Tate: Juco guard real deal, coach says

Tate: Juco guard real deal, coach says

   Adrian Person, nephew of pros Wesley and Chuck Person, led junior college scorers with 31 points a game last season and emerged from the Hutchinson (Kan.) finals as the country''s second-ranked JC player.

   When apprised of his status, the Auburn-bound athlete responded: "I''m not even the best player on my own campus."

   Person referred to Cleotis Brown, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound former Alabama signee who was sidelined with a hip pointer at Southern Union State in Wadley, Ala., last season.

   Brown announced he will sign with Illinois next week, adding depth to an uncertain guard position that must await the academic status of currently ineligible freshman Cory Bradford and committed Peoria Manual star Frank Williams.

   If there is skepticism about JC backcourt signees here, it grows from the fact Halim Abdullah did not pan out, and Arias Davis arrived with a severe case of stress fractures. Take the word of Thad Fitzpatrick, former Alabama assistant coach and now head coach at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Brown is no gamble.

   "He''s big and very athletic," Fitzpatrick said. "I dare say he has NBA potential."

   OK, then why didn''t Alabama come back after him?

   "That''s a long story and irrelevant," responded Fitzpatrick, obviously withholding the inside story.

   "The main thing is that Robert McCullum (UI assistant) did his homework, and some other people didn''t. Cleotis was hurt for a while, and it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. I saw him this summer and again a month and a half ago, and he''s fully recovered. It''s just a matter of him playing to his former level, and he can be a pro. If there are five better JC second guards in the country, I''d like to see them."

Services pick Brown No. 1 in state

   Two Southerners who run recruiting services agree. Ken Littlefield tabs Brown as Alabama''s No. 1 JC prospect. So does Mississippian Gerald Snider, who is quoted:

   "Brown is the real deal. He''ll fit right in at Illinois. I cover five states, and he''s among the top five in my area. He''s way up there."

   The UI made its move on Brown after learning another JC guard, Beau Archibald, wouldn''t sign early ... and upon discovering Chicago Simeon coach Bob Hambric had unhappily thrown up his hands in the case of his 6-7 star, Bobby Simmons. With Hambric stepping out of the picture, UI hopes of swaying Simmons away from DePaul and its whirlwind new recruiter, Tracy Dildy, were diminished sharply. Simmons apparently is going against Hambric''s long-held policy by electing to sign early.

   "Illinois fans won''t be disappointed with Cleotis," his Southern Union coach, Ron Radford, said. "He has the potential to be great. And he sees a tremendous opportunity at Illinois.

   "Cleotis has had some tough breaks. In high school (at Russell County, Ala.), he wrote a 22 on the ACT, but the Clearinghouse turned down one of his core courses. We got him late."

   Brown averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds as a first-team All-Stater at Russell County in 1995 and was a 16-point, 8-rebound producer for Southern Union as a freshman.

   "He hurt his hip last October (a year ago) and I could have brought him back late in the season, but I decided not to. Now, he only needs one class next quarter to graduate. He''ll be our leader this season," Radford said.

   And he''ll fill an important need for the UI next season.

Tate''s tidbits

    The Sporting News describes the current forward position at Duke as "an embarrassment of riches" with 6-8 prep superstars Shane Battier and Elton Brand joining a crop that includes sophomores Mike Chappell (6-8), Nate James (6-6) and Chris Carrawell (6-6). That''s the gang Fenwick''s Corey Maggette will be bucking for playing time if he chooses the Blue Devils. Duke held a major scrimmage during Maggette''s visit there last weekend.

    Illinois State coach Kevin Stallings, unhappy over the way his Michigan involvement was "blown up" by the media, had reason to be more unhappy when Galesburg''s Joey Range chose Iowa over the Redbirds. Stallings'' consideration of other jobs during the last year has caused some outsiders to view his situation as unstable.

   Loren Tate writes a weekly recruiting column for The News-Gazette.