CLEVELAND - Frank Haith was strolling down the street clad in Miami Hurricanes gear, flanked by a handful of coaching pals Thursday night. He looked like a happy man and why not? Three of the biggest stars in the NBA will lace them up in his town next year.
From a recruiting standpoint, nearly everyone we asked, including a handful of coaches, thought LeBron’s decision was significant for the Hurricanes. “Official visits just got a lot better in South Beach,” one assistant quipped. Seriously though, James’ decision didn’t hurt the ‘Canes one bit.
Haith was beaming. Miami went from being thought of as a non-basketball town to the center of the universe – a least for a little while – with one announcement. “I’ve watched TV and the panel discussions and hear people question why LeBron would come to Miami because it’s not a basketball town,” Haith said. “Maybe he thinks he can change basketball perception in South Florida. When the Heat is good, it’s good for us.”
There’s one thing that is going to change for the Hurricanes: their recruiting tactics. James Dews, an Ohio native, had a nice career in South Beach. Haith, who is in town for the King City Classic, LeBron’s tournament, would like to add other guys from the native state of Dews and James.
“There’s no question there are some players in this area that we would love to recruit. People identify with LeBron James. It’s just great for us.”
The player in the Class of 2011 most identifiable with James is Akron small forward Jakarr Sampson, a stud out of St. Vincent-St. Mary, the same high school LeBron attended.
Sampson, ranked No. 22 by Scout.com, reportedly took the news hard. He’s about to become a litmus test for the power of LeBron because almost certainly the Hurricanes will try and tug on his heart strings. They'll put the press on Sampson and suggest to him he can be within striking distance of the biggest star in South Beach. Sampson also plays for the King James Rising Stars.
In 2003, LeBron James changed the way major media outlets viewed recruiting. Haith and the Hurricanes don’t need that kind of attention but they won’t complain if the King shares some of his ransom and rubs off on the next generation of recruits.