Favors still weighing collegiate options


ATLANTA -- It rarely happens on the basketball court, but off the hardwood, Derrick Favors is getting pushed and pulled repeatedly.

When you're a big guy with instincts, athleticism and enough wingspan to draw comparisons to Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, college basketball coaches circle like birds of prey.

Fellow players want you as a future teammate, so they bombard you with text messages. Everybody, it seems, wants to know your plans.

But Favors, a senior center/power forward at South Atlanta High, rarely seems to be in a hurry to go anywhere and doesn't say much under any circumstances, so he's not obliging.

Fans of Georgia Tech, Georgia, NC State and Memphis who were hoping he'd sign a letter of intent in the early signing period will have to wait until the spring signing period -- just like his current and perhaps future teammates.

"We ask him where he's going to go, but he'll say he don't know," said South Atlanta guard Nick Watkins, who's been playing summer and high school ball with Favors for several years.

Favors is the No. 2-ranked high school prospect in the ESPNU 100 and the No. 1-ranked power forward.

It's no wonder, then, that Mfon Udofia, a point guard from Miller Grove High in metro Atlanta who signed a letter of intent with Georgia Tech, and Trey Thompkins, a freshman at Georgia, are just two examples of other players hitting Favors up on the phone -- frequently -- with recruiting pitches of their own.

Favors is 6-foot-9, 234 pounds and not the player scouts might have seen last season, when he averaged 23.7 points, 17.1 rebounds and 9.2 blocked shots per game.

There's more to him now. "Coach is going to let me come out on the perimeter sometimes when I have a one-on-one situation where I'm quicker than the guy guarding me," he said.

The Hornets, who are ranked No. 1 in Class AAA in Georgia one season after going 27-3, don't begin their season until Nov. 29. But in a Nov. 13 scrimmage against Udofia's No. 1-ranked AAAA team, Favors scored 34 points, grabbed more than 20 rebounds and blocked 11 shots in a 70-61 loss, according to South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick. "The team is very versatile this year, so with the improvement of Derrick and his outside shot and his free-throw shooting," the coach said.

Favors has made official visits to Tech, Georgia and NC State, but he canceled a recent official visit to Memphis, although he said the Tigers remain on his short list. "Other things came up," he said of his decision to skip that visit.

Here's a quick quiz for Favors. Summarize each coach's recruiting pitch:

Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt: "Why go anywhere else when you have a big-time program right here in your back yard?," Favors said.

Georgia's Dennis Felton: "He just talks about how he can develop me into a better player."

Memphis coach John Calipari: "I don't talk to him that much."

NC State coach Sidney Lowe: "About developing me. They bring up [former metro Atlanta prep big man] J.J. Hickson and how he developed [in one season with the Wolfpack before moving onto the NBA this past summer]."

Why wait to make a decision?

"I just need to think things through," Favors said. "How I feel when there. Is this the place where I want to spend four years?"

Four years? That's doubtful, said Reddick, who along with Favors' AAU coach, Jammar Stegall, and Favors' mother, D'Andra, form a three-person council of sorts.

"We have talked about just about everything," Reddick said. "With him, it's as long as it takes. Most kids, their dream is to play in the NBA. If he can do it in one year and move on, great. If it takes two years to move on, good. If it takes three, it didn't go as quickly as he wanted it to."

Favors occasionally speaks with pros who made quick jumps to the NBA, including Smith, who went pro out of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in 2004 before the rule mandating that players spend one season in college before making that move. Smith, in fact, bought South Atlanta's boys' and girls' teams new uniforms a couple of years ago when theirs went missing during a school renovation.

He also talks with Memphis Grizzlies guard Javaris Crittenton, who spent one season at Tech before going pro in 2007. Before going to Tech, Crittenton attended a private school while living in the South Atlanta district.

Reddick is right about Favors' dream. He's even thought about going pro right out of high school, like Brandon Jennings, the Oak Hill Academy point guard who initially committed to Arizona only to later announce that he would play professionally in Italy after high school.

"A friend asked me if [a foreign team] offered me, like, $3 million, would I go?" Favors said with a big smile. "I'd have to think about $3 million."

The money is likely to come for Favors, but Reddick doesn't think the paychecks will start rolling in as soon as next year.

"That has come up when we were just joking around because of the door that was opened up by Brandon Jennings," Reddick said. "It's something you don't want to put on a kid's mind. That situation right now, college is the only thing he's looking at."

Matt Winkeljohn recently left The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after spending 21 years there. He can be reached at mattwinkeljohn@yahoo.com.