BOZICH: Russell Focusing On Improving, Not U of L or UK - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Russell Focusing On Improving, Not U of L or UK

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Former Central star D'Angelo Russell said he intends to be the top player in the Class of 2014. Former Central star D'Angelo Russell said he intends to be the top player in the Class of 2014.

INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) – No, D'Angelo Russell is not returning to Louisville to play high school basketball next season. No, no, no. 

Not at Central, the school Russell left last fall. Not at Trinity, the defending state champions. Not at Ballard, the school where his friend, Quentin Snider, plays.

"The rumors are crazy," Russell said.

No, he is not unhappy about how little he played last season at Montverde Academy in Florida, at times sitting behind a 5-foot-10 guard whose name Russell could not remember.

"I guess I didn't deserve to play more," he said. "I didn't work hard enough."

And, no, Russell isn't ready to pick a college. Kentucky. Louisville. Indiana. Ohio State. Missouri. North Carolina State. Tennessee. The calls keep coming. Even North Carolina has moved into the discussion after the determined performances that Russell has delivered this spring.

Wednesday night at the adidas Classic AAU tournament at North Central High School, Russell, a junior, said he plans to wait until the spring of his senior season before making his college decision.

"I'll probably commit as late as possible," Russell said. "I want to see who's coming with me. Who's going in before me. See if the coaches are still going to be there. Just letting the (recruiting) classes open out."

But there is one question that Russell will answer by saying, "Yes."

Can he become the Number One player nationally in the high school recruiting Class of 2014?

"I could be Number One," Russell said.

Which guys does he need to outplay?

"Whoever is in front of me," he said.

Not many high school juniors are still ranked ahead of him, not after the way Russell played at the NBA Players Association camp in Charlottesville, Va., or at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. He's positioned himself to be the highest-ranked prospect from Louisville since the last big name who left town to finish high school – Rajon Rondo.

Russell said that most nights last winter he played less than 10 minutes per game at Montverde. Kevin Boyle, the Montverde coach, the same guy who coached Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, must have drilled Russell in practice. Somebody has pushed Russell into the ranking as the 10th best junior in the nation by and the 12th best by

"Hopefully it can happen that way," Ellis Myles said. "I believe that it can."

Myles, of course, is the former University of Louisville forward, a member of the Cardinals' 2005 NCAA Final Four team. He coaches Russell and Snider on the Louisville Magic AAU team.

Russell scored 22 points Wednesday as the Magic rolled to an easy victory over the Compton (Calif.) Magic. Coaches from U of L, UK, IU and many other schools watched every left-handed jump shot that he stroked.

But scoring is not the reason Russell has jumped in the rankings. Myles said he is starting to rebound the ball the way a 6-foot-4 guard should rebound the ball. He is also beginning to defend. And Russell is now pushing back when stronger defenders try to shove him out of the lane.

"It's been an issue for the first two years I've had him, trying to motivate him to play defense," Myles said. "I think now he's beginning to learn that he can disrupt the game on the defensive end. He's playing defense now."

Russell, who now weighs 180 pounds, said he can push back because of the 100 pushups his father has encouraged him to do every day.

Russell will have to be strong to navigate the recruiting scrum that is going to surround him for the next two seasons. He said that U of L fans have been the most active trying to encourage him on Twitter and Facebook. But Kentucky fans have also had much to say.

Russell is saying little about which team is the favorite. There was one report that U of L, Ohio State and Missouri were recruiting him the hardest, but that isn't what Russell said Wednesday night.

"Whatever I decide is the best fit, I'll go there," Russell said.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.








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