By Joe Henricksen
First, Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives opens eyes, drops jaws and shoots up local and national rankings with high-major offers flowing in. Now another Class of 2011 prospect is grabbing high-major attention. Benet Academy big man Frank Kaminsky received an offer from Wisconsin on Thursday, according to Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins.
While Kaminsky is obviously not near the story or talent of Davis, he has certainly made big strides in the last year — even in the last two months. A week after Wisconsin and previous commitment Devon Hodges of Bolingbrook parted ways, Kaminsky grabs an offer from the Badgers.
The 6-10 Kaminsky is still trying to become more of a factor in the lane and on the block, but he is certainly skilled enough to step out and knock down the 15-20 foot jumper. His physical strength should only get better as he adds weight to his 6-10 frame. Of all the systems out there, Kaminsky does project to the type of big man Wisconsin has brought in over the years and had success with. Kaminsky now has offers from Bradley, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. We shall see if this offer from Wisconsin jump-starts the recruitment of Kaminsky.
The Kaminsky offer brings a recruiting subject to the table: the recruitment of the high school big man. College programs look high and low, near and far for big men. They look in small towns, big towns, white, black, foreign or domestic. They look under rocks. They look for anyone who is 6-8 or bigger that can run (sometimes), chew gum and, hopefully, do both. Then they hope they have grades. And this isn’t just at the Division I level. You should see some of the big men Division III programs bring in, just hoping they can develop into a player at some point in their four years on campus.
Take the state of Illinois as an example. The Class of 2010 was actually a good year for big men in the state of Illinois, with 7-foot Meyers Leonard of Robinson obviously the cream of the crop and rare breed of big man we’ve seen in this state. There were six players total in the class who were 6-8, considered a true 4-man or 5-man and qualified academically who are heading off to a Division I program next fall. Now you think about all the college programs in Illinois and throughout the Midwest that circle around the state of Illinois like vultures trying to recruit the state. They are all in search of a kid with size.
The Class of 2011 has fewer big men and the Class of 2012 has very little size or true post players. Are tall people simply not re-creating in this state? Paging all tall people throughout Illinois … Paging all tall people throughout Illinois …
There …. Are …. No …. Big …. Men!
So college programs take them when they find them. And when they do find one who is talented it’s a feeding frenzy. Coaches salivate, get giddy, cross their fingers they can hold onto them prior to signing day.
And there are times they take big men that, quite frankly, they aren’t even 100 percent sold on. If they are going to swing and miss on a prospect, you better believe it’s going be one that is 6-9, 6-10 or bigger. A lot of times the hope is to bring them in, redshirt them for a year and wait three years for them to develop into a viable option. There have been some tremendous big man stories over the years, where a program rolls the dice and has come up big three, four or even five years later.
A perfect example is Northern Iowa big man Jordan Eglseder, the ultimate project. The 7-foot, 280 pound center out of Bellevue, Iowa just capped off his career as one of the top big men in the Missouri Valley. But this came after a slow (6 minutes a game as a freshman) but effective progression at the mid-major level. Everyone remembers Ali Farokhmanesh’s shot that killed Kansas in the NCAA Tournament and vaulted UNI to the Sweet 16, but it was Eglseder’s development and, ultimately, presence that elevated UNI during the 2009-2010 season. And all because UNI rolled the dice on a big man early in the recruiting process, before others even were involved.
There are more eyes on kids with size today than maybe ever before. Who knows, maybe there are less of them. I don’t know. I think back to different big men from years past that, if they were in the market today, what level would they be recruited at? I can think back to the Class of 1999 when a tall, string of a talent named Brad Korn was being recruited out of middle-of-nowhere Plano, Illinois. Korn, who is now an assistant coach at Southern Illinois, was 6-8, pushing 6-9, skilled, with a soft touch and could shoot the heck out of it. He was courted by the local mid-majors, namely Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Southern Illinois. He chose to play for coach Bruce Weber at SIU and enjoyed a solid career. But what level would he have been recruited at today? A 6-9 kid who can run the floor with a pure shot out to 22 feet? You tell me.
The recruitment of size is a cross between a game of poker and Risk.