When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.
LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.
Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).
All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.
Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.
The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.
Duke commit and Franklin High School senior Luke Kennard achieved something special on Friday night as the guard passed LeBron James on the Ohio High School Athletic Association career scoring list. With 44 points against Brookville, Kennard moved into fourth place on the list with 2,652 career points.
Kennard trailed James by 38 points for the No. 4 spot entering the game and buried a 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the third quarter to pass the perennial NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion.
James is already familiar with Kennard, as the future Blue Devil played for the King James Shooting Stars in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer.
A quartet of four-star recruits have given their verbal commitments to The Ohio State University for next fall. While that’s a talented incoming class for Thad Matta, he may be looking down the road at another prized recruit. Way down the road.
Thursday was Ohio State’s media day, as the Buckeyes prepare for the post-Aaron Craft era. Matta can’t comment on his current commits that didn’t stop him from talking about recruiting.
LeBron James Jr. doesn’t turn 10 until next week, though, there are plenty of his highlights up on YouTube, most recently from his team’s trip to Lexington, Kentucky for the AAU Nationals this past summer. Given his return to Cleveland, it’s obvious LeBron still loves his home state, even if he never did attend OSU. However, LeBron showed up to Columbus a few weeks back to speak with the Buckeyes football team before their home opener.
Whether he’s serious or not, Matta better be careful when discussing potential recruits, no matter how young. Just last month, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma was hit with a secondary recruiting violation for calling Mo’ne Davis after her dazzling performance in the Little League World Series. Auriemma was reported by an unnamed school.
Based off the YouTube videos — and the fact that his father is the best player in the NBA — I’m sure LeBron James Jr. will have his share of options by his senior year of high school, which will be the 2021-2022 season.
In the immediate aftermath of Kentucky’s loss to UConn in the national title game, there were some questions asked with regard to the future of the program. Of course there was the issue of figuring out which players would enter the NBA Draft (Julius Randle and James Young) and who would return to Lexington for another season (everyone else with eligibility remaining). But there was also the matter of determining whether or not head coach John Calipari would entertain thoughts of moving on as well.
One “theory” floating around was that Calipari, who has led Kentucky to one national title and three Final Four appearances during his tenure, would coach a Cleveland Cavaliers team that would hopefully feature LeBron James. James eventually made the decision to return to Cleveland, but in a story written by Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal none of that mattered to Calipari.
“They came back because it was good for them and their careers and they knew they needed more developing and coaching. That was by me. That’s what they wanted,” Calipari told the paper in an interview Sunday morning in the Bahamas. “So that made it a tough deal to say, ‘I’m just going to leave these guys here.’ With who? It may be somebody I don’t know that wouldn’t do the things for them that they needed to do.
“Now, obviously coaching at Kentucky is special. It is unique and special. But this, for me, becomes about these kids. I have no desire, nor am I out looking for (jobs). I got the job. I got the job. What would move me to stay was these kids need me here. That’s what I’m doing. At the end of the day, that was what (kept him at UK). It wasn’t money.”
Will the NBA question linger every offseason for Calipari? Who knows, and that could depend upon the possibility of landing with a franchise that has an elite player on board. As noted, there was no way for anyone to know in the months that led up to Calipari signing his extension that LeBron would return to his home state. And coaching a loaded team considered by many to be the early favorite to win the national title isn’t a bad deal either.