Seven days make a ton of difference. Or at least that’s what the LSU basketball program would like to see.
Last week, Arizona appeared to have the lead to land former St. Augustine standout Craig Victor, a forward who is the state’s consensus top prospect and a top-50 recruit in the Class of 2014.
But with that rumor scuttled, the five-star player will announce at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in New Orleans whether Arizona, Louisville, Kansas, Oklahoma State or LSU will get his considerable services, a move to end the courting process before he heads west to high-powered Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
“When he told me when he was ready, I believed him,” said Greg Holmes, who coaches Victor for the New Orleans Elite grassroots program, on Friday. “From my standpoint, I didn’t ask him who. He said he was 95 percent sure among the three or four schools that he really likes.”
By making a decision now, the logic is Victor would not spend his final season waiting for offers or taking official visits. Instead, he can work on refining his skills and reducing an already stressful transition in moving more than 1,700 miles to Findlay Prep, a decision he made earlier this summer.
“He doesn’t want that while he’s at Findlay away from his mom and his support system. It’s smart of him to look at how this process goes down,” Holmes said. “He decided it was better to get it over with and just focus on basketball.”
Obviously, keeping Victor, who is 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds, in-state would be another recruiting coup for LSU coach Johnny Jones, whose landing of freshman Jarell Martin — another rangy big man — formed the foundation of a top-10 recruiting class that arrived this summer.
But there are plenty of reasons for Victor to look out of state. Oklahoma State has known about Victor since the eighth grade, getting in on the ground floor. Arizona was long considered the front-runner and has former UNO coach Joe Pasternack on its staff.
LSU’s addition of assistant coach Korey McCray, who spent the past two seasons at UCLA after heading up the well-known Atlanta Celtics grassroots program, has girded the Tigers’ chances.
Before McCray left Westwood after Bruins coach Ben Howland was fired, the Pac-12 program had been solidly among Victor’s suitors. McCray, considered among the country’s best recruiters, carried those ties to Baton Rouge.
“For Craig, it’s always come down to who’s going to make him better and who’s going to give him the opportunity to go to the next level,” Holmes said. “At the same time, he’s a kid that wants to win and wants to win big. ... He wants to go to a good school with good competition, and he thrives off of that.”
Yet Victor will not use any of his five allotted official visits before announcing his decision, a choice that Holmes said stemmed from Victor having enough information at his disposal.
“He’s been to each school that he’s narrowed it down to enough,” he said. “There’s enough familiarity with everybody on those staffs. He’s been out to see the programs and what they have to offer.”
As for Holmes, he has three schools in mind that he thinks are in the running, but he couldn’t name a favorite Friday afternoon.
“All he said was that he wanted to talk to me again tonight or tomorrow morning,” Holmes said. “I respect that he wants to do it in front of his teammates and family before he leaves for Findlay.”