HINDMAN — The Knott County Central student section formed a united front Friday night.
Just moments before the tip of the 53rd District final between Knott Central and Cordia, the chants from the home team's supporters came through loud and clear.
"USA! USA! USA!"
The subject of their derision was Cordia point guard Emmanuel Owootoah, a senior transfer from Toronto, Canada.
He heard the chant then and he heard it again during the second half. But he never let it faze him.
"They should have better class than that, man," Owootoah said with some amusement after scoring 24 points in the game. "But at the same time, I thought it was funny. I don't let stuff like that get to my head."
A couple hundred students screaming you down doesn't really amount to much for a kid from Rexdale, an area of Toronto known for its gang violence and high crime rates.
Owootoah's mother was looking to get him away from the neighborhood, and she was put in touch with former Kentucky player and current Cordia coach Rodrick Rhodes.
After a couple of months of uncertainty over the eligibility of Owootoah and Marlon King — another Canadian transfer — the duo were allowed to play and Cordia has been rolling ever since.
The Lions fell to Knott Central 66-60 in Friday's district final, but the two teams could meet again in the 14th Region championship this week.
Several college coaches have stopped by to see Owootoah since he was ruled eligible in January. West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins was there Tuesday and UK assistant Orlando Antigua made the trip earlier this month. Someone from Kentucky's staff was expected to return for Friday's game, but the only college coach in attendance was Seton Hall assistant Shaheen Holloway.
Owootoah listed UCLA, Arizona, Tennessee, Providence, Florida State, Baylor and Missouri as other schools that have visited or called to express interest in recent weeks.
He doesn't have any major offers yet, but Rhodes thinks it's just a matter of time.
"Without a question, he can play and excel at that level," Rhodes said. "I was able to play with some pretty good players in high school and college, and he matches up just as good or better than some of the guys I was able to play with.
"He's the ultimate point guard. He wants to pass first. But he can also shoot the basketball. He's a very mentally tough kid. He's born for the position, he really is."
Owootoah showed poise and maturity in Friday's loss to Knott Central. He was creative on offense, made crisp passes and hounded the Patriots with defense pressure.
The only thing going against him could be his size.
Generously listed at 5 feet 10, Owootoah had a tough time playing inside against bigger players and had to torque his body in order to get off a good shot.
Because of his small stature, Owootoah is almost certainly a four-year player at the college level.
"I'm looking for a place where I can fit in and I can grow," he said. "The most important thing is I'm trying to get my degree. So I really am trying to stay for four years. I'm trying to find a place where I can get better."
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com