The rise of Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin and his recruitment has been anything but conventional.
In the past year Griffin has gone from an obscure player without a single Division I offer as recently as five months ago to the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 3 ranked senior in Illinois and a coveted high-major prospect.
On the recruiting front, Griffin didn’t waste any time trimming an emerging list on the verge of getting out of control in July to just four schools in August. Along the way he left in-state Illinois off his short list after receiving an offer from the Illini and visiting unofficially, and he ultimately said no to coach Bill Self and Kansas, one of his four finalists.
On Tuesday, after just two official visits, the 6-6 forward ended his recruitment with a commitment to Iowa State and head coach Steve Prohm.
“My family has always told me not to get caught up in the name,” says Griffin, who also had mid-major Illinois State among his final four schools. “It’s about the best fit. It’s where you see the best fit for yourself over the next four years and where you can see yourself as part of that family in the years after.”
Griffin felt that “ideal fit” during the recruiting process with Iowa State and saw it firsthand on his official visit this past weekend. As a result he felt no reason to take his final two official visits to Pitt and Kansas.
Griffin says he was impressed with and appreciated the hands-on approach in recruiting he felt from Prohm, who in two years at Iowa State has led the Cyclones to 47 wins, a pair of NCAA Tournament berths and a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
“The recruiting process usually starts with the assistant coaches as the head coaches let the assistants do all the early work,” Griffin pointed out. “But that wasn’t the case with Iowa State. Coach Prohm was the first one to reach out to me. He was there from the beginning, and I appreciated that and felt that genuine care.
“He also said to me, ‘Remember that Iowa State was the first high-major program to offer you.’”
With Prohm and assistant coach Daniyal Robinson leading the charge on the recruiting front, Griffin established a strong foundation and a connection with the staff. There was simply a school and staff that clearly stood out to him.
“It all felt genuine and real with them, right from the start,” says Griffin. “It felt genuine and real with me and with my family.”
After averaging 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds a game as a junior, Griffin’s game continued to build. A solid couple of weekends during the live periods in April didn’t exactly jump-start his recruitment. Wright State, Chicago State and UTEP offered in May while Western Michigan and UIC did in June. But that was it for a player who was vastly under-recruited heading into the pivotal July evaluation period.
His stock then soared in July. He became the breakout player of the summer while playing with the Illinois Hoopers on the club circuit. Griffin was immediately flooded with mid-major offers four days into the July period. With confidence soaring and the physical attributes he showcased, the odds of a mid-major landing Griffin soon became a pipe dream.
“I started to believe I was a high-major player that first live weekend in July,” says Griffin.
There were times Griffin dazzled on the summer circuit. He poured in 42 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and made 9 of 12 from beyond the arc in a signature performance against Howard Pulley, a Nike EYBL program.
His fearlessness, above-the-rim athleticism and much-improved shooting turned heads. Griffin went from a player he says made “four of five three-pointers his entire junior season” to one making nine in one game, seven in another and consistently knocking down perimeter jumpers throughout the summer.
With his growing game, body and athleticism, Griffin possesses the type of enormous upside college coaches covet. Plus, he’s the player a coach never has to worry about if he’s ready to play; Griffin plays hard and gets after it with a non-stop running motor.
He also knows and understands he’s hardly a finished product.
“I’m pumped,” Griffin said of his commitment to Iowa State. “My energy is through the roof right now. To be able to play college basketball at this level? I know I have to continue to raise my own game to another level. This is just the beginning.”
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport