Before he’d even left the court following an upset victory over Lexington Christian on Thursday night, Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. was informed that one of his players — 6-foot-7 sophomore Isaiah Cozart — had received a scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky.
It was the first offer in Cozart’s young recruitment, but it surely won’t be the last.
Cozart was one of three sophomores playing in the 11th Region Tournament on EKU’s home floor Thursday to have already attracted the attention of college coaches.
LCA’s Kyle Rode and Scott County’s Michael Moreno, who played in the first game of the night, have been on the national recruiting radar for a while now.
Scout.com updated its rankings for the class of 2019 last week, and Moreno and Rode — though not ranked in the scouting service’s Top 60 — did receive three-star designations. Only 117 sophomores nationally have received a star ranking from Scout.com, an indication that Moreno and Rode could be in the discussion for a spot in the national Top 100 when those rankings are expanded later in the recruiting cycle.
Moreno, a 6-6 small forward, is averaging 22.7 points and 10.2 rebounds this season for the Cardinals, the No. 1 team in the statewide rankings.
“He’s been the foundation on which we build,” said Scott County Coach Billy Hicks. “He’s tough. He battles. And he’s also a really good passer. He’s such a nice kid. He brings it. In practice, he really works hard, he wants to be a really good player. And that’s contagious. He’s a great guy to build a team around.”
Moreno has an early scholarship offer from Bradley, and he told the Herald-Leader that he’s already getting interest from Indiana, Louisville, Tennessee, Iowa, Xavier, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Butler, New Mexico, Middle Tennessee State and EKU.
Moreno also visited UK this season.
“He’s going to be a big kid who can really handle the ball,” Hicks said. “As he progresses and gets some elevation on that jump shot and gets better off the dribble — which we work on every day — he’s really going to be hard to stop.”
Hicks is in his 23rd season at Scott County and has coached some of the state’s best players in that span, including Bud Mackey and back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners Rick Jones and Scott Hundley.
“He’s right there among the best we’ve had,” he said of Moreno.
Rode, a 6-6 prospect who regularly runs the point for LCA, didn’t have his best night in Thursday’s loss — five points on 2-for-12 shooting — but he was phenomenal for the Eagles this season, leading the team to its first 11th Region Tournament appearance in school history, averaging 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and dishing out enough assists to flirt with triple-doubles on several occasions.
“He plays really hard. He has winning attributes,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “He’s physical. He’s a good scorer going to the rim, and he’s a guy who will rebound. He’s obviously had a really good sophomore season.”
Rode told the Herald-Leader that he’s already taken unofficial visits to Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, Xavier and Tennessee, and he listed Virginia Tech, Stanford and EKU among other schools showing interest. He, too, has visited UK for a practice this season.
Moreno and Rode will both play for Indiana Elite on the national Adidas circuit this summer, and they’re likely to draw even more attention from colleges during that time.
In Saturday afternoon’s 11th Region semifinals, Moreno will go up against Cozart, who is more of a mystery to college recruiters.
Feldhaus, who coached Dominique Hawkins and Madison Central to the state title four years ago, told the Herald-Leader that EKU has been the only school to express interest in Cozart’s recruitment. That’s likely to change soon.
Cozart has already set the state’s single-season record for blocked shots (214 and counting) and he’s on pace to break J.R. VanHoose’s career record (541 blocks) next season, when he’ll be only a junior. Feldhaus said Cozart has a 7-4 wingspan — “It’s the dangdest wingspan I’ve ever seen” — and hadn’t played much serious basketball until midway through last season, when he blocked 120 shots as a freshman.
“He’s a defensive presence,” Feldhaus said. “People can’t shoot over him. He’s very raw offensively, but he’s getting better. When you’ve got a 7-foot-4 wingspan, you’ve got to work with that kid, and we’re going to keep working with him.
“He can keep us in a game because people have a hard time scoring around the basket. He’ll get better offensively.”
Cozart will play for the Louisville Magic this summer, an Adidas-sponsored team that will also feature Trinity guard David Johnson, another in-state star ranked by Scout.com as the No. 49 player nationally in the 2019 class.
Feldhaus said there’s also a possibility that Cozart is still growing.
“I hope so,” he said with a laugh. “You know he’s going to get a lot stronger. And he’ll get a lot better. This should help his confidence — getting that offer. I think that will help motivate him even more.”
11th Region Tournament semifinals at EKU
1:30 p.m.: Lexington Catholic (23-8) vs. Sayre (23-9)
3:15 p.m.: Scott Co. (28-5) vs. Madison Central (19-14)