McDonald's stars Patterson, Lucas still waiting
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- O.J. Mayo shakes his head when asked what his life would be like if he'd chosen to wait until after his senior year at Huntington (W.Va.) High to figure out where to play college basketball.
"That's why I got (my commitment) out of the way," said Mayo, who is heading to USC next fall. "I watched 'He Got Game.' That's my favorite movie but I did not want it to get like that."
Life might not be imitating art for Mayo, but it is for high school teammate Patrick Patterson, who along with Jai Lucas are the only two players in this year's McDonald's All-American High School Basketball Game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) who have yet to commit.
The annual contests between the top boys and girls players in the nation tip off Wednesday night at Freedom Hall.
While Patterson and Lucas said waiting until the spring signing period following their senior years was the plan all along, they're getting an education into how volatile the process gets as the clock winds down.
A flurry of postseason coaching moves has further blurred an already murky picture.
A week ago, both players were being heavily recruited by Kentucky. But that was before Tubby Smith left the Wildcats last to become the head coach at Minnesota.
While neither say they plan on following Smith to the Golden Gophers, it hardly means the decision-making gets easier.
Patterson, however, said he's not worried about how the coaching changes will affect his choice. He knew he wasn't ready to commit last fall, and spending another six months making visits will help him make a more informed decision when the spring signing period begins next month.
"I was still unsure about where I wanted to go to (last fall)," he said. "Now I've got a chance to go to a bunch of basketball games, see college more in depth."
And the recruiting business too. Despite the near constant buzz of his cell phone with text messages and voice mails from coaches trying to gauge his interest, Patterson is glad he fought the pressure to sign early and get it over with.
"It's not a distraction at all," he said. "I knew what was going to come with it. They said I'd be most likely asked these questions a bunch of times. But that's just part of the deal."
A deal that seems to change by the minute, though Patterson said he didn't worry about getting injured or playing poorly -- thereby hurting his chances of earning a scholarship from a top-tier school.
"It's a blessing to do something like this," he said. "Not everybody gets the chances I have."
If anything, Patterson's steadfastness may make him more attractive.
"I feel like it does take a great deal of maturity to not let people pressure you," said Lloyd McGuffin, Patterson's coach at Huntington High. "You've got to wait until you feel that you're making the right decision. The thing about it is, it's not an easy process."
And one that some recruits can't wait to end.
Nick Calathes decided he wanted to stay at home and go to Florida when he was a sophomore at Lake Howell High in Casselberry, Fla. It's a decision he never wavered from for the two years before he officially signed, and one he's not reconsidering now, even as Florida coach Billy Donovan's name keeps popping up for other jobs.
"I'm a Gator; it's what I've always wanted to be," he said. "Nobody was going to talk me out of it, and if coach leaves, we'll talk about it, but I'm a Gator. It's just about being loyal."
Even if loyalty can be a hard thing to come by this time of year. Lucas at least has the counsel of his father, former NBA player and coach John Lucas, and his brother, former Oklahoma State star John Lucas III.
"They try to keep me levelheaded," Jai Lucas said. "After each visit, you're like, 'Oh, I like that school.' But you have to go into each one with an open mind and remember each school is different."
He also understands that where he'd like to go and where he should go could be two different things. College teams have different needs now than they did last fall. Then again, Lucas also knows waiting so long could open up doors that seemed closed five months ago.
"There's not a lot of players right there who's not committed or not signed," Lucas said. "A lot of coaches see what they need, and if they need an extra point guard, I'm the only one available."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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