Bulls in hunt for D.C. center Ben-Eze
Another day, another promising new name in Stan Heath's pursuit of a top-flight center for his incoming recruiting class: The Bulls are in the final five schools for Frank Ben-Eze, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound center from Arlington, Va., who had committed to Harvard but has recently re-opened his recruitment.
"USF is in (his) final 5 teams," writes Rob Jackson, founder of the AAU D.C. Blue Devils, in an e-mail to the Times on Tuesday morning. "He will be scheduling home visits with schools, and then making a decision after those visits are complete."
Ben-Eze, a native of Nigeria whose last name is pronounced "ben AY-zay," is the No. 3 unsigned center in the country, according to ESPN.com, which has him as the nation's No. 25 center overall. He backed out of a commitment to Harvard shortly after a New York Times story on March 2 detailed questionable recruiting practices and the potential of lower admission standards at the Ivy League school.
Finding a center is the top remaining priority for Heath, who loses senior Kentrell Gransberry to graduation and needs to bolster his frontcourt for his second season. Who else is competing for Ben-Eze? He previously had been linked to a slew of ACC and Big East schools, but Jackson said the other four finalists are Stanford, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and UCLA -- top-tier national programs to be sure.
Ben-Eze played at Bishop O'Connell in Arlington, where he was coached by Joe Wootten, son of legendary Virginia prep coach Morgan Wootten. He missed the end of his senior season with a knee injury, the severity of which remains unknown. He's the second African-born center USF is pursuing this season, along with Teeng Akol, a 6-foot-11 center from Sudan who is playing at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
-- We've told you that Jeremie Simmons, the coveted two-guard who just won a Division II junior college national title at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich., is due in for an official visit to USF this weekend. The Flint Journal reports that he's likely to visit Butler next, with Alabama the latest suitor to offer him a scholarship. Again, USF's commitment from Dwan McMillan won't hurt its status with Simmons, who is more of a shooter/scorer type and would play alongside McMillan in what would be a deep, deep Bulls backcourt.
-- An update on Juan Pattillo, the 6-7 forward from College of Southern Idaho: CSI coach Barret Peery said Pattillo will visit Oklahoma State this weekend, then Oklahoma the weekend of April 12. He said Pattillo intends on making a visit to USF, but Peery hadn't talked to USF in a week or so, so wasn't sure what the status of that visit was. With one forward signed in Eladio Espinosa and another committed in Gene Teague, it could be USF is focusing on centers (and Simmons) for the time being.
-- It's not USF, but worth mentioning that it looks like Florida Atlantic coach Rex Walters will soon be named as the new coach at Mercer, according to the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. ... This is just two years after FAU lost Matt Doherty to SMU ...