East Coast is full of untouted potential
This week let's focus on a half-dozen relatively unpublicized prep prospects along the East Coast who have emerged this season as potential big-time prospects. Two are fifth-year preps named Robinson, two are regular (fourth-year) seniors who may have trouble qualifying for collegiate freshman eligibility, and the other two are junior big men who are native Africans.
The two fifth-year preps are 6-8 small forward/power forward Brandon Robinson of Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame and 6-3 wing guard/point guard Dawan Robinson of Pittsfield (Maine) Maine Central Institute. Brandon Robinson, a native of Huntsville, Ala., who plans to attend Auburn (with whom he initially signed during the 1999-2000 academic year), is a lefthanded wing with a smooth jump shot. In addition, he's a genuine leaper who soars for crowd-thrilling slam dunks. The Tigers will expect an immediate contribution from him next season.
Dawan Robinson was a fine high school performer in Philadelphia before arriving this season at always strong Maine Central. No one, however, anticipated that he would be able to rack up 48 points against powerful New Hampton (N.H.) New Hampton School, as he did recently! Now Dawan is getting serious attention from the Big East (especially Providence) and Atlantic 10 (La Salle). Since we include fifth-year preps in our senior rankings, both Robinsons will be added to our postseason list this spring.
That rundown will also contain a pair of fast-rising seniors, 7-0 center Keith Butler of Cambridge (Mass.) North Cambridge Catholic and muscular 6-5 Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior small forward/power forward Cameron Benison, although both reportedly may require another year of prep school in order to qualify. Butler has literally come from nowhere this year after playing in just six games last season, when his father unexpectedly died of a heart attack. He's averaging 19.5 points, 16 rebounds and 13 (!) blocked shots per game for once-beaten North Cambridge Catholic, while attracting Big East interest. Seven-footers with good athleticism are very difficult to find, hence Keith's value could skyrocket if he continues to play as well as he has thus far.
Benison is a physically strong Harlem native with superb bounce who has erupted into the leading scorer and rebounder for a good Our Savior team. This skywalking dunker is now working quite diligently to improve his formerly shaky academic credentials. Long Island University and several other mid-majors would love to be able to steal Benison, but he's now hearing from some big-time programs such as St. John's!
The two junior insiders from Africa are extremely promising prospects who have made a major mark on the national scene via recent performances. When Dyke (Va.) Blue Ridge School carried nationally top-ranked Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy into overtime before losing by a 76-69 count before nearly 6,000 fans at the University of Virginia's University Hall in Charlottesville, the fans no doubt were stunned to see 6-10 Blue Ridge junior center Aliou Kane from Senegal outplay Oak Hill's widely heralded 7-0, 300-pound senior DeSagana Diop, who's also Senegalese and a major UVa recruiting target. Diop, hampered by a stress fracture in the heel, finished with four points (2-6 FG), 10 rebounds, seven blocked shots and five turnovers. Look for Kane to be among the nation's premier big men in the class of 2002.
Equally talented is 6-9 East Greenwich (Conn.) Brunswick junior center/power forward Akin Akingbala, who is almost as outstanding at this point as heralded 6-10 fellow Nigerian junior center/power forward Sani Ibrahim from Winchendon (Mass.) Winchendon School. At the recent National Prep School Invitational in Worcester, Mass., which was won by loaded Winchendon, Akingbala was more impressive than both highly regarded 6-10 junior center Torin Francis of Marion (Mass.) Tabor Academy and 6-10 Sudanese senior power forward/center Deng Gai of tournament runner-up Milford (Conn.) Milford Academy. Athletic Akin is a deluxe rejector who is rapidly developing effective post moves and a mid-range jump shot.
In contrast, talented but soft Francis didn't play with the same levels of intensity and aggression as Akingbala, while angular Gai was hampered by a twisted knee. The latter, who may remain in prep school next season as a fifth-year, either jacks up 3-point tries or dunks, but shows little else (e.g., post moves, turnaround jump shots or jump hooks) on offense at this stage of development.
Around the rest of the nation, there are many others who have emerged this season as potential big-time prospects. Over the coming weeks, we'll look more closely at some of them.
Continuing our look at the very best prep seniors and juniors, let's identify the top wing guards in each geographic region while also mentioning some recent verbal commitments and football signings of hoop importance.
Brick Oettinger is talent evaluator for the Prep Stars Recruiter's Handbook and recruiting columnist for the ACC Area Sports Journal. For more information on either publication, call 1-800-447-7667.