A tired basketball cliché has the teacher noticing a big kid walking a school hallway and figuring anyone that size should play the sport. The teacher encourages the kid to try out for the team. Pituitary typecasting produces a diamond-in-the-rough story.
That scenario fits Cliff Alexander, a player whose rapid rise in youth basketball put him in Charlottesville, Va., last week for the Top 100 Camp.
Three years ago, Alexander was the kid walking down a school hallway. Basketball meant little to this eighth-grader.
"I just wasn't interested," he said last week. "I was more a football guy."
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When told about Alexander's introduction to organized basketball, recruiting analyst Dave Telep smiled.
"He plays like a football player," said Telep, a compliment to Alexander's effort and physical approach to the game. "Some of these guys out here are fighting with pillows."
Earlier this year, Alexander made a bit of youth basketball history by becoming the first underclassman to be named Most Valuable Player in the noted Pangos Camp in Long Beach, Calif. Underclassmen who did not become the camp's MVP include former Kentucky All-American John Wall, Harrison Barnes, James Harden and Shabazz Muhammad.
Alexander "dominated opponents at both ends," said Dinos Trigonis, founder and director of the Pangos Camp. "Some big guys complain they don't get the ball enough."
By contrast, Alexander displayed what Trigonis called "a motor from baseline to baseline."
Alexander, a 6-foot-9 player from Chicago who will be a high school junior next season, has been on the metaphorical radar as a top-25 player.
"Size and potential can get you ranked," said Telep, a recruiting analyst for ESPN. "If you can hide at 6-9, 240, he was hidden. He's an achiever now. He's gone from prospect to player to consistent producer. He's playing to his potential."
Through four games in the Top 100 Camp, Alexander averaged 6.0 rebounds. Only three campers had a greater average. He had averaged 9.8 points.
Better than the numbers, Alexander was a presence around the basket.
"I think he's scaring guys," Telep said. "I think he's going to shove his way to top five in the class (of 2014)."
Trigonis also noted the effort Alexander brings.
"When you find a kid who wants to compete, those are the kids that make it," he said. "He doesn't shy away. He reminds me a lot of Elton Brand."
Recruiting analysts say Michigan State is the school to beat for Alexander. When asked for the schools on his list, he mentioned Michigan State first, then added Indiana, Illinois, DePaul, Tennessee, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisville, Florida State, Providence and Kansas.
He recited the list with minimal enthusiasm.
With two more years of high school ahead of him, Alexander retains a refreshing detachment from the recruiting process. He still has a bit of the eighth-grader walking down the hall in him.
"I really don't pay much attention," he said of the reporters and college coaches involved in recruiting. "I play my game and tell them what they want to hear."
'Great boys' weekend'
The first application for the Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience came from Canada.
Pete Banks, a special education teacher in the Kitchener-Waterloo area (about 70 miles from Toronto), applied. He attended a Michael Jordan fantasy camp in Las Vegas two years ago, then another one led by Jim Boeheim at Syracuse last year.
Meeting John Calipari at the Jordan camp led to the application.
"He's the type of guy who does everything first class," Banks said. "I just figured that's got to be a camp I've got to get to."
There was one other factor. "Kentucky, to me, is the mecca of college basketball," he said.
Banks acknowledged that the $7,500 entry fee for the Calipari camp was a challenge. Noting how his wife is a college basketball fan, he said, "So there's a little negotiation that goes on between us, too, to be able to get to these camps. More than a little. Certainly, it's a team effort to get there."
Banks said his wife will accompany him to Lexington. They hope to arrive early, stay later and do some sightseeing.
When Calipari formally announced the camp, he noted that there are people who attend several such events. Banks called these camps "one of those great boys' weekends."
Banks, 45, explained the attraction in terms of motivation.
"It keeps you pushing," he said. "It keeps you going, getting in shape. It's that little carrot at the end."
There's also a Walter Mitty factor. Banks recalled being coached by Doc Rivers at the Jordan camp.
"He coached you like it was Game Seven of the NBA Finals," he said. "He was on you. When you're 43, you're not used to some guy tearing into you if you missed a screen. But, boy, later on, it sure makes a great story over drinks."
As of early last week, the Calipari Fantasy Experience was about one-fourth toward the goal of 80 participants, said Matt Chacksfield, account executive with ProCamps, the company organizing the camp. Applications came from Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and Texas as well as Canada, he wrote in an email.
The Calipari camp will be held Sept. 13-15. Information is available by calling Chacksfield at (513) 745-5850 or contacting him through email at MChacksfield@procamps.com.
Hair today ...
Besides the first name "Goodluck," the most striking thing about prospect Goodluck Okonoboh was his hair style. He wore the same high-top fade as incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel.
Since the two played for The Tilton School in Everett, Mass., it figured the two decided to get the same style.
