<
>

Big-time recruits landing at mid-majors

11/19/2008

Zeke Marshall has all the talent in the world. The 6-foot-11 center from McKeesport (Pa.) runs the floor, rebounds, blocks shots and has a rapidly developing offensive game.

Needless to say, he got the kind of scholarship offers that typically go along with such skills. Schools like Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech all came calling before Marshall chose Akron of the Mid-American Conference.

Haven't-been-to-the-NCAA-tournament-since-1986 Akron? Never-on-national-TV Akron?

That's the one.

Marshall says people shook their heads when they found out, but they obviously haven't been paying attention to mid-major conferences like the MAC.

This is an era in which George Mason can knock off North Carolina and UConn to reach the Final Four and in which a Stephen Curry-led Davidson squad can knock off Georgetown and Wisconsin to advance to the Elite 8.

"Zeke wouldn't mind being one of the ones who brought a team to national prominence," McKeesport coach Corey Gadson says.

That's entirely possible since playing in a power conference is no longer required to get publicity.

In the 2008 NBA Draft, players from Rider, Western Kentucky and IUPUI were taken in the first round.

"A lot of high-ranked players are starting to go to smaller schools," Marshall says. "You can make The League without going to a big school."

Marshall isn't the only prized recruit to notice.

Glen Mills School (Pa.) center Aaric Murray had offers from the likes of Pitt, Villanova and West Virginia. But the No. 33 senior in the ESPNU ultimately committed to La Salle. And Rashanti Harris, a Mississippi native who's spending a post-grad year at the Patterson School (N.C.), picked Georgia State over Memphis, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

By picking these small schools, it might seem like Marshall, Murray and Harris are giving up any chance at March Madness glory or NBA futures. But Stephen Curry is living proof that's not the case.

Ryan Canner-O'Mealy covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.