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June 6, 2012

Bird resting up for 18U

Bird focused on USA Hoops trials

For most of May, if you were looking for Jabari Bird, you probably didn't find him.

The 6-foot-6 wing at Richmond (Calif.) Salesian, who ranks No. 16 nationally in the class of 2013 Rivals150, needed some time off. Now he's feeling good and in Colorado Springs, where he's trying out for USA Basketball's 18 and under national team.

"I took a month off, but I'm back at it now," Bird told Rivals.com. "I just needed time off to rest."

A long and athletic wing who has a developed mid-range game and the ability to finish at the rim, the chance to play for his country isn't something Bird is taking lightly.

"It's a huge honor to get invited to play for USA Basketball," Bird said. "It's always been a goal of mine to play for them since I was young."

Because USA Basketball could keep him occupied for the better parts of June and July, Bird isn't focused on any visits. He did take an unofficial visit to California a few weeks ago and Mike Montgomery's squad is sitting at the top along with another Pac-12 program.

"Udub (Washington) and Cal are at the top,' Bird said. "Then Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.

"I like both (UW and Cal) of their respective styles of play and I love their coaching staffs."

For now, Bird has no target date for making a decision and is hoping he can make the USA team. Either way, he anticipates people will see a much more diverse player come July.

LaVine divine

When Rivals.com saw Zach LaVine last summer, he was intriguing. The Bothell (Wash.) High guard could score and had some athleticism.

LaVine can still score, and he's still got athleticism. However, he's also grown some three inches to near 6-foot-4 and the No. 140 player in the 2013 Rivals150 has taken his game to a new level.

With an explosive first step, plenty of ball handling skill and deep range, LaVine has developed into one of the nation's most skilled perimeter scorers. He can bomb away from deep, make plays for others and is a threat to finish above the rim in traffic.

"I've grown a lot in the last year," LaVine told Rivals.com. "But I think with my game, people are just getting a better chance to see what I can do."

While in Southern California for last weekend's Pangos All-American Camp, LaVine snuck in a visit to UCLA. For now, it looks like the Bruins have a leg up on the likes of Arizona, Washington, Gonzaga, Washington State, Oregon, Louisville and Memphis.

LaVine will have another chance to impress at the NBPA Top 100 Camp next week. At the moment, it's looking like he could make somewhere in the area of a triple-digit climb up the class of 2013 rankings.

Wolves busy with visits, offers

Over the past few years, Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves program has solidified itself as not just one of the top programs in the Midwest, but throughout the entire country. This week, many of Mullins' players have been busy making visits and earning scholarship offers.

It was a few weeks ago that 2014 top 50 player Keita Bates-Diop took a visit to Illinois, but he recently got an offer from the Illini. Over the weekend, Bates-Diop made his way down to Louisville. On Wednesday, the 6-foot-6, four-star swing man traveled to Purdue before heading to Michigan this weekend.

Joining Bates-Diop on his visit to Louisville last weekend was another 2014 Wolves forward, Malek Harris. More of an activity guy around the rim than Bates-Diop, Harris is a lengthy athlete who plays with great energy. He'll visit Indiana on Friday and will also drop by Michigan this weekend.

Explosive 2015 combo guard Jordan Ash is on the visit trail as well. This weekend, the 6-foot-1 rising sophomore will make his way to Indiana. Another Wolves' standout, 2013 shooting guard David Cohn made his way to William & Mary this weekend, while 2013 small forward Nate Taphorn added offers from Rice and Boston College to his rapidly growing list.

Next week, point guard A.J. Riley will attend Creighton's camp and stick around for an unofficial visit. Finally, 2015 Prentiss Nixon will join the group of Wolves already visiting Michigan.

Clark to visit UCLA

While he hasn't said as much yet, Stevie Clark is acting like he'll stay in the class of 2013. Well, at least he's expected at next week's NBPA Top 100 Camp, where many of the nation's top 2013 and 2014 players will be in attendance.

The 5-foot-10, four-star point guard has been chased by many for both 2013 and 2012 if he decides to enroll early. Most recently, UCLA has really turned up its effort and per Clark's mother, he'll visit the Bruins at the beginning of next week.

Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are among those that have been involved for a while and Clark's mother mentioned Stanford, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Memphis are also in the mix. Clark would like to take more visits during June, but with his current camp schedule, setting up dates for visits has been tough.

Tip-ins

One of the top shooters in the country is 6-foot-6 shooting guard Steven Haney of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas.

A native of Michigan who moved to Florida before his junior year, Haney has big-time range and a very crisp stroke. Already the owner of offers from places such as Detroit, Drake, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, South Florida and Central Florida among others, Haney is also seeing increased attention from Wake Forest, Stanford and Miami.

For now, UCF and USF look to be stepping up their recruitment and Haney was in Orlando last week. This week, he should be stopping by Miami.

Louisville scored an important commitment from 2012 power forward Montrezl Harrell over the weekend. However, he wasn't the only visitor. Virginia Tech combo forward Dorian Finney-Smith is wrapping up a visit and 2013 four-star Jajuan Johnson and Jordan Mickey were both on campus over the weekend.

A lot of guys say that they want to play football and basketball in college, so we'll see if Sam Craft actually makes that happen. The 5-foot-10, three-star point guard from Olive Branch (Miss.) High committed to Memphis on Tuesday for football, but says he'll give hoops a go. If he does play, the Tigers have an exceedingly tough floor general and a natural leader coming to them from the gridiron.

This weekend, class of 2015 high school and summer teammates Elijah Thomas and Austin Grandstaff will take part in the Nike Elite 100. While making their way from Rockwall (Texas), the duo has fit in some unofficial visits. On Tuesday, they stopped by Oklahoma and on Wednesday, they are hitting Kansas and Missouri.

Class of 2012 combo guard Daiquan Walker was supposed to be on campus at Tulsa for an official visit. However, a scheduling conflict kept him from making the trip and he is trying to re-schedule for this coming weekend. The 6-foot-1 senior from Philadelphia (Pa.) Constitution was most recently on the campus of UCF for a visit and could be looking to make a decision soon.

Finally, class of 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton of Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon made waves by more than holding his own at the Pangos All-American Camp over the weekend. On Wednesday, the 5-foot-11 floor general took an unofficial visit to USC and walked away with a scholarship offer from the Trojans.


Eric Bossi is the National Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. He can be reached at eric_bossi@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ebosshoops.



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