By Joe Henricksen
The recruitment of Rockford Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet was not a normal one. And that was a good thing for the mid-major programs involved, especially Wichita State. The Hoops Report’s No. 4 ranked player in the Class of 2012 committed to Wichita State on Monday.
Van Vleet, who put together a terrific spring on the AAU circuit in leading PrymeTyme, ultimately chose the Shockers over both Kent State and Northern Illinois. There were other schools, including at least a couple of high-major programs, who tried to get involved with the 5-11 point guard in the last month. But unlike other high school hot shots, Van Vleet wasn’t interested in running a recruiting circus and looking for the highest level possible. Kudos to Van Vleet for his level-headed ways and going through a process that others should think about following.
Van Vleet was Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall’s No. 1 recruiting priority at the point guard position. With the help of assistant coach Dana Ford, who was hired on just this spring after making a major impact at Tennessee State for two years, the Shockers made up a lot of ground with Van Vleet in a short amount of time.
The Shockers landed the state’s top point guard prospect and a player who does one thing so much better than every other senior in Illinois: make the players around him better. Van Vleet is the purest of point guards, a crafty and heady lead guard who has the pedigree and qualities a coach looks for to run a team. He understands the nuances of the position, controlling tempo, spacing and is a terrific passer. Van Vleet’s biggest improvement this spring has been the ability to knock down shots and showing more of a sense of urgency.
Look for Wichita State, with Ford and assistant coach Chris Jans, to continue to make inroads in Illinois. Ford was instrumental in landing a pair of standouts at Tennessee State — Robert Covington of Proviso West and Pat Miller of Hales Franciscan in his two years at the Ohio Valley Conference school.