Ivan Rabb, ranked No. 1 in class of 2015, ready to step out of the shadows

broberts@herald-leader.comJuly 19, 2014 

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Surrounded by winners since he was in seventh grade, it's no wonder the quality rubbed off on Ivan Rabb.

For the past few years, the 6-foot-10 power forward from California has been living and playing in the shadows of other, more notable prospects. That's something considering Rabb is ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2015.

He joined the Oakland Soldiers as a seventh-grader, and in that time he has learned from players such as Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Nick Johnson.

Two of those guys were selected in this year's NBA Draft. The other two will surely follow soon. All of them played a role in helping Rabb become the player he is today.

"If you look at all of these guys ... they're winners," said Soldiers program director Mark Olivier. "At every level it's, 'What do you have to do to win?' When you get to college, nobody cares how many points you score if you don't win the game. He really gets it. Being the biggest man on the court, there are expectations for you."

Being the biggest player out there didn't stop others from telling him what to do.

Last year, Stanley Johnson was the veteran in the Soldiers program. He was a top-five player nationally who had scholarship offers from everyone in the country and a Peach Jam title under his belt. Rabb was the next in line, and it was Johnson's job to show him how to lead.

Not small by any means at 6-7 and 240 pounds, it was still sometimes comical to see Johnson bossing around the bigger Rabb on the court, pulling him aside by the jersey during timeouts and pointedly telling him what he was doing wrong.

That's just the normal progression of the program.

"Aaron did it to Stanley. Brandon did it to Aaron," Olivier said. "They take each other under their wings. I think one of the biggest things is they have relationships. One of the biggest things we stress is family. At the end of the day, they're just good people. All of them."

Rabb benefited from the fire that a player like Johnson brings to the court.

Olivier and Rabb's high school coach, Lou Richie, have been saying for years that Rabb needs to be more selfish with the ball. He knows it's true, and he says that he's started to look for more opportunities for himself in the past couple of years.

He knows he has the moves to dominate in the post, just about whenever he wants. But he'll never be a black hole on the block.

"My coach in high school tells me to shoot the ball every time, because I'm so unselfish and that's the only way he can get me to shoot the ball," Rabb said. "I don't think I've ever taken more than 15 shots in a game.

"They can say it, but if I'm in the game and I see someone open, I'm going to pass it. That's just how I am."

Olivier says Rabb wants to be "a complete player," and he works hard to achieve it. College coaches have been working hard to get his commitment, but there hasn't been much progress.

All of the major players have offered: Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, the list goes on. He's been too busy with basketball to worry too much about it. He knows that the coaches will still be there when he's ready, and priority No. 1 is improving as much as possible before he heads to college.

"I don't let the accolades get to my head, because I haven't done anything yet," Rabb said. "My goal is to make it to the NBA, but I have steps to do along the road."

The aforementioned players who have helped mold Rabb's game have something else in common: They all ended up at Arizona. The Soldiers' program has become synonymous with the "West Coast Wildcats" in recent years, and that fact isn't lost on Rabb.

Arizona is the popular prediction in his recruitment, but that's based more off the trend than anything. He hasn't taken any official visits, given many hints or even cut his list of schools (that could come next month, he said).

He has ties to other programs too. One of them is Kentucky.

Charles Matthews — the Cats' lone commitment for the class of 2015 — has been friends with Rabb since ninth grade. The two players talked about going to the same school even before Matthews committed to UK, and the Chicago guard hasn't let up since that pledge.

"He doesn't really try to feed me the hype," Rabb said. "He tells me how cool the coaches are, which I kind of already know. He tells me about the campus, the dorms, things like that. And it's not always about basketball. We're friends.

"I like his personality, I like his game, and he's going to try to recruit me there. So we'll see what we can do."

Matthews will be at Big Blue Madness on Oct. 17. Five-star center Stephen Zimmerman, another Oakland Soldiers standout, will be there too.

Both players have been in Rabb's ear about visiting Lexington with them. He's listening.

"Charles is trying to get me for Madness," Rabb said. "(Stephen) is trying to get me to go too. So, most likely I'll be there. Most likely."

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

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