The last time he had a national audience, center Joel Embiid (Cameroon/The Rock) was on the wrong side of a clinic at the hands of Brandon Ashley. Then a junior center for Montverde, Embiid was given the unenviable task of trying to slow down a grooving Ashley. He didn’t and Montverde succumbed to Findlay Prep in the NHSI championship.
A lot has changed since last March. For starters, Embiid is no longer at Montverde. The near 7-footer transferred to The Rock in Gainesville, Fla. With Dakari Johnson (New York/Montverde) gobbling up court time, Embid might not have seen as much playing time as he would have liked, so he bolted.
“He is a surprise to me and a pleasant one at that,” The Rock coach Justin Harden said. “He’s every bit of 6-11. He can do a lot of good things with the ball. He’s only been playing 18 months. Was a volleyball player before that.”
Read the last two lines carefully. Embiid used to play more volleyball than hoops and is only 18 months into his basketball career. Gill Grissom doesn’t miss clues like that and neither should we.
“At 6-11, he’s got an effortless shot,” Harden said. “He’s a long-term stock. With what he’s been able to do in 18 months in terms of skill development (it’s impressive). Once he gets consistent weight training the sky is the limit.”
Last season, Embiid had trouble understanding English. Basketball terminology was likely more foreign than the actual English language. At the time of the schooling at the hands of Ashley, Embiid looked like a deer in headlights. However, go back and look at the tape of the game that was on ESPN and you’ll notice he was a long, lean potential guy. That much we acknowledged. After last summer, he’s got everyone’s attention.
Texas, Florida and UCLA are looking. DePaul and Marquette offered. Louisville and Virginia are sniffing around. UCLA’s interesting because former Bruin Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a mentor. The Gators have a slight advantage here as well. Embiid's new school, The Rock, is in Billy Donovan's zip code. Florida can babysit the big fella as required.
Multiple coaches have indicated that Texas and UCLA are not going anywhere and will be factors when decision time comes.
In a few days, college coaches are going to be able to watch workouts and do home visits. All of the guys on Embid’s list -- and more -- will flock to The Rock. Most will offer based solely off background information, limited viewings and Embid’s potential. At that point, we’d expect UCLA and Texas to be granted visits and the jockeying for position on his list continues.
You might not know much about Embiid right now, but don’t say you weren’t warned.