by Danny Hazan | @DeeHaze24
You’ll have to forgive Milwaukee’s Kevon Looney if he was a little gassed at some points of his Running Rebels’ pool play game Thursday at the NY2LA Sports Next Level Invitational in Mequon, WI.
Fresh off stellar showings at the LeBron James Skills Academy, NBA Top 100 camp, Nike Elite 100 Camp and the Pangos All-American Camp, the 6-8 forward hasn’t had much down time.
But so it goes for one of the nation’s consensus top-20 high school ballers.
“[The camps] are fun, and not as tiring as you would think,” Looney said. “[AAU] is different from camps. These guys run a lot faster up and down, and I get a lot more tired. But they’re like my family so it’s a lot of fun playing with these guys. I feel like I’m getting a lot better.”
Perhaps no Class of 2014 prospect has seen their stock rise more drastically in the last year than Looney—who already has offers from Georgetown, Wisconsin, Marquette, Tennessee, Michigan and Iowa.
Standing at 6-8, with the wingspan of a 747, the ability to run the floor like a guard and a commanding presence in the paint have helped shoot Looney up to the No. 9-ranked prospect by Scout, No. 11 by Rivals and No. 16 by ESPN.
“It’s pretty important to me,” Looney said. “I want to be the best player in my class so I look at the rankings to see where I’m at, what I need to improve on and who’s in front of me.”
Regardless of where he’s ranked nationally, Looney already has the attention of basically every program in the country. Duke, Kansas and Michigan State have recently gotten into the mix, but have yet to offer.
Since the first live period in July began Wednesday, with two more five-day live periods remaining before the month ends, Looney says he’s not planning on thinking about college too much until all the schools have gotten to see him play.
“I want to let the rest of the coaches come see me in July,” Looney said. “I’ll wait to after the summer then I’ll start thinking more about it.”
The Running Rebels are currently 2-0 in pool play at the NY2LA Sports Next Level Invitational, in which Looney dropped 21 points in front of John Thompson III, Bo Ryan, Buzz Williams and Tom Izzo on Wednesday and followed that up with a 14-point, 15-rebound, 4-assist and 4-block performance Thursday in front of stands packed with coaches.
National recruiting editor for NY2LASports.com, Antonio Curro, witnessed Looney’s development as a player firsthand and has been watching him at the NY2LA tournaments since he was in fourth grade.
“Kevon has always been very instinctive as a player,” Curro said. “He was very fundamentally sound as a middle school talent, as he continued to develop [physically]. He had pretty solid footwork and a really good feel for the game. He’s improved his perimeter skill set, his ability to face the basket off the dribble and his pull up.
“He’s just a matchup problem. He really excels 12 to 17 feet from the basket because he can use either hand, has a mid-range pull-up and things like that—and is probably where his strength is at this point.”
Aside from the physical gifts of an NBA-type body frame, and what Looney can provide a coach on the court, Curro said much of how he is off the court is what’s made him one of the most highly sought after recruits in the country.
“He has exceptional character, without question,” Curro explained. “That shows in his grades, in his mannerisms and he’s very humble and just goes about his business. I think that’s a huge key. We’ve regarded him as a top 10 to 15 kid since he was in seventh grade, but as far as why everybody is jumping up and down it’s because he’s really exploded because of his size. He’s got a ridiculous ceiling. He looks like he just continues to grow and grow, and his athleticism, ability to finish in transition is really elevating the last four to six weeks.”
Curro is no stranger to seeing stars born at the NY2LA tournaments throughout the spring and summer, as recent top-ranked prep hoopers such as Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors), Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA) and Jabari Parker (No. 1 in Class of 2013) all have scorched the nets at Homestead High School in Mequon, WI.
Looney’s path has been very similar.
“Kevon is going through that stretch of really taking that next step into elite, ‘wow’ status,” Curro said. “I think his aggressiveness and the improved versatility he’s shown is a big reason why.”