By Joe Henricksen
When he entered high school as a freshman he had already decided what college he would attend. A few weeks after his 8th grade graduation, Ryan Boatright committed to coach Tim Floyd and USC. The East Aurora star was the talk of Illinois high school basketball with the early commitment in June of 2007, the first verbal commitment from a player in what has turned out to be a star-studded Class of 2011.
Now Boatright may have to re-evaluate some things in the wake of Floyd's resignation this week. The 5-11 blur of a point guard says that while he is still committed to USC and hasn't spoken with anyone from the school since Floyd's resignation, opening up his recruitment is a real possibility.
"I committed to coach Floyd and USC," says Boatright. "Now he's not there, so we will have to see."
His mother, Tanesha Boatright, was relieved when her son committed early, though more for the education value of the scholarship rather than the basketball.
"There was a sense of relief, for sure, but not for the reasons many thought," says Tanesha. "As a single mom it was just a relief to know my son's education was going to be paid for, that he would have the opportunity to go to college, to go to a good academic school like USC."
Even mom knows things have now changed after she and her son watched ESPN announce the resignation of Floyd.
"We looked at each other and were like, 'Huh?'" says Tanesha after seeing the Floyd story on TV. "We thought after the Arizona thing [Floyd turning down the job offer] he would be staying there a long time. Sure, this will open things up for him recruiting wise. He was committed to coach Floyd and USC. We will take it one day at a time."
With the bevy of talented players in the Class of 2011, including the likes of Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear, De La Salle's Mike Shaw, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams and others, Boatright has sometimes been the forgotten man. He had a rocky freshman year at East Aurora and his stock dropped in the eyes of some, though one would expect inconsistency from any freshman playing at the varsity level.
"As a freshman it was difficult," says Boatright's mom. "He came in as a high-profile freshman. It was tough to fit in, to get used to. Ryan relaxed as a sophomore. He was able to just go out and play. He has matured even more since the end of his sophomore season. You can see it."
The maturation showed during Boatright's sophomore season -- on and off the court. As a freshman he let his competitiveness, passion and emotions get the best of him. As a sophomore he channeled and controlled them much better. He made strides as a player and made the honor roll two quarters during his sophomore year.
On the floor he was dominating at times and, of all the big names in the Class of 2011, Boatright was the most productive player of them all as a sophomore. He put up 44 points in one game, scored 20-plus on 10 different occasions and averaged 18 points a game.
"The experience was the big difference," says Boatright of the difference between his freshman and sophomore seasons. "Understanding what I can do, when I can do it, understanding the flow of the game. My main focus now is to get better defensively."
He's a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, both as a scorer and a distributor as he sees the floor extremely well and simply has the gift and feel for basketball. Boatright plays with cockiness and confidence that is necessary to play at a high level, especially with his size and strength limitations. His great open court speed and ability to explode past defenders with his first step and killer crossover set him apart. Plus, he has greatly improved his perimeter jumper, becoming a more than capable three-point shooter (he knocked down 44 three-pointers on the season).
He can be a little careless with the ball, especially when the game gets fast. He will sometimes try to make the flashy play rather than the simple one, which should get better with age and experience. And bigger, stronger guards can body him up and out of driving lanes as his frame is very thin and light.
Boatright, though, is a special talent and ranked among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 rankings. After making the commitment to USC so early, many college programs have not paid a whole lot of attention or put much focus on Boatright. If Boatright's recruitment does open back up, which it look like it will, that will surely change.