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Last updated: Sat. Jul. 12, 2014 - 12:23 pm EDT

Indiana prospect makes big adidas impact

Raymond Spalding looms as difference maker

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Raymond Spalding rocks a rim. There's no doubt about that. He is tall and swift and destined to play for a big-time college basketball program. That, too, is beyond doubt.

Where this 6-9 Louisville standout ends up is another matter. Even he doesn't know. It could be Indiana or Louisville or Xavier or Tennessee or, well, you get the picture. It's among the benefits of being a rising player currently ranked No. 69 in the Class of 2015.

“I'm all open,” he says. “I haven't committed anywhere yet. I haven't cut my list at all.”

That list includes much of the Big Ten, SEC and ACC. And if Spalding continues playing like he has at the adidas Invitational, the list will continue to grow.

In Wednesday night's opener at North Central High School he dominated with 36 points (15-for-20 shooting), 13 rebounds and five assists. At one point, he basically drove the length of the floor for a dunk that caused a big uproar among watching fans).

Granted, this wasn't against major college defense or size (on Wednesday it was UA Grind's 7-foot Derrik Smits and 6-7 Bronson Kessinger), but let's not quibble over that. It's about projecting and Indiana's Tom Crean was the only major head coach to see that first performance.

Yes, that could make a signing difference.

“Coach Crean and I talk a lot,” Spalding says. “He really expects it out of me. When the head coach calls you, that means a lot, and it's really serious when the head coach calls and talks to you. He's a great guy. I like their style of play. They really develop guys like me -- stretch 4s or 5s – into NBA players.”

In other words, Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh.

Spalding had similar praise for Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Getting a recent offer from his hometown college (Spalding goes to Louisville Trinity High School) was a major confidence booster.

“They're right in my backyard. I love the place. It's a blessing to get that offer. It takes a little pressure off.”

Then there is Xavier, with head coach Chris Mack and assistant coach Travis Steeler.

“Those are my guys,” Spalding says. “They said I'd fit in well there, and I'd be able to play right away as a freshman."

Travel ball in July means having to perform in front of some of the nation's top coaches. Spalding says he tries to ignore that, with limited success.

“Sometimes I look over at them, but I try not to do that.”

Spalding is quick and long and relentless. He thrives on offense and rebounding. He has a hook shot, a mid-range jumper and three-point accuracy. He can catch and shoot, or drive and shoot, from beyond the arc. He plays facing the basket, or with his back to it. He can handle the ball, looks for open teammates (after those five assists he said, “I love passing the ball.”) and offensive rebounds with attitude. He runs well, catches the ball even under fierce defensive pressure and shows good fitness.

That, too, could make a difference.

Still, Spalding knows he's far from a finished product. He envisions himself as a college stretch forward with the ability to bang inside.

“This is close to what I want to look like in college, but I want to get bigger, and also develop better with my shooting and dribble.”

Spalding figures to cut his list to five by the end of the month, but might wait until spring before picking a school.

“I don't really have a date on that.”

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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