Memphis has an outside shot at raiding Georgia for its top two senior basketball prospects.
Wheeler’s Jelan Kendrick, who was the state’s lone representative in the McDonald’s All-America game, has already signed with Memphis. Earlier this week, Memphis offered a scholarship to the AJC’s Mr. Basketball, Westlake’s Marcus Thornton.
Kendrick and Thornton have a history: They were teammates at Westlake two seasons ago, before Kendrick transferred to Wheeler for his senior year.
And guess who highly recommended Thornton to the Memphis coaches last weekend? Yes, it was Kendrick.
“I just said Marcus was a great player,” Kendrick told the AJC, “and that we played together in high school. I let them know that we played very good off each other, and complimented each other’s game. I told my coaches (at Memphis) we could continue that in college, too.”
Thornton, who has been besieged by offers since gaining his Clemson release last week, was unavailable for comment. He is one of college basketball’s hottest free agents, with his offer list including Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia Tech and UGA.
At Memphis, the 6-foot-7 Kendrick is projected to play one of the guard positions. The 6-8 Thornton will play small forward or power forward at the next level.
“I mean, the guy is huge,” Kendrick said of Thornton. “All I had to do was throw it down low, clear out, and let Marcus do his thing. Or he would kick it back out. Marcus tried to feed off me, and I tried to feed off him. I enjoyed playing with him in high school.”
For basketball observers who are unaware of Thornton’s abilities, Kendrick said the best thing about his former — and hopefully, future — teammate was his attitude. “We have the same mentality about basketball, and that would be winning. That’s the most important thing, rather than any individual goals.”
Thornton had a monster senior season, averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds, while leading Westlake to the championship game in Georgia’s largest division. The two remain friends, although they haven’t spoken in a few weeks.
What advice would Kendrick give about recruiting? “I’d definitely tell Marcus to take his time, do what is best for him, go to a school where you can get a good education, and pick a basketball system that is the best fit in the long run … And I would also tell him to choose Memphis.”
Kendrick talked while he was munching on dinner in New York. He was selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic, which will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday in Madison Square Garden (ESPN2-TV). Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb is an assistant with Kendrick on the East team.
Kendrick is one of the most prolific basketball recruits in Georgia prep history. He attracts attention wherever he goes, and recently spoke to the AJC to address many of the misconceptions about his career, including the reasons behind playing at three different high schools in four years:
My transition from the summer (of 2008) averaging 30 points … to the summer of this year, averaging way more than that in scoring and all different categories — this year people thought I fell off, as far as my high school season (17 ppg. at Wheeler), when I really didn’t. I was just taking a different perspective to the game. I wanted to get my team more involved so we could win. That’s my whole purpose in playing basketball, to win. And my team this year didn’t need me to score as much as they did in the prior years. Another thing, people always have something to say about my attitude, being where I’m from or whatever the case may be. But you can ask any of the high school coaches who have coached me and they have nothing bad to say about me. I dedicated my time to basketball, and they’ve seen my hard work. I think they were glad to see how I took the game of basketball and evolved with it. And you know, people always ask me why did you move around so much? It was not my decision. I would’ve loved to have stayed at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy with my coach, but he left to go to a college team. My mom and dad decided that I needed to go to a different school. Last year, around summer time, I wanted to (finish at) Westlake so badly but my mom and dad decided that I needed to go to another school. People always thought I was making my own decisions, but it was my mom and dad’s decision. I’ve never questioned their decisions because their decisions have helped me so much in life.
For the rest of the interview, click here.