UK recruiting

Top 100 Camp notes: Star of 2013 class likes Cats

Cal 'produces pros,' recruit says

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 18, 2011 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Chris Walker, one of the nation's top juniors-to-be, said Friday that Kentucky was the leader on his list of possible college choices.

"Coach (John Calipari) told me how many pros he puts in the NBA," Walker said at the NBA Players Association-sponsored Top 100 Camp. "He told me what I can do for him."Walker, a 6-foot-8 native of Bonifay, Fla., said that Florida was No. 2 on his list. He also mentioned Kansas, Florida State, Syracuse, Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville.

"They just stick out to me, really," he said of UK and Florida topping the list. "I want to go to a college that produces pros."

The Top 100 Camp's highlight game Friday morning pitted Walker against another top-five prospect in the class of 2013, Nerlens Noel, a 6-11 shot-blocker from Tilton, Mass.

Noel, the quicker and more assertive of the two, got the best of it against Walker.

UNC over UK

A year ago, wing J.P. Tokoto of Menomonee Falls, Wis., probably tried too hard to make a good impression in the Top 100 Camp. This year, having already committed to North Carolina, he's trying less and enjoying it more.

"I remember that," he said when asked about his struggles here in 2010. "This is nothing like that. I feel way more comfortable. But I came here expecting the same thing to happen."

What happened last year was a downward spiral in which a highly regarded prospect struggled to score. The more he struggled, the harder it became to score.

"First game, I barely touched the ball," he said. "I thought, 'Four days of this? What am I going to do?' I pretty much got down on myself. Our guards, they were shoot-first guards."

Perhaps committing to North Carolina on March 3 eased any anxiety. He felt at home at UNC, so he chose the Tar Heels over home-state Wisconsin. UK, Duke, Connecticut, Maryland and UCLA trailed those two programs.

"If I was one of those players expecting to be one-and-done, Kentucky would definitely be the spot," Tokoto said. "For me, I see myself playing (and) trying to get my degree."

'Significant' edge

Gary Harris, a 6-4 guard from Indianapolis, started getting recruiting interest from UK late this past season. UK called earlier this week to wish him well in the Top 100 Camp. Kentucky also invited him to visit in August, he said.

One problem: Indiana and Louisville have been pursuing Harris for more than a year.

"I'm more familiar (with IU and U of L)," he said. "I'm more comfortable. I know more about their programs."

When asked if that should be viewed as an advantage that would be difficult for UK to overcome, Harris said, "That is significant."

Self 'cool dude'

Forward Brandon Ashley, a top-20 prospect from Oakland, Calif., termed his recruitment wide open. He was also far reaching in his praise for Kansas. "Coach (Bill) Self is a cool dude," Ashley said. "They never back down from no one. I like that."

When asked about Kansas' recruiting pitch, Ashley said, "They talked about building a team around me, making sure I got my touches. Winning a national championship. It's hard to fight that."

Ashley said he had a list of 15 to 17 schools he wished to reduce to 10 or fewer by the end of next week. Kentucky did not sound prominent in his mind. He said he had not communicated with UK in two or three weeks, nor spoken to Calipari this year.

Cautionary tale

Former N.C. State star Chris Washburn spoke to the campers as part of the NBA Players Association effort to get the prospects to put basketball in perspective.

Washburn famously flamed out as a prospect. One of the most celebrated high school stars, he became part of the ill-fated 1986 NBA Draft class. Drug use and a prison sentence derailed his NBA career before it got started.

"Everybody here is not going to be an NBA player," Washburn said of his message to campers. "What's the next course? I didn't have any plan after basketball. Understand, basketball is a good tool to get you to places."

Washburn said his work involves real estate mortgage. "I'm a bill collector," he said with a smile, "By phone."

Etc.

■ While speakers like Washburn tell cautionary tales of what can lead prospects astray, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar figured to give campers a success story.

■ For those who lament how Kentucky high school basketball has slipped behind Indiana, the Top 100 Camp offered no relief. There were 11 prospects from Indiana at the camp, none from Kentucky.

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