Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Virginian-Pilot Edition
June 30, 2005

Boo Williams will lend his expertise all summer.

Michael Jordan will weigh in with some tips in August.

But it is what will happen in the fall that could have the biggest impact on the basketball fortunes of Portsmouth's Vernon Macklin.

South Hampton Roads' most acclaimed basketball recruit in 17 years, Macklin will head from Norcom High to Hargrave Military Academy, intent on maximizing his immense basketball potential.

''It's just something I feel I have to do,'' soon-to-be Cadet Macklin said. ''It's the place I need to be.''

At Hargrave, Macklin will have to adjust to 6 a.m. reveille calls, honor-code requirements and uniform inspections. He also will be joining a postgraduate team that went 28-1 last season against junior college teams, college junior varsity teams and other prep schools.

Perhaps more importantly, Macklin is placing himself in an environment that, if he can make it through, will all but ensure his ability to accept one of the myriad of major college scholarship offers at his disposal.

According to Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts, 12 of the 13 players on the 2004-05 Hargrave team a signed Division I letter-of-intent.

This becomes particularly significant in light of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement that requires high school players to wait until a year after their class graduates before being eligible for the draft.

Although Macklin has long maintained his desire to attend college -- preferably at an ACC school -- rather than jump straight to the NBA, some analysts have suggested NBA teams might have been intrigued by Macklin's talents were he to make himself available. At least next year, that will not be an option.

Keatts said Macklin's progress at Norcom left him on track to graduate from high school with his class next June. Still, he has yet to take the SAT or the ACT, and with its smaller class sizes and more focused attention, the folks at Hargrave say they specialize in putting the finishing academic touches on most students.

''We have excellent teams, but we're more proud of the fact that all of our kids are prepared academically to go on to college,'' Keatts said. ''And we kind of prove it with how many of our kids go on to the next level.''

Dominance at that next level is something that has been projected for Macklin since his freshman year at Norcom, when some analysts had him rated the second-best player in the country among ninth-graders.

In the two years since, Macklin, now a three-time All-Tidewater performer with 1,480 career points and the 2005 All-Tidewater Player of the Year, has pretty much maintained his lofty standing among the nation's elite. Most recruiting services have him among the nation's 10 best rising seniors. Not since Alonzo Mourning roamed the courts at Indian River in 1988 has a South Hampton Roads player been so highly regarded.

Unlike Mourning, though, much of Macklin's acclaim is based not on what he is but on what he might become.

Beyond the offensive rebound and putback dunk, Macklin's offensive game remains a work in progress despite averaging 22.4 points a game last winter. But he's 6-foot-9, with the wingspan of someone about 7-foot-2. And he's quick enough to defend smaller players on the perimeter, yet effective enough in the post to reign as a devastating shot blocker.

Still, after years of ranking Macklin largely on potential, analysts are targeting this year as the one when he finally needs to put it all together, especially since this is a player who will turn 19 in September.

''It's time to produce,'' said Rob Harrington of, which has Macklin rated No. 10 among rising seniors. ''Or at least show improvement. I mean, if he doesn't, someone will still take a chance on him. But he needs to step it up if he wants to stay among the very top guys.''

This summer will provide Macklin plenty of opportunity to improve his stock. He has already attended a Nike skills development camp in Portland, Ore., featuring 15 of the nation's best recruits. Last week, he was in Richmond for a four-day event hosted by the NBA Players Association.

Next month, he will return to the well-known Nike camp in addition to performing in tournaments with Boo Williams' AAU team. In August, he will be 1 of 5 players in Los Angeles at a program hosted by Michael Jordan.

''It's a big summer for him,'' Williams said.

Then it's on to Hargrave. Macklin originally looked into attending another prestigious boarding school/basketball powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy. But he said he became enamored with Hargrave after visiting the school, which will provide him a full scholarship.

The prospect of playing with good friend Stefan Welsh, formerly of two-time defending state champion Woodside High, also excited him. The two have long talked about playing together in college. Now they will be teammates at Hargrave.

''I'm looking forward to it,'' Macklin said. ''Schoolwork and basketball. That's all I'm going to think about.''

Reach Paul White at 757-446-2630 or


During his freshman year at Norcom, some analysts had him rated the second-best player in the country among ninth-graders.

He is a three-time All-Tidewater performer with 1,480 career points and the 2005 All-Tidewater Player of the Year.

He averaged 22.4 points a game last winter.

Most recruiting services have him among the nation's 10 best rising seniors.

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