Syracuse, N.Y. – Within the past week, Syracuse basketball coaches have offered scholarships to three talented teenagers who play high school basketball in the Atlanta area. All are either rising stars or established players who have already elicited recruiting interest on a national level.
Will any of them land in Syracuse?
The state of Georgia does not typically yield Syracuse basketball commitments. But coaches of those players say that could change. SU's attachment to the ACC has opened potential new recruiting avenues for the Orange, they say. Syracuse's name recognition enjoys a broad national reach. And most prospects, many of whom travel all summer on the AAU circuit, are no longer reticent to stray beyond their home regions.
"Syracuse being in the ACC certainly helps," said Atlanta Celtics AAU coach Horace Neysmith. "It made sense in the past that they didn't get Atlanta kids, but they've got enough games close by now that parents can get to."
The Syracuse "brand," these coaches said, extends beyond New York's borders. Jim Boeheim's success and longevity boosts the program's profile. High school basketball players have watched the Orange for years play on television in the unique Carrier Dome.
"Syracuse is one of those schools that can recruit nationally because of Coach Boeheim and the Syracuse name and what they've done over the years," said St. Francis High School's Drew Catlett, who coaches one of the players SU is pursuing – 2016 guard Kobi Simmons. "Syracuse has the name brand to recruit nationally."
"If Syracuse is interested, it automatically gets their attention," said Karl McCray, the director of the Atlanta Celtics. "Syracuse is Syracuse. What can you say? We're just excited that Syracuse is interested in the kids. It's just a tremendous honor."
Orange coaches have offered a scholarship to Simmons, the No. 5 recruit on ESPN's Class of 2016 board. The 6-4 combo guard has scored 1,600 points and is already his school's all-time assists leader after his junior season. Simmons is also considering North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Georgia and Ohio State.
SU, too, has offered Simmons' Celtics AAU teammate, 6-foot-10 center James Banks of Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and 5-11 point guard Alterique Gilbert of Miller Grove High School, who seems to be picking up high major offers every day.
On the recruiting trail, Orange coaches often lean on personal relationships they've developed with coaches over the years; some they've met by recruiting their players, others they've encountered through USA Basketball.
Catlett's St. Francis teams have won two straight Georgia Class A private school state championships and will send Malik Beasley to Florida State next season. Catlett, a former West Virginia coach and nephew of longtime Mountaineers head coach Gale Catlett, said he believes coveted high school players choose schools based on common criteria, none of which is related to geography:
"Kids look more at the type of program it is," Catlett said. "What league the school is in, the number of pros it's produced. All of that plays into their decisions."
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