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Last updated: Sat. Jul. 12, 2014 - 12:24 pm EDT

Wilkes' potential draws Purdue, IU coaches

Class of 2017 standout is versatile, fearless

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Kris Wilkes must look in a mirror and see the Hulk, or a body builder or somebody who could mash you with a frown.

The rising Class of 2017 basketball standout plays as if he packs muscle, not because of his power of his physique (he remains painfully thin), but because of his fearlessness of his nature.

He attacks the rim, slashes inside and embraces contact.

OK, here's a reality check. Given Wilkes is listed at 6-5 and 175, embracing contact doesn't mean he's tapped into NFL linebacker seek-and-destroy vigor. It does mean he has an aggressiveness that served him well in the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis, and will continue to do so the rest of this month, and beyond.

Consider it one of the benefits of having a black belt in taekwondo.

It's among the reasons why coaches such as Purdue's Matt Painter, Indiana's Tom Crean and Xavier's Chris Mack were front and center watching him play this week. All three have offered him scholarships, with more offers certain to come. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are looking at him. So is Kentucky, which is not shy about going after state-of-Indiana prospects.

Here's another thought -- this Indianapolis North Central standout, who plays for UA Grind Indy Hoosiers, has probably pushed past 6-6, and might reach 6-9 when he's done growing. He struggles to gain weight (Oh the advantages of youth), although it's not for a lack of trying.

“I don't gain weight at all and I eat a LOT,” he says with a smile.

For the record, Wilkes is 15 years old and won't turn 16 until September. He looks young enough to still believe in the tooth fairy, which leads to the obvious question:

You mean there ISN'T a tooth fairy?

Anyway, Wilkes personifies versatility, including the fact he has played bass in orchestra. He can basically play all five positions. He can handle the ball, shoot three-pointers, dunk, rebound and run all day. Granted, he wasn't facing the nation's elite talent in Indianapolis, but that doesn't mean you can't see the potential.

So college coaching attention comes and he downplays it.

“I just try to play hard help and my teammates win. I just hope to get better and work on my weak points, like defense. I have to play harder on defense. I've got to get better on my shot.

“I look at the colleges and coaches, but I'm just trying to play and improve myself. There's a lot of ways to go, a long ways to go, and I need to get better over the years. Just play hard. For my size I think I'm good at handling the ball. I just have to get better at defense, and rebounding.

“By the end of the summer, I just want to be a better player -- a WAY better player.”

Wilkes is listed as a guard/forward, but he sees himself as developing into a stretch forward.

He likes Purdue for a number of reasons (“They've done a good job recruiting me; when they offered, that was pretty special”), including its national regarded engineering program.

“I really like that they have engineering because I want to study engineering. They have a strong program there for that.

“I'm not sure what kind of engineer I'm interested in. I'm going to look around. They've done a good job recruiting me.”

Indiana offered Wilkes a year ago along with travel ball teammates Paul Scruggs and Zach Gunn.

“Indiana has a great atmosphere. I really like the student section.”

As for Xavier, “It's a smaller school and I really like that.”

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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