UK Men's Basketball

After losing 40 pounds, UK basketball target is still a ‘bruiser’ for Oak Hill

David McCormack is one of the top centers in the basketball recruiting class of 2018.
David McCormack is one of the top centers in the basketball recruiting class of 2018. adidas

In a recruiting class seemingly short on top-quality centers, Oak Hill (Va.) standout David McCormack could be a player to watch for the Kentucky Wildcats.

McCormack — a 6-foot-10, 260-pound big man from Norfolk, Va. — is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 center in the 2018 class. An example of the dearth of talent at that position in this recruiting cycle: McCormack is the No. 24 overall player in the class.

His top standing in a perennial position of need makes him a coveted prospect.

During one session at the Adidas Finale event in Spartanburg, S.C., last weekend, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kansas’ Bill Self sat near each other to watch McCormack play. Both have extended scholarship offers, and they were among the many head coaches who lined the baseline that day.

Kentucky’s coaches have also been keeping tabs on McCormack — he told the Herald-Leader that he most often speaks to John Calipari and assistant coach Joel Justus — and they called him just before the start of this month’s first live recruiting period to say they’d be watching.

Calipari also had a message for McCormack.

“To fight. Always to fight,” said the high school senior. “Fight for every rebound. Fight for every loose ball. Fight for every basket. Just keep playing strong and keep growing as a player.

“He talks about other bigs in my class, and me being an old-fashioned, big-bruiser big, but at the same time developing my game. I’ve always said I was coachable. And I love to fight. That’s what he says that he likes about me. That it’s a rare commodity.”

Fighting for position in the paint is clearly not a problem for McCormack, who has also proven his ability to work hard away from the basketball court.

This time last year, McCormack weighed upward of 300 pounds — making him a formidable presence in the post but hindering him in other areas, including conditioning and the ability to stay out on the floor for longer periods of time.

He transferred to Oak Hill Academy last fall and averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior for the always-loaded Warriors’ squad. He also lost about 40 pounds during his first season with the team.

I would say I used to be a bull in a china shop, but not as much now. I’ve developed my game to where I’m much more skilled ...

David McCormack, Oak Hill Academy (Va.) center

McCormack praised the Oak Hill staff for helping him get in better shape and said he transformed into a “label reader,” taking special notice of what he was putting into his body.

Now, he feels like a totally different player.

“It just feels amazing,” he said. “Running down the floor is much easier. I’m jumping higher. You can tell the difference in your body. The conditioning is much better and you don’t get tired as much. It’s really helped my game.”

McCormack still uses the same word to describe that game.

“Big,” he said with a laugh.

The kid is still 6-10 and 260 pounds, after all.

That’s a load for opponents, as was clear this summer on the Adidas circuit, where McCormack averaged 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds, making 60 percent of his attempts from the floor.

“I would say I used to be a bull in a china shop, but not as much now,” he said. “I’ve developed my game to where I’m much more skilled with footwork. I can get around defenders rather than going through them.

“My game is always developing. But I’m still strong and demanding.”

McCormack, who has more than 30 scholarship offers from Division I schools, said he plans to cut his list at the conclusion of the summer basketball schedule. To what number, he doesn’t know. He also didn’t name any specific schools that would definitely be in line to get one of his five official visits.

Duke, Kansas, Georgetown, Maryland and Oklahoma State have been mentioned prominently at various stages of McCormack’s recruitment — and the Cowboys recently hired an assistant coach with ties to his AAU team — but he declined to name any leaders in an interview with the Herald-Leader over the weekend.

Calipari, who has yet to offer a true center in the 2018 class, plans to stay tuned.

“He’s said nothing about an offer yet,” McCormack said. “Just to keep working and keep playing. And he’s going to keep watching me.”

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