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RECRUITING / JEFF FELLENZER

Coaches in Race to Wire to Sign O'Bannon, Jones

April 22, 1993|JEFF FELLENZER

The most-asked question among Southern California high school and college basketball followers--where are Lakewood Artesia High All-Americans Charles O'Bannon and Avondