 225 pounds with 4.65 speed, probably better suited for LB at the next level. As a junior, he made 90 tackles, including eight sacks, and intercepted two passes. Among those recruiting him are Clemson, Duke, UNC, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Virginia Tech.

3/KENDALL MOORE, Southeast Raleigh:
Similar to Shembo in size (6-2½, 229) and speed (4.7), and it likely translates to middle linebacker in college. As a junior, Moore was all over the place, making 125 tackles with seven sacks. He also had 30 receptions and seven TDs on offense. Numerous schools are chasing him, including Duke, ECU, UNC, N.C. State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Wake Forest.

4/JUSTIN PARKER, Beaufort (S.C.): As a junior, the 6-2, 225-pound Parker made 97 tackles and had three interceptions from his ILB position. He could play OLB in college; Beaufort coach Mark Clifford calls him “A great open-field tackler.” Clemson, Georgia, Maryland, N.C. State, South Carolina, Syracuse and Wake Forest are some of the schools recruiting him.

5/TY LINTON, Charlotte Christian: A tough call for this spot between Linton and teammates Kelby Brown and David Durham. Linton should make a fine outside linebacker in college; he’s 6-3 and 210 pounds with 4.5 speed. Last year he was in on 74 tackles, with 6.5 sacks and 7 passes defensed. He has offers from Duke, East Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest, Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia, Illinois and Wisconsin.

TOMORROW: Defensive backs

--Stan Olson

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wolfpack adds another big man

N.C. State's basketball recruiting class got bigger this week.

Forward Deshawn Painter, a top-75 prospect, committed to play for the Wolfpack in the 2009-10 season, increasing its incoming freshmen class to six.

The addition of Painter, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound power forward, puts State at the scholarship limit of 13 for the upcoming season.

That means room would have to be made to sign Raleigh point guard John Wall, who is still undecided about his college future.

Read the full story here.

N.C. State coaches play the numbers game

N.C. State has figured out an interesting method of getting recruits’ attention.

I call it the “Russian Army” approach; overwhelm the players with superior numbers, in a manner of speaking.

I’ve talked to several kids this spring who have been startled to have not one but four Wolfpack coaches show up when N.C. State drops by their schools for a visit.

For instance, Greensboro Dudley defensive back David Amerson was expecting NCSU defensive backs coach Mike Reed to stop by recently.

“I like coach Reed,” Amerson said. “But what really stood out when they came to my school (is that) a school will usually send just one coach and they actually had four coaches there. That meant a lot to me and they told me I mean a lot to their program.”

Other top in-state targets have been treated the same way by coach Tom O’Brien’s staff. The Wolfpack also had four coaches visit West Brunswick defensive end Alfy Hill, the No.5 prospect on our Top 25 NC Prospects list, and Cary DE Fre’Shad Hunter, who is ranked No.6.

“State had four coaches come over and see me," Hunter told Pack Pride. “I was kind of at a loss for words.”

Obviously, there isn’t enough time or money to use that approach on every prospect. But for kids within easy driving range, it is a nice—and effective—touch.

--Stan Olson

Observer Position Review: Carolinas' DLs

Each day this week, The Observer will rank the top five prospects in the Carolinas by position as we track their recruiting. Today we present the best members of the most talented group in the area—the defensive linemen. These guys are all members of their state’s Observer Top 25 prospects list, and deservedly so. If you have a question or can think of a player we’ve missed, email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

1. GABE KING, high school undecided: At the recent Scout.com combine in Charlotte, King was virtually unblockable in one-on-one drills, getting to the dummy QB every time with power and a number of finely-honed moves. And at 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds, he also ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. Wherever he plays in the fall, the recruiters will be watching. He has offers from California, North Carolina (his early favorites), Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, N.C. State and West Virginia, among others.

2. BRANDON WILLIS, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes: While he has played DE in high school, Byrnes, who is 6-4 and 255 pounds, has a big body and should grow into a DT at the next level. College coaches salivated a year ago as he collected 144 tackles and 13 sacks; included in his dozens of offers are Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, LSU, Florida State, Georgia and Southern Cal.

3. ALFY HILL, West Brunswick: Hill, a 6-4, 222-pound DE, has been climbing everyone’s list, and was brilliant at the late-April N.C. Shrine Bowl Combine, where he turned in a sizzling 4.52 40. After a junior year that included 102 tackles and 12 sacks, he’s sifting through more than 20 offers. The early favorites are N.C. State and North Carolina, while other offers include Alabama, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

4. FRE’SHAD HUNTER, Cary: Something of a sleeper last year, when he totaled only 38 tackles and six sacks as opponents ran the other way. Strong combines, though, have gotten him noticed. Hunter, a 6-4, 245-pound DE, recently added a Michigan offer to a collection that includes leader N.C. State, East Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Purdue, South Carolina and Tennessee.

5. KELCY QUARLES, Greenwood: Remarkably fast for his 6-4, 250-pound size, Quarles has been clocked at 4.7 in the 40. Late in a junior year that saw him collect 75 tackles and 17 sacks, he committed to South Carolina, and that commitment wavered at one time but has firmed up again despite considerable pressure from a number of national powers. Expect Quarles to contribute immediately in Columbia.

TOMORROW: Linebackers

--Stan Olson

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hiring LaRue may help Deacs recruit Lewis

By hiring Rusty LaRue, Wake Forest might have moved to the top of the unusual recruiting chase for Forsyth Country Day School point guard Tyler Lewis.

Lewis might be the top Class of 2012 prospect in North Carolina. On Wednesday, Wake Forest announced that LaRue - one of the greatest three-sport athletes in ACC and Deacons history – was leaving Forsyth Country Day of Lewisville to join coach Dino Gaudio’s staff.

Lewis now has scholarship offers from the Charlotte 49ers, Auburn and Virginia Tech, plus a former high school coach on Wake Forest’s staff.

“I wouldn’t say that this makes it a slam dunk for Tyler to attend Wake if offered, but it does have a big impact,” Rick Lewis, Tyler’s father, wrote in an e-mail. “As I told Rusty many times, we basically selected FCDS because of him.”

Wake Forest hasn’t offered a scholarship yet but has recruited Lewis heavily. And the Deacons’ failure to offer might just be a reflection of Gaudio’s stated reluctance to offer a scholarship to a freshman.

Lewis will start his sophomore season in the fall. He is an unusual prospect because he is just 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, but possesses exceptional vision, court sense and passing ability. He averaged 12.8 points and 5.3 assists per game last season as a freshman.

The Lewises admire LaRue and Wake Forest, but also are fond of the coaches at Virginia Tech, Auburn and Charlotte.

“Virginia Tech was the first school to offer Tyler and that means a lot,” Rick Lewis wrote. “While many schools questioned his size, etc., Virginia Tech stepped up to the plate and offered as did Auburn and Charlotte.”

LaRue has told the Lewises that Wake Forest still will be recruiting Tyler. That could help the Deacons land him – if they decide to offer a scholarship. If not, Lewis has other attractive options.

“I had and still have tremendous respect and admiration for Coach LaRue,” Rick Lewis wrote. “Wake is an ACC school and is only 45 minutes away, plus the academics are great. While Wake has questioned his size, other schools that have offered don’t think his size is going to be a problem.” - Ken Tysiac