2015 prospect Dozier impressing, after years of playing on torn ACL

broberts@herald-leader.comJune 21, 2014 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The national spotlight is nothing new to P.J. Dozier.

The high school basketball star from South Carolina hadn't even started middle school when he was being lauded as perhaps the best player in the class of 2015.

Before he finished sixth grade, there was a profile of him in the New York Times and YouTube videos showcasing his exploits against much older prospects.

[2015 star Eric Davis set for return trip to Kentucky]

Despite all the attention, there was something about Dozier that only a handful of people knew.

He was doing it all with a torn ACL.

Around the time Dozier turned 12 years old, he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee. He went to a doctor, who repaired the MCL but decided to leave the ACL alone out of fear that it could stunt Dozier's growth, which probably would have had a negative effect on his budding basketball career.

Over the next few years, Dozier played through the injury while continuing to earn accolades from recruiting analysts who knew nothing about it.

"It was nothing ever too serious to stop playing," he said. "I would stop for a week or two and then come back and feel good as new."

Last summer, he tweaked the knee again. After another visit to the doctor and a family meeting, the decision was made to put Dozier's basketball career on hold and proceed with the surgery.

His father — former South Carolina basketball player Perry Dozier — is also P.J.'s head coach at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C.

P.J. talked throughout the season about his wish to come back early from the surgery and compete for Spring Valley during his junior year. But he was held out the entire season, returning this spring for the AAU and camp circuit.

During the past few days at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, he's been one of the most impressive prospects.

"He's bigger, better, stronger and faster," Perry Dozier told the Herald-Leader. "I don't know how to explain it. It's amazing.

"It can go one of two ways with surgeries. And he's been blessed."

The talent was always there, but there were obvious questions about just how good he would be coming off a major knee surgery.

Dozier — listed as a 6-foot-7 guard — showed off his full abilities during the Friday morning session of the Top 100 Camp. In a game that included Kentucky commitment Charles Matthews, possible No. 1 overall player Ben Simmons and top-10 talent Carlton Bragg, it was Dozier who practically stole the show.

He made unbelievable passes, knocked down three-pointers, ran the offense with aplomb, and — while wearing a bulky brace on his right knee — stayed on the court far longer than anyone else in the game.

As one veteran recruiting analyst said, Dozier seemed to see everything before it happened.

It's the kind of performance his father has grown accustomed to over the years.

"He's been groomed to be a point guard," Dozier Sr. said. "He has one of the highest IQs I've ever seen. He's a floor general, a true point guard. But I think the blessing is that he can play the 2, 3 and the 4. And he can defend them as well. He can do a little bit of everything, but he's best with the ball in his hands.

"For a kid that can do anything, he's just very unselfish. He has this team mind-set."

Most of the major recruiting websites rank him around No. 50 overall in the class of 2015, but that standing could change in the coming weeks.

He's getting plenty of attention on the recruiting trail.

Dozier's father said many of the nation's top programs did a good job staying in touch with the family even while P.J. was sidelined.

He rattled off a list that included North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Georgetown, Indiana, Ohio State and several others. All of those schools have offered scholarships.

One that hasn't is Kentucky, but Coach John Calipari has been calling.

The UK coach reached out to the Doziers after the first live recruiting period of the spring ended a few weeks ago.

"It's a good feeling," P.J. Dozier told the Herald-Leader. "Who wouldn't want to be able to say that Kentucky is jumping on board? I'm just trying to build a relationship with their coaching staff. I've talked to Coach (Kenny) Payne a lot, talked to Calipari a couple of times.

"They pretty much just told me that they have a very strong interest and would be following me throughout the summer circuit. I'm looking forward to it."

Dozier says he doesn't have a "top tier" of schools yet, but he acknowledged that an offer from Kentucky could have a major impact on his recruitment.

Perry Dozier was a teenager in the mid-1980s when he first met Calipari, who was working as a counselor at the Five-Star Basketball camp and later came to Dunbar High School in Baltimore to recruit Dozier and his twin brother, Terry.

The Doziers ended up at South Carolina, but Perry has followed Calipari's career since then and said he has a lot of respect for the UK coach.

"Calipari understands the game and he knows what he's after," he said. "And just the fact that he would be interested in P.J. is saying a lot about him as a player, because I think he only recruits guys who can get the job done."

The family hopes to sit down after the summer and map out a plan for some college visits, which they'd like to start taking before P.J.'s senior season begins.

UK might have been a little tardy to the recruitment, but it shouldn't work against the Wildcats moving forward.

"You have to remember: Kentucky is Kentucky," said Perry Dozier. "There are only a few schools that can come in late and have a chance, and Kentucky is definitely one of them."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service