While USF's football team will be looking to make an impression on a national television audience, pollsters, bowl representatives and NFL scouts, Thursday is also an important night for Stan Heath and his basketball program. USF hosts perhaps its top recruiting target for the Class of 2009 beginning today, when Keith Clanton makes his official visit.
The highly regarded 6-foot-7 power forward from Orlando Christian School has narrowed his college choices to the Bulls, South Carolina and hometown UCF. He made a trip to Carolina in mid-September and will travel across town to see what the Knights have to offer next weekend.
"I'll get it all done after that – the following week," Clanton said, on the eve of his USF visit. "I'll sit down with my family and decide which is the best situation. I'll just go on my gut feeling."
Clanton led Orlando Christian to a 27-2 record and its first state championship last season. He averaged 21 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks, and saved his best for last. In the state semi-final, Clanton registered a triple-double, including 12 blocks. And in the championship game, he scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to take home MVP honors.
Clanton had a busy summer, playing AAU ball and making the rounds at several elite prospect camps.
If there is an ace in the hole for Heath and the Bulls when it comes to Clanton's recruitment, it has to be Reggie Kohn, Clanton's coach at Orlando Christian and one of the most beloved Bulls basketball players during his record-setting seasons in Tampa. Kohn was a deadly three-point shooter and is USF's all-time assist leader.
"He told me it's a good campus and I'll have a lot of fun there. We've talked about it a lot. I know he'd like to see me (at USF)," Clanton admitted. "I like all the coaches and I think they're headed the right way. They've told me I'd be a great fit. The Big East is a great conference. You want to play against the best."
Besides Kohn, Clanton also has another connection with the Bulls. Although he said it will be his first time meeting any of the current USF players, Clanton is good friends with team manager Roodly Prophete. Prophete, who was a walk-on guard on the Bulls' roster in 2005-06, logging 47 minutes that season, is a former teammate of Clanton's with Team Breakdown in AAU play.
Aside from Clanton, Heath and his staff will have to do a good selling job with Clanton's mother, who will accompany him on the visit and who he calls, "my biggest influence."
"I'm looking to have a good time interacting with the players and checking out the academics," Clanton said. "I liked (South Carolina). It's a good situation, and I've always liked UCF. I have some good choices."
Clanton will be able to sign with his chosen program during the early signing period for basketball in November. USF has a pair of guards already committed for 2009 in North Port's Shaun Noriega and Detroit Country Day's Jordan Dumars.