Ricardo gathers thoughts at City of Palms

Not that he didn’t pick a big time enough school the first time around, but there’s something different with Ricardo Gathers (LaPlace, La./Reserve Christian) as he approaches his next decision. The former St. John’s commitment who has played his way into the elite, wants to play on the biggest stage.

“Now, I’m thinking outside the box,” Gathers said. “Now I’m looking ahead. I’m trying to go big now with [programs like Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky].” Make no mistake about it, Gathers is an elite recruit and you’d expect his final list of schools to reflect that. Now, Duke, Baylor and Florida should consider themselves in the mix; in addition to the Red Storm.

For the programs that are recruiting Gathers, many are finding out that talking to him isn’t easy. This time around his brother is handling most of the conversations while he focuses on his season. “I really haven’t spoke to many schools since the decommitment.” Gathers talked to Scott Drew and he’s spoken with Billy Donovan but has yet to converse with Mike Krzyzewski.

There’s a renewed focus on hoops with Gathers. He knows where his bread is buttered: inside as a board man. He said he’s worked diligently on his free throws with his brother because he was leaving too many points at the line. He sees himself not as a skilled big man but as a rugged one. He’s watching college basketball and so far in his mind, Duke, Florida and Baylor don’t have a guy like him and that’s why they are worthy of mentioning. There’s likely to be others before it’s all said and done.

Over the last year, we’ve watched Gathers find himself. Last spring he spent a lot of time on the perimeter before composing himself to lead the Nike EYBL in rebounding. Now, he knows exactly who he is and will play to his strengths inside, where he is capable of being a one-man wrecking crew.

You aren’t going to wake up one day and read that he committed. He’s not focusing on the recruiting now. This event is important to him and winning it is in the cards. If he can do that, or at least continue his strong showing, maybe some of these postseason all-star games will follow as well. He’s certainly good enough and it sounds like he wants to earn the credit.

Goodman has to resist urge to skip steps

Combo forward Savon Goodman (Philadelphia, Pa./Constitution) will be one of the bigger spring names on the board. There’s a lot of traffic here to see him at the City of Palms. St. John’s and Connecticut were in the stands for his first game on Monday. Goodman said Pittsburgh, UCLA, Temple, the Red Storm and Missouri are tracking him hard.

Goodman is an excellent case study. From an evaluation standpoint, he’s an undersized power forward. However, Goodman has his eyes on a bigger prize: the NBA. That means he’s looking to develop his perimeter game, which is natural but is it the right way to get to the league?

Guys like Goodman who are 'tweeners are always best served playing to their strengths. In the case of Goodman, he’s an elite athlete, good finisher and could hurt teams as a slasher when he catches a few feet extended from the paint. Most college coaches – the ones who are being honest with him – will use him as an energy player and tell him that they’ll develop his perimeter game. The ones who recruit him as a straight 3 man aren’t being truthful.

Here’s the deal: Goodman’s going to be in college four years barring a change in his status. He can’t skip steps to reach his ultimate goal. He needs a journey, a good fit and a coach who will get him to play to his strengths. Goodman should approach college with the thought of constructing a resume for down the road. The guys who are like him – athletic, quick and explosive – take their time to cultivate their resume. There’s no room for skipping steps. Goodman’s a willing participant in his future. The next step is following the roadmap for success.

Meet Mario Dunn

The cool thing about Christmas events is the exposure afforded many of the participants. Take Mario Dunn (Richmond, Calif./Salesian) for instance. Who knew? Coming into the event, not a single Division I program had made an offer to the 5-11 junior point guard whose academics rival his athletics.

“I just want to play for a good Division I or Division II school,” Dunn said. D2? What? No way, this kid is at least a mid-level player. The City of Palms Classic will forever be the place where this guy came into his own.

He’s not the biggest point – he’s 5-11 maybe – but he’s got quickness and speed and he finishes off plays. Without a stage, maybe it takes an extra six months for him to come onto the scene.

Gym gems

  • I thought Jaylen Brantley (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson) was a tad aggressive and took some bad perimeter shots. Then, with 2.7 seconds left the star junior knocked in a contested floater. Game over, Brantley delivered in the clutch, which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from him.

  • Jordan Mickey (Dallas/Grace Prep) simply went off in the second half for 21 of his 29 points (11-15 FG) to lead Grace Prep past Mater Dei. Last week, Mickey told me he wouldn’t mind going to UK. With John Calipari sitting under the bucket he was scoring at, Mickey beasted in the second half. Isaiah Austin (Mansfield, Tex./Grace Prep) had 21 and 12.