Bishop Miege power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has been impressed by the skill-set of the 33 hopefuls gathered at USA Basketball’s under-18 men’s national team camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It’s amazing,” Robinson-Earl told The Star in a phone interview from camp. “It’s crazy going against pretty much all the best players in the Class of 2019 and some of the older players who will be in college next year,”
“It brings out the best in everybody,” he added of the elite competition in a group that includes KU freshman-to-be Quentin Grimes, plus KU recruiting targets Cole Anthony, Bryan Antoine, Will Baker, Matthew Hurt, Jalen Lecque, Scottie Lewis, Kira Lewis, Jaden McDaniels and Trendon Watford.
Robinson-Earl — who measured 6 feet, 9 inches in shoes, 231 pounds during Friday’s testing session — has more than held his own at the Bill Self-run camp, which opened on Thursday night. A group of finalists will be announced Sunday with perhaps one additional cut remaining after that. In all, 12 players will represent the U.S. at the FIBA Americas under-18 championships June 11-17, in Canada.
“Jeremiah has been primarily known for his polished skill set and elite hands that have made him so productive around the basket. In Colorado Springs, Robinson-Earl remained an effective interior piece but he made an even larger impression with his constant involvement in the 50-50 plays,” wrote Corey Evans of Rivals.com.
Robinson-Earl said he’s tried to give maximum effort at all times during these tryouts, resulting in some floor burns.
“One of my goals coming here was try to dive for at least two balls (per scrimmage), get all the 50/50 balls, go for everything,” Robinson-Earl, Rivals.com’s No. 16-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2019, said. “I’m just trying to do what’s best for the team because a lot of the selection process is not based on, ‘Oh you can score 20 a game.’ It’s based on, in my opinion, you are playing well all-around as a team player, going after the rebounds, the assists, doing both ends of the court, defensively, offensively.”
Robinson-Earl has proven he can score and rebound.
Robinson-Earl, the son of former KU forward Lester Earl, averaged 21.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season as a junior at Miege, claiming Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the state of Kansas. He’s averaged 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in eight games for KC Run GMC on the Under Armour circuit this AAU season.
“It’s been a great experience,” Robinson-Earl said of workouts in Colorado. Kansas coach Self, head coach of the under-18 team is being assisted by former KU forward and current Wake Forest coach Danny Manning and Dayton coach Anthony Grant. One of the weekend’s court coaches is former KU assistant Joe Dooley, head coach at East Carolina.
“They (coaches) were telling us that everybody knows how to play, but it’s just playing the best way you possibly can,” Robinson-Earl said. “We are going through a lot of drills on how to guard ball screens, how to switch directly and how to play the defense correctly. They’re throwing at us a lot of motion offense that a lot of Division- I schools run and some NBA stuff, so it’s a lot of good stuff.”
Asked about Self and Manning, he said: “They are great coaches. Obviously coach Self is a legendary coach, Hall of Fame coach. Coach Manning is a legendary player. He’s been through it all, coaching and playing-wise, college and the NBA. They are great coaches in teaching us the right way to play.”
KU freshman-to-be-Quentin Grimes measured 6-5 1/2 with shoes and 207 pounds at USA camp. The Woodlands, Texas native has a 6-7 wingspan and 8-7 standing reach with a 36 inch maximum vertical jump.
Matthew Hurt, a 6-9 senior forward from John Marshall High in Rochester, Minn., who is ranked No. 5 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com, is another big man trying to make the roster of the under-18 national team. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader he has a recruiting list of KU, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana and others.
“I’m just blessed to see all of those schools interested in me,” he said. “But I don’t have a frontrunner right now. They’re all the frontrunner right now.”
Xavier Foster, a 6-10 junior power forward from Oskaloosa (Iowa) High School, who is ranked No. 20 in the recruiting Class of 2020 according to Rivals.com, has an early list of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Illinois, Creighton and others.
“Anytime a big man goes to an All-Star camp type setting he can’t rely on getting many touches because there isn’t much offense designed to get them the ball, but Xavier Foster has it figured out,” Eric Bossi of Rivals.com wrote Friday from Pangos camp in California. “The five-star from Iowa just played with tremendous energy and let his athleticism along with a feel for things as a defender and rebounder take over. The result was one of the best performances I saw all night.
“Perhaps the best big man prospect from the state of Iowa since Raef LaFrentz who graduated high school all the way back in 1994, Foster is a major target of Iowa and Iowa State and has been on campus at both schools. They’ve offered along with Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Creighton and Illinois. Foster has also been on campus at Kansas and said that the Jayhawks are starting to turn things up a bit,” Bossi added.