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San Pasqual's Meek Continues to Draw a Crowd : High Schools: But whether he's engulfed in a sea of defenders or a roomful of recruiters, the 6-10 junior center stands out.

January 26, 1990|DAVE McKIBBEN

ESCONDIDO — Tom Buck, San Pasqual's basketball coach, points to the spot where Erik Meek stood that day, engulfed by five Escondido players.

"They played a zone that had everyone in the lane, daring our other players to shoot the ball," Buck said. "The rest of our team went something like five for 25, and we lost. But I think Erik still had 30 points."

Escondido High Coach Mike Williams also vividly recalls the game two seasons ago, in Meek's freshman year.

"We had Brooks Barnhard (now a freshman at University of San Diego) fronting him and another big guy behind him, and the other players were pretty close by," Williams said. "We were really successful playing him that way for two years. Once, we actually held him to 12 or 14 points. But that's because we got him into foul trouble."

The attention surrounding Meek, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound junior, has subsided on the court, because teammates have begun to take pressure off by shooting better. But as Meek has grown into his game--and closer to college--attention off the court has become so intense that his father, Greg, has quarantined him from recruiters until he is senior.

Even so, San Pasqual practices lately have played host to a Who's Who of college coaches.

Monday, on the opening day of the week-long NCAA evaluation period, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick and Arizona State assistant Lynn Archibald dropped by to make their presence known--even though they had long ago favorably evaluated of Meek.

Others taking a peek at Meek included Arizona's Lute Olson, Arizona State's Bill Frieder and Notre Dame's Digger Phelps.

"I can't talk to them, so I just try to go with my day as though they're not even there," Meek said. "But it's kind of hard with all those eyes looking at you."

Recruiters are also writing Meek an average of 10 letters a day, with Vanderbilt, Arizona State and UCLA spending the most money on postage.

The phone also rings quite a bit at the Meek house these days, though all the calls are intercepted by Greg.

"We're glad they call, and we appreciate it," Greg Meek said. "But we've set down some guidelines. We're not playing any games, and nobody is playing games with us."

Except for a few coaches Greg Meek will not identify. He says he did not like their initial pitches, and they have been told they would be wasting their time recruiting his son.

The elder Meek also said he and his son will not wilt under the pressure of the recruiters, meaning he will tell Erik not to commit during the early signing period in October if he's not absolutely certain of his choice.

"The only thing the early signing period does is getting the coaches off his back," Greg Meek said. "I think it's great for a kid who has grown up in Indiana and wanted to play there since sixth grade. But not for kids like Erik."

With early signing less than nine months away, it appears Meek is nowhere near a decision. He has not even narrowed his choices down to eight or 10 schools yet, although he said that time is coming soon.

"It's not fair for all these schools to waste their time and effort if I'm not going to go there," Meek said. "So I'm sure after the season, I'll get it down to less than 10 schools."

Meek, who has a 3.3 grade-point average, said he will look at a college's academics and then its basketball program. Geography doesn't seem to concern the Meeks.

"It's education we need to be concerned with," Greg Meek said. "Erik's importance to the world is that he's a good person. It's nice that he's a good basketball player, too, but we realize if he gets hurt, that could all end in a minute."

Greg Meek said his son has handled every situation pretty well so far, including an incident last week at a UCLA game when the student body stood up and chanted, "We want Meek."

"He doesn't get impressed with it," Greg Meek said. "I told him, 'It's nice, but it's programmed.' None of the students knew who Erik was."

But coaches certainly do. Nearly every Division I school has written to him.

Scouting services also know him.

Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports rates Meek as the second-best junior big man on the West Coast. Cherokee Parks of Huntington Beach Marina High, who also rated a chant at UCLA, is No. 1.

"Cherokee's a little more advanced offensively, but Erik's a little stronger," Gibbons said. "Parks is a little more accomplished all around. But both players will be among the top five big men in the United States and top 20 (players) overall."

Gibbons said Meek is probably the most heavily recruited player in San Diego since Bill Walton was at Helix in 1971.

"He's not Bill Walton, but in his own right, he has to be considered a player who will make a major impact on the college level," Gibbons said.

Buck realizes, because Meek is a post player and plays in this area, that comparisons to Walton are inevitable.

"But it's not fair to Erik," Buck said. "There's only one Bill Walton, but I will say this. Erik's doing things Bill Walton never got the opportunity to do."

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