Noel was a 10th-grader and Okonoboh a ninth-grader. Okonoboh, who wore his hair in an outsized Afro style, said he was going to get it cut into a high-top fade.
"I don't know if you should do that," Noel advised.
As it turned out Okonoboh persuaded Noel to get the same haircut, which has become a signature style for the UK player-to-be.
"He ended up loving it," Okonoboh said. "He's never going to get it cut."
His father named him "Goodluck," the player said. Why? Because the father survived a gunshot wound two weeks before his son was born.
Blah, blah, blah
Beginning Friday, college coaches could make unlimited calls or texts to prospects.
Jordan Mickey, a 6-8 player from Richardson, Texas, did not expect stimulating conversation from the coaches.
"A lot of 'Who's in the running?'" he said last week. "'Are we on top?' 'Do you have a top five yet?' 'We really want you.'"
One of the players at the Top 100 Camp last week was Justin McKie, a senior-to-be from Irmo High School in the Columbia, S.C., area. Ahh, must be the younger brother of BJ McKie, who went to the same high school before starring for South Carolina.
"That's my father," the younger McKie said.
The older McKie, who left South Carolina in 1999 as the program's career scoring leader (2,119 points), is now an assistant coach at Charleston Southern.
"Our games are somewhat similar," Justin McKie said. "We both like to get to the rack. He always tells me I'm a little smoother."
Randall Cobb eyes
Former UK wide receiver/kick returner Randall Cobb had striking eye color. His gaze captured your attention.
So, too, with highly regarded guard Wayne Selden.
"I hear that a lot," he said when a reporter noted his eye color.
His eyes are a combination of green and gray, depending on the light, Selden said. He inherited the eye color from his father and one of his mother's uncles.
Former UK guard Joe Crawford underwent successful surgery on a knee. He had been enjoying a successful season in Israel. Now, Crawford is back in the United States "rehabbing aggressively," his agent, Aaron Mintz, said.
You might consider Crawford, who turns 26 Sunday, as getting old enough to ponder the end of his dreams of playing in the NBA. You'd be wrong, Mintz said.
"I'm not really a big believer in the window closes," the agent said. "I think Joe's window (of opportunity) is wide open."
To support this contention, Mintz cited several examples of players who played for years in various leagues before reaching the NBA:
■ Andre Emmett, who played for Bob Knight at Texas Tech, was entered in the 2004 NBA Draft. He played in Lebanon, Lithuania, Belgium, China and the developmental league before signing a 10-day contract with the Nets in February.
■ Gerald Green, who went from high school to first-round pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. A sputtering NBA career led to stints in Russia, China and the developmental league before he signed two 10-day deals with the Nets earlier this year.
■ Anthony Parker, who played at Bradley and entered the 1997 NBA Draft. He played in the CBA, Israel and Italy before making the NBA.
Injury and health issues helped stall Crawford's basketball career, Mintz said.
"He was finally fully healthy last year and it showed in how he played," the agent said. "He's still got a very large window."
South Carolina announced its 2012 spring semester team grade-point averages last week.
The men's basketball team had a GPA of 2.643, which spoke to former coach (and Tates Creek High grad) Darrin Horn's efforts to improve the program's academic standing. In the Southeastern Conference, that compared with Mississippi (2.41), Tennessee (2.55), Florida (3.05) and UK (3.12).
South Carolina noted that 14 of its 17 teams had a collective GPA of 3.00 or better. The exceptions were men's basketball (2.643), football (2.781) and women's basketball (2.968).
Overall, South Carolina athletes had a good 2011-12 school year. They had a collective 3.202 in the fall semester of 2011 and a 3.196 in the spring of 2012.
To explain Derek Willis' decision to participate in the Junior Kentucky-Indiana series, Bullitt East Coach Troy Barr acknowledged that the player's commitment to UK may have nullified the Top 100 Camp's potential to enhance recruiting stock.
"It may be," Barr said. "But those camps are a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. I'm sure already knowing where he was going to college (was a factor)."
Willis also turned down an invitation to play in the Top 100 Camp last year.
Willis saw the Junior Kentucky-Indiana series as a "step in the right direction" toward his goal of being the 2013 Kentucky Mr. Basketball, Barr said.
■ Solomon Poole will join his older brother Stacey Poole at Georgia Tech, recruiting analyst Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported Saturday.
■ In more ways than one, guard Andrew Harrison stood out at the Top 100 Camp. He wore bright orange shoes. "They didn't give me shoes my size," he said. The size 15 shoes he wore were too large. So he wore the orange shoes he brought to Charlottesville.
To former UK players G.J. Smith (he turned 59 on Wednesday), Gimel Martinez (he turned 41 on Thursday) and Tim Stephens (he turned 54 on Saturday).