SANTA BARBARA — Chris Cotton hopes his fancy passing is making him more than a passing fancy in the eyes of college recruiters.
Like many young basketball players in Southern California, Cotton grew up with magical ideas dribbling in his head.
"I live in L.A. so I watch Magic Johnson," Cotton said. "I like to try and take some of Magic's passes and put them in my own game."
Recently, Cotton took his game to the campus of UC Santa Barbara for the 15th annual Sportsworld Superstar Basketball Camp. The Santa Monica senior was one of more than 260 players trying to catch the hawk eyes of college recruiters sitting in the stands.
The players at the camp were organized into teams, but it didn't take long to see that some of the biggest competition was for the basketball itself. Single stars weren't looking to become a galaxy of a team.
"This is mainly one-on-one--'I'm taking it to the hoop,' " scouting adviser Don Mead said.
"You see primarily athletic ability," Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery said. "It's hard because some kids are more structured players. They don't get the ball here. It's tough for a certain type of kid who's not used to this style of play."
It wasn't too tough for Chris Cotton. He was more concerned about giving up the basketball instead of getting his hands on it.
"I don't need to score when I play," Cotton said. "I'd rather pass it and keep somebody else scoring. That's the way I am. I don't have to score unless my coach tells me to score."
Cotton will be the first one to tell you that sometimes his passes have an extra helping of mustard on them. Everybody wants to pull out a Magic Johnson special from time to time. Especially when scouts are looking on.
"I'm kind of a little fancy myself," Cotton said. "A fast break--three-on-one--that's what I love to do. I might throw an extra pass behind my back or something to get their attention, catch their eye."
For Cotton, there is a limit to the showboating. He doesn't think that's what recruiters are looking for.
"Basic stuff catches their eye more than anything," he said. "I'm fancy on the fast break, but other than that I'm just real basic. They don't look for anybody to score a lot. Everybody who got invited here can score. You can't be a hog with the ball."
Cotton said he tries to catch coaches' eyes with other aspects of the game, such as defense and rebounding. Even the dirty work has to be done by somebody.
"I'm a point guard," he said, "so I got to keep my team in the game, talk to them, keep them up. I hustle, dive on the floor for loose balls. (Scouts) want a well-rounded player."
Coaches at the Superstar camp agree that the intangibles lift some individuals above the haze of surrounding talent.
"What stands out with a lot of guys is how hard the kid plays," Northwestern assistant Jim Brewer said.
"We look for guys who are hard-nosed, aggressive and play all the time," UCSB assistant Ben Howland said. "We look for guys who are tenacious on defense and play both ends of the court."
The 6-foot Cotton prides himself on being that type of all-around player. But it's the offensive aspect of his game that has some college recruiters fixing their eyes on him.
"He's quick and he handles the ball well," UC Irvine assistant Bob Thate said. "He passes the ball where it should be passed. He pushes the ball up the floor well."
Cotton passed on the final day of the Superstar Camp because he had to leave for the Five Star Camp. There were other coaches he wanted to show that he could put the basketball in the hands of teammates, not just the net.
"It wouldn't be fair to judge a guy just based on two or three days," Cotton said. "They need to be seen for a longer period of time. There are some real good players who don't get the ball and therefore don't benefit as well. Everybody is looking to do their own thing."
Those players who get lost in the shuffle shouldn't blame Chris Cotton. He tried to get them the ball. That's his thing.