Now that football season is over, No. 1 overall ESPN 150 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) says he is averaging about 30 minutes per game playing basketball for his school, while also working with a personal trainer on power lifting and speed drills. A couple of schools still hoping to sign the five-star prospect spent time during the last two weeks trying to bond with the 6-foot-4, 272-pound senior.
First up was LSU, with the Tigers' defensive line coach making the trip to see Nkemdiche last week.
“I spent time with Coach Brick (Haley), and we went out to eat,” Nkemdiche said. “He also came to watch me practice basketball. He tells me to go where my heart goes, and he feels he has the tools to help me get to the next level. Honestly, I like LSU a lot. He says that he could help me develop the tools to get to the NFL. He says if I come in there and work, I will be perfectly fine and play as a freshman. I plan to give them an official visit.”
Nkemdiche, who says he wants to be a nine-technique coming off the edge in college, was visited by Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart on Thursday.
“Kirby Smart came by basketball practice and watched me train,” Nkemdiche said. “He talked to me about things Alabama could do with me and the versatility I bring to the table. Alabama is a historic place, man. They're a great program that always has an awesome defense, and that is what I do. They are a good school, but I do not know if I am going to take a visit there or not.”
Ole Miss is a program that has been mentioned as possible a front-runner for Nkemdiche ever since he decommitted from Clemson. Two assistants were at his school Friday to take in his basketball game.
“Coach (Wesley) McGriff and Coach (Chris) Kiffin spoke to me about coming in and being a cornerstone player that can do great things with my brother,” Nkemdiche said. “They want me to help them keep building on the rise that they have been on.”
With his brother Denzel already enrolled at Ole Miss and his mother, Beverly, expressing her hope of her sons playing together, speculation is that the Rebels are the clear-cut favorite to land the elite pass-rusher.
“I would not necessarily say Ole Miss is the team to beat,” Nkemdiche said. “They are a good program that is in the running. They are in the top three or four, but I do not want to say too much, because I am not sure yet. They are in the top two or three.”
Denzel sent local and national media into a frenzy on Nov. 24 when he said on camera that Robert told him he would be committing in two weeks. Although Denzel did not say which school his younger brother would be selecting, some assumed it would be to join him in Oxford. Two weeks later, Nkemdiche has yet to make any such announcement.
“I didn't give him grief about that,” Nkemdiche said. “Denzel likes to say things when he is happy. I said, 'The media will make people change the way they look at you. And they are going to make it a big deal and bigger than it really is.' I told him to straight up, 'Just ignore the media.' ”
Nkemdiche added that Clemson should not be counted out just yet, either.
“Coach (Marion) Hobby spoke to me two weeks ago about keeping them in there and staying in touch,” Nkemdiche said. “They are in there.”
With the quiet period giving way to the dead period at midnight, Nkemdiche likely will begin his official visits during the week following the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 4. He said two will go to LSU and Oregon, while he is unsure if he will take one to Alabama, Clemson or Ole Miss.
“I would say that Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ole Miss are my top four,” Nkemdiche said. “When I make my decision, I want to be sure this time. I might make my decision in January; it just depends on how I feel.”