"First impression was that it was kind of far away."
This was the daunting starting point from which Tulsa's recruitment of Class of 2014 Floridian point guard Mitchell Wilbekin began. In the two months since that impression poked through, TU has gained ground.
"I just really like that Coach (Danny) Manning was calling me -- the head coach," said the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder. "He played in the NBA, so he obviously knows what he is talking about. I thought he was a real cool guy, straight-up, forward type of guy."
Once again, the clout of Coach Manning positively impacted a recruitment, just as TU hoped when they hired the former pro.
Mitchell has some basketball juice in his family. Older brother Scottie Wilbekin recently began his senior academic year with University of Florida. They Gators are absolutely the premiere athletic powerhouse in the Wilbekin's hometown of Gainesville, Florida.
Last year, Scottie amassed 174 assists and earned placement on SEC All-Defensive First Team. Mitchell has the unfortunate luck of being a year younger than one of the decade's greatest Floridian guards, Kasey Hill.
Hill will be UF's starting point guard until he leaps into the NBA. Wilbekin has heard from Florida, but an offer seems unlikely. Schools that are involved are regional programs.
"UCF and USF (have offered)," said Wilbekin. "Florida State has been talking to me. Those are all possibly schools I would visit."
UCF and Wilbekin are truthfully headed in opposite directions. Don't expect much more between the two parties.
"USF is a possibility," said Wilbekin.
Back in June, Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Texas were very interested. For now Vandy is the only school angling for an official visit. Lehigh and Wyoming could swing by for an evaluation this month. Texas keeps in contact.
Previously, Wilbekin was able to visit Florida, Texas, Virginia and Baylor unofficially. Wilbekin's pedigree and professionalism are high.
The Hurricane could use a lead guard in this class.
"A couple things about Mitchell…one he understands the game," said AAU Head Coach John Liptak III. "He has got a good feel on the game. Defensively, he is solid. You know. A lot of people don't think he can play D, but he can cover the ball real well."
Playing with Florida Elite, Wilbekin gained some needed exposure. According to the senior and his coach, the group conquered two AAU events -- Best Buy Classic and the adidas Exclusive Run.
Difficult opponents included Milwaukee Rebels (Kevin Looney - Rivals #13), Dream Vision and Atlanta Celtics.
Coach Liptak III cited Wilbekin's improvement as a big reason for Florida Elite's summer success.
"He shoots the ball very well," said Coach Liptak III. "He can execute (the offense), but he actually shoots very well coming off screens or pulling up to shoot the jump shot."
This summer was Coach Liptak's first experience coaching Mitchell, though the Wilbekin family has a familiarity with his AAU program.
A nice scholastic season secured Wilbekin a place on Florida Elite. And now Tulsa coaches are hoping to secure his verbal commitment.
Friday, September 6th, 2013 will be the first day Wilbekin steps into Oklahoma. He flies out with his parents Friday after school.
He's never been before.
Still, the talented point guard has a few priorities on his official visit.
"I want to get to know their guys," said Wilbekin. "I really don't know any of them or anything about them. I want to see if the guys are cool."
Of course, Wilbekin also wants to connect with Coach Manning and the staff. All recruits enjoy the tour. The food will be gleefully engulfed.
For a detailed report of the visit from Mitchell himself, check back Sunday.
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