Cly can fly
Montverde point guard Kaleb Clyburn has mid-major coaches calling
BALTIMORE -- Kaleb Clyburn has the one characteristic that all true point guard want: the trust of his coaches and teammates.
It's evident that he is the leader. When the huddle breaks following a timeout, Clyburn's the last person Montverde (Fla.) Academy coach Kevin Sutton speaks with, often whispering nuggets of court wisdom. He's also the first player that teammates will confer during the run of play.
"He's me on the floor; I'm little bias because I was a point guard, too," Sutton said. "In the two years here he's earned my trust because ultimately make the right decision on the floor and in the locker room."
Thursday that trust was evident. With the clock winding down in a tie game, Clyburn, to no one's surprise, was the man with the ball. In a split second he shot though a gap in the 2-3 zone, hit a twisting layup over two stunned Montrose Christian defenders for his only points of the game.
The basket was the difference as Montverde held off Montrose Christian, 51-49, in the opening round of the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational at Coppin State's Physical Education Complex.
Crucial sequences like the Thursday's game-winner separates him from the average point guard. The final possession had three options -- forwards Jamail Jones (a Marquette recruit) and James Bell (Villanova) were involved -- but Clyburn slithered into the gap.
"He really makes things happen; he makes them go," said Stu Vetter, veteran coach of Montrose Christian who mentored elite players such as Randolph Childress, Kevin Durant, Dennis Scott, Greivis Vasquez and Linas Kleiza in high school.
His then instincts took over.
"That's what I do. Get my teammates involved and make decisions," Clyburn said.
As the huddle broke, Sutton pulled Clyburn aside and indicated "it's all you."
In two seasons at the private boarding school in Central Florida, Clyburn has grown as a player. It started with a few plays and a healthy dose of confidence from Sutton to this season where Clyburn calls the shots.
"On the floor it's his team. He has the ability to make others better. He's not the first option usually [on offense] but he'll deliver the ball where it needs to go."
"We expect him to make the right decision. He finds the open man and gets everyone involved."
Playing a national schedule has prepared Clyburn for the next level.
After competing at the Junior Orange Bowl Tournament in Miami after Christmas, Clyburn decommitted from Central Connecticut State.
"My parents and I thought I could play at a higher level," he said. "Deep down it was hard decision but I'm glad I made it."
Once he reopened the recruiting process, he's had offers from Delaware, Siena, Niagara and Stetson. He'll visit Delaware next weekend.
"Delaware plays in a great league with schools like George Mason and VCU," he said of the Colonial Athletic Conference. "The out of conference is really good. This year they played Temple and Siena, both ranked teams.
"I want to play for a program that not only wants me but needs me. The coaches at Delaware said I'd figure in the plays right away. It's good to hear that."
His first impactful decision came following his sophomore year, leaving Orlando Christian Prep. OCP had just won Florida's Class 1A championship in 2008 but Clyburn wasn't progressing.
"I wasn't getting any better," Clyburn said. "Coming to Montverde was great. I play with several players that only go to mid- or high- major schools. I've elevated my game enough thatr some good mid-majors are interested. Plus academically I'll be ready for college."
His work ethic paid off this season. Last month he earned honorable mention all-central Florida after averaging 10.5 points and 8 assists for the nationally-ranked Eagles (22-4).
"He's a special player and those players. I can guarantee he'll make the right decisions," Sutton added.
In recent years, Christ School in Arden, N.C., has become a must visit for colleges. This year the Greenies (37-2) won their fourth straight North Carolina independent school Class 3A championship, with three more heading to Division I programs.
Thursday the Greenies fell to Winter Park (Fla.), 82-72, in the National High School Invitational as 6-8 Sebastian Koch (an Elon recruit), 6-0 Eric Smith (South Carolina) and 6-9 center Lucas Troutman (Elon) played their final games.
Next fall the recruiting bonanza continues as juniors have attracted attention. Marshall Plumlee and Damarcus Harrison are two players with plenty of options.
At 7-0, Plumlee, the No. 7 center in the ESPNU Super 60, is fielding offers from several schools. When suits up for the Indiana Elite this summer he'll consider offers from school such as Notre Dame, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue (his mother played basketball there), Ohio State, North Carolina State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida,, Duke (his brothers Miles and Mason play there) and Georgia Tech.
Lately Roy Williams of North Carolina is sniffing around.
"I've really enjoyed getting to know the North Carolina coaches; they've done a classy job recruiting me," he said. "Obviously I'm [familiar] with the Duke program and if I have questions I can ask my brothers."
Plumlee, an Indiana native, won't be attending the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis. Instead he hops a plane Friday for Germany, where he'll suit up for the Team USA in the Albert Schweitzer Games.
"I'd prefer being [at the NHSI championship game] this weekend to play but it's an honor representing your country," said Plumlee, who had 5 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks against Winter Park.
As for Harrison, a 6-5, 190-pound wing man from Greenwood, S.C., he's segues into the club circuit next weekend at the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, Va., as a key member of the Carolina Ravens of Columbia, S.C.
"Not much time off," said Harrison, smiling.
Harrison earned all conference honors this season averaging 11.6 points, knocking down 49 3-pointers. His offers include Brigham Young, Wisconsin, Charleston, with Wake Forest, Georgia and North Carolina keeping close tabs.
BYU will get strong consideration after the bishop of his ward alerted the coaching staff. Harrison, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feels faith is important and enjoys the Cougars' style of play.
"[BYU gets] up and down the court," he said. "The coaches are great but I haven't made a decision."
"He's a high-major prospect. A lot of schools are sold on him," Christ School coach David Gaines said.
Harrison's game added another dimension this season with proper strength and conditioning. The work in the weight room allows Harrison, "to take it to the hole with confidence. I won't get knocked over as easy."
The waiting game
As the college coaching carousel spins this spring the last thing Papa Samba Ndao of Montverde Academy wants is reopen his recruiting.
That might be the case depending who Boston College hires after parting ways with coach Al Skinner earlier this week. Ndao, a 6-9 ace defender and rebounder, signed with the Eagles but hasn't heard who will get the job.
BC interviewed Ed Cooley (of Fairfield), a former BC assistant; Steve Donohue of Cornell; Chris Mooney of Richmond; and Bill Coen of Northeastern. A decision should forthcoming.
Until then Ndao, a native of Dakar, Senegal, can only wait.
"No decisions until the hire a coach," said Ndao, who hopes to study medicine with a keen interest in cardiology.
Before signing with BC, Ndao entertained Harvard, Texas Christian and Clemson.
"Coach Skinner called me the day he was fired and told me if I needed any help to call him," Ndao said. "He'll do whatever it takes to help me and the rest of the recruits. That's great of him."
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today.