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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
As the No. 1 player in the class of 2015 according to ESPN.com, Ivan Rabb is in good company.
The 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward, playing with the Oakland Soldiers at the EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam, joins the likes of NBA players Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Harrison Barnes as a top-rated recruit.
In Friday’s 70-60 win over the Travelers, Rabb had 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks. If head coach Lance Olivier had anything to complain about, it was that his biggest star wasn’t selfish enough.
“Ivan is such a team player,” Olivier said. “He’s such a team guy that you can’t knock it.”
Rabb took 13 shots from the floor, connecting on seven. In many cases, he drew two or three defenders and had to look for a teammate.
That was no problem for Rabb, who isn’t even the tallest player on his team. That distinction goes to Stephen Zimmerman, a 7-footer ranked No. 6 on the latest ESPN.com list. Add in 6-foot-10 Southern Cal commit Chimeze Metu, and opposing post players have a few problems to deal with down low.
“It’s neat to have all these kids on your team, but it’s even better that they’re all playing together,” Olivier said.
Metu had 10 points, while Zimmerman added eight points and 12 rebounds.
Rabb said playing alongside the other talented bigs frees him up to roam the floor offensively, which includes a fade away jumper he relies on and hits more often than not.
“Well, it lets me be myself,” he said, adding that he didn’t mind banging around in the paint if the need arose. “There’s just multiple things I can do.”
That versatility isn’t limited to one end of the floor, either. Rabb also defends a variety of positions, as he took the assignment of guarding both 6-7, 235-pound post player Andrew McDonald and 6-5 wing Dwayne Sutton in Friday’s game.
Rabb said the desire to guard out of position comes from playing in an Oakland area somewhat devoid of other bigs, and his coach said the big man was more than capable defending on the perimeter.
“The funniest thing about it is he loves guarding guards,” Olivier said. “The length is actually changing shots, and he doesn’t gamble.”
As could be expected, Rabb has offers from most of the major programs, including Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Kentucky. He said the letters began rolling in when he was a freshman, and once one official offer came, the floodgates opened.
“It wasn’t really overwhelming, but I was really excited,” he said.
Now, he plays in front of some the top college coaches frequently. On Friday, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was on hand along with California’s Cuonzo Martin, and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins also stopped by.
“I try not to look during the game,” Rabb said, noting that he’ll take a peek during timeouts and before the second-half action begins.
The latest example of a recent trend, Rabb has talked with fellow top recruits Malik Newman and Diamond Stone about potentially going to the same college. Even though Rabb considers Newman and Stone among his “best friends,” he made it clear that he wasn’t completely a package deal.
“They’re more serious than I am,” he said. “I make my own decision at the end of the day.”
When he does choose a landing spot, he’ll first consider the colleges that have good business schools, but the team’s strategy on the court will matter as well. He wants to play for a team that doesn’t mind pushing the pace, which will allow him to showcase his ability to run the floor.
“I want to be able to show off my whole repertoire of moves,” he said.
So far, in addition to frequent visits to watch California play throughout his childhood, he’s visited the University of North Carolina and Duke unofficially, with planned trips to Kentucky and others in the fall.
He particularly enjoyed the family atmosphere at North Carolina and said that’s something that will be important to him.
Olivier, who considers his players to be his “little brothers,” noted that the environment should be the most important aspect of the recruiting process for his big-ticket big man.
“Just go to a spot where they love you and you feel like you’re most wanted,” he said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.