Cordia Coach Rodrick Rhodes has been in touch with UK’s coaching staff and said the Cats could be back in Eastern Kentucky later this week to see his star player.
UK assistant Orlando Antigua made the trip to Hazard last week to watch Emmanuel Owootoah, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Canada who is playing his senior season for Cordia.
Rhodes told the Herald-Leader that UK will make a return visit Friday if Cordia wins Tuesday’s district opener against Letcher Central. Friday’s district title game would probably be a matchup with Knott Central and sophomore star Cameron Justice.
Rhodes said Antigua was impressed by what he saw in last week’s game — a blowout victory over Jackson City in which Owootoah tallied 15 points, 10 assists and six steals.
“He liked his court vision and loved his feel for the game,” Rhodes said. “He’s a kid that plays both ends of the floor, and he liked that about him.
“He’s the ultimate point guard. He wants to pass first. But he can also shoot the basketball. He’s a very mentally tough kid. He’s born for the position; he really is.”
Rhodes was a McDonald’s All-American before playing for UK in the 1990s. He has no doubts that Owootoah can play at a high-major college program.
“Without a question, he can play and excel at that level,” he said. “I was able to play with some pretty good players in high school and college, and he matches up just as good or better than some of the guys I was able to play with.”
Along with Kentucky, Owootoah has seen interest from UCLA, Tennessee, Florida State, Seton Hall and others, although none of those schools have extended scholarship offers.
Rhodes expects those offers to come after the season.
“The other schools are just like, ‘We want to get him on campus,’” he said. “They’ve just seen the kid, so they’re going back to their coaches and telling them they like the kid and want to get him on a visit. And, I think, once they get him on campus, then they’ll offer him.”
The Cordia coach also said the buzz that UCLA is favored might be a bit overblown.
“I know he likes UCLA, but that’s just because they’ve been working hard to get him,” Rhodes said. “He’s wide open.”
Owootoah took a roundabout path from Canada to Cordia.
A native of the Toronto area, Owootoah wanted to come to the United States for his final season of high school ball and first landed in Cincinnati. After spending a little time there and searching for a new school, he ended up at Cordia in October.
He and another Canadian transfer — fellow senior Marlon King — weren’t immediately granted eligibility to play for Cordia. When they finally were, rumors persisted that the eligibility would be revoked.
“That stuff is swirling around. They hear it,” Rhodes said. “But the kids just go to school and give you everything they have in practice. And it’s tough on them. It is – it’s mentally tough. … But they just come with it every day and they don’t let it affect them.”
As for Owootoah’s college eligibility, Rhodes said his star player already has a qualifying test score, and all of his high school credits are in order.
And Rhodes said Owootoah wouldn’t be scared off by the backcourt presence of Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Jarrod Polson and possibly Ryan Harrow on next season’s UK roster. Rhodes referred to Owootoah as a likely four-year player who could blossom into a big-time contributor at a place like Kentucky.
Rhodes also compared his player to two integral parts of John Calipari’s early success — UMass guards Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso, who helped lead the Minutemen to the Final Four in 1996.
“Emmanuel would be a guy that would push (the Harrisons) extremely hard in practice and eventually he’d be a guy that would be winning for Coach Cal,” Rhodes said. “Because he’s a mentally tough kid who Coach Cal would love to coach.
“He’s like one of those old UMass guards that Coach Cal had. … I just remember those kids were mentally tough and never got tired. They always made the right play.”