Sunday, June 04, 2000

Johnson's UC career appealing to recruits

Top players look to start, then move quickly to NBA

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If you thought the Cincinnati Bearcats would get nothing more from DerMarr Johnson after he left to enter the NBA draft, you might have to re-think that.

        They might get Kelvin Torbert.

        Torbert is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Flint, Mich., who is rated the No.4 prospect in next year's senior class by recruiting analyst Dave Telep of Torbert's high school, Northwestern, sent shooting guard Morris Peterson to Michigan State's national championship team.

        But Torbert is attracted to UC because of Johnson's experience. Johnson was able to move directly into the starting lineup and on to the NBA after a single season.

        “They are doing very, very well. I would say they are closing in on being pretty much the leader,” said Chris Greer, Torbert's coach with the Michigan Mustangs club team. “DerMarr Johnson goes there, plays one year and is going to be a first-round pick. That's what Kelvin is looking for. He wants

        to go somewhere he can go and excel right away. He wants to get in, do his damage and go about his business.”

        Torbert is one of UC's key targets in recruiting for next year's class.

        Their principal focus remains 6-7 wing Matt Sylvester of Moeller High. Sylvester is rising quickly on national recruiting lists because of his offensive skills and athletic ability.

        UC also is interested in a point guard, such as T.J. Ford or Carlos Hurt of Houston, and remains in the hunt for 6-8 forward Jawad Williams of Lakewood. Among big men, the Bearcats lead for 6-8 Jason Maxiell of Dallas.

        Cleveland native Omari Westley, a 6-8 forward who will attend prep school at Crispus Attucks in York, Pa., wants to become a Bearcat and has played well enough in spring tournaments to command UC's attention. His recruitment may end well in advance of the November signing period.

        Greer said it has been suggested to Torbert he does not need to play college basketball to be drafted in the first round, but Torbert does not want to skip a step.

        “He wants to go to college, but, at the same time, he doesn't want to be there four years if he doesn't have to be,” Greer said. “He feels like he could go somewhere, play four years and go on to the NBA. That's basically what has made Cincinnati such a positive.

        “If you go to Cincinnati and perform, it answers a lot of questions. If you can play for Coach (Huggins), you're pretty tough. You're going to have to hit the weights and get stronger. It answered a lot of questions for DerMarr.”

        Johnson, a 6-9 shooting guard, played one season with the Bearcats and averaged 12.6 points, ranking second in shots to Kenyon Martin and first in 3-pointers at tempted.

        Torbert is a different sort of player. He is a physical guard but also is a proficient long-range shooter. He was the MVP at the recent Show-Me Shootout club tournament, ahead of top-10 prospects David Lee of St.Louis and Eddy Curry of South Holland, Ill.

        Torbert was diagnosed last week with mononucleosis but is expected to make an unofficial visit to UC in June, then play at the adidas ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., and the adidas Big-Time Tournament in Las Vegas during the July recruiting period.


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