The recruiting process can be very exciting for high school kids around the country. Having the attention of coaches all across the land as they get ready to make the jump to from mom's meatloaf to living alone for the first time while having the choice of places to go to continue their dream is a luxurious experience.
Because of that, it's not very often that you see a kid who hasn't even begun his junior year in high school make a verbal commitment. Luckily for the Ohio Bobcats, Evan Bradds (Class of 2013, Greeneview High School) is one of those kids that knew where he wanted to go before his senior year.
After a campus visit in Athens earlier this summer, Bradds made it clear that he wanted to be the first Bobcat recruit for the class of 2013 and made a verbal commitment to the school in July, announcing his decision to the world (or his friends) on Facebook when he changed his profile picture to a Bobcats logo.
"I've known this was the place that I wanted to go for a while now," Bradds said of Athens. "My high school team had team camp there and I spent around three days down there. After that was over I thought to myself that I could really see myself playing there and going to school there.".
Of course, there is always a downside on the excitement the recruiting process brings. Having to make such a huge life decision can get in the way of player's school work and even their final games as a high school student. Thanks to his early decision, Bradds won't have to deal with any of that.
"It relieves a lot of the tension," Bradds said. "I felt like after it happened a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and now i can focus on my high school season."
If you're looking for the reason that Bradds was so compelled by Ohio University that he committed early, look no further than the coaching staff.
"The coaching staff was the real deal breaker for me," Bradds said. "They made me feel comfortable with the school and they were always straight up with me. I've met with Coach Groce many times and I really like him a lot. He is really intense and i really like that. The whole coaching staff is really awsome i like them all a lot."
And who wouldn't be impressed by the O-Zone?
"The atmosphere at the games was also another reason why I love the school," Bradds said.
As a sophomore, Bradds averaged 17.0 points and 5.9 rebounds a game for Greeneview High while shooting 52% from the field. Bradds, who is currently six-foot-seven, does the majority of his work on the interior in high school but also has solid perimeter skills and feels comfortable working from the outside.
"I feel comfortable playing the small forward position," Bradds said. "If I do get any taller I could transition to a post player. But I think that I'm almost done growing so we'll just have to wait and see."
As is often the case at the high school level, players as tall as Bradds are forced to play post positions because of the dearth of size nation wide at the center position when they project to play on the perimeter at the college level. In this respect, Bradds is ahead of the game. While he plays on the inside with great success, he also handles the ball well and the range on his jump shot has grown since his freshman year.
"I am looking to improve my ball handling and my shooting," Bradds said. "My strong suit at this point is probably my defense and my ability to make everyone around me better."
That defense is probably the most intriguing part of Bradds' game for the Ohio coaching staff. Despite being one of the better turnover forcing defenses in the country last season - thanks in large part to D.J. Cooper's thievery - Ohio's defense ranked 215th in the country (5th in the MAC) in adjusted defensive efficiency according to college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. Ohio ranked first in the MAC in adjusted offensive efficiency last season so the area where Bradds could help the most is on the defensive side of the ball.
Bradds should be a familiar name for those who have followed Ohio basketball closely for a long time. His grandfather Gary Bradds was a standout at Ohio State and the third overall pick in the 1964 NBA Draft. With a couple of years to go before he graduates high school, Bradds may very well have received an offer from his grandfather's Alma Mater. That said, it doesn't seem like it would have made much of a difference.
"It would have been nice to get an offer from Ohio State but i was never going to sweat it if i didn't," Bradds said. "I still think in the end I would have choose OU no matter what."
Many folks are skeptical when kids make commitments prior to their senior seasons but with Bradds, its safe to say his commitment will be honored. Bradds is enthusiastic about his future as a Bobcat and has already established a good relationship with coach Groce.
Sidenote: I have not yet been to one single Ohio University sporting event but one thing is clear: the coaches at this university are outstanding. In researching Frank Solich for my column about Ohio football I read nothing but great things and his success speaks for itself. And I have also heard nothing but great things about coach Groce. Evan was high on him and so are several other recruits I've talked to. Additionally, someone close to the program told me Groce is very good with students that help with the team as managers and has made it a priority to help them get good jobs across the country with other college programs once they graduate from OU.