By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Wow, talk about keeping things close to the vest! Throughout his entire recruitment, Iman Shumpert did that and then some. At no point in time did he or anyone in his camp ever tip their cap as to which way the 6'4 guard from Oak Park-River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL was leaning. As a result, it may have come as a surprise to some when Shumpert announced early this evening that he has verbally committed to Georgia Tech University. Shumpert chose the Yellow Jackets over Marquette and North Carolina.
While Georgia Tech had been in on Shumpert from the beginning, we are willing to bet that if you surveyed everyone who covers basketball recruiting for a living, that most of them would have said that the Yellow Jackets were running third among the finalists in the Shumpert sweepstakes. However, there is no question that when it was all said and done, that Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt and his staff had a lot going for them in enabling them to land Shumpert.
Perhaps the biggest factor that Georgia Tech had in its favor was the opportunity to offer Shumpert immediate playing time in a conference that he says he has loved since he was a young boy. As Shumpert said while announcing his decision live on Comcast Sports Net in Chicago, Georgia Tech is short on guards and therefore presents him with the opportunity to come in and play right away.
Another factor that aided Georgia Tech tremendously was the close relationship that Shumpert had developed with coach Hewitt. Simply put, Shumpert indicated that he had taken an immediate liking to Hewitt from the first time he had met him. This feeling was reinforced even further on Shumpert's official visit to Georgia Tech, where he felt extremely comfortable with Hewitt, as well as the rest of the coaching staff and the players. In addition, Shumpert also stressed how much he liked the overall campus environment and atmosphere.
Shumpert ranks as one of the top two prospects in Illinois from the class of 2008 along with 6'9 Michael Dunigan from Farragut Career Academy in Chicago. Some have regarded Shumpert as a "late bloomer" as a result of him blowing up nationally this past spring at the King James Classic in Akron, OH. However, we believe that Shumpert's stock started rising much earlier than that as the result of an outstanding junior season at Oak Park.
The bottom line is that Shumpert has all of the skills which are prototypical of an ACC guard. He has ideal size, superb athleticism and the ability to play either guard spot effectively. With his outstanding shooting range, passing and ball handling as well as his team-first mentality, it goes without saying that he is the type of player who will make an immediate impact at Georgia Tech. Above all else, Shumpert has the work ethic and constant desire to get better, which is a necessary ingredient for any elite-level guard who plays in the ACC and has NBA aspirations.
There is no question that all three of Shumpert's finalists did a tremendous job of recruiting him. Shumpert stressed how difficult it was for him to inform the head coaches of the two runners-up. Marquette, in particular, pulled out all of the stops in their efforts to land Shumpert and from the get-go Golden Eagle head coach Tom Crean let it be known that Shumpert was a high-priority recruit.
Many had thought that the desire to stay close to home so that his family could see him play on a regular basis would be a huge factor that would play in Marquette's favor. In the end, however, Shumpert let it be known that distance from home was not as important as immediate playing time, stating that his family will follow him wherever he goes.
Finally, we believe that Shumpert and the people in his camp deserve to be commended for the manner in which they handled this recruitment, as they treated everyone on an equal playing field and didn't let news concerning the commitment leak out ahead of time. In our minds, this is the way that the recruitment of any high-profile player should be dealt with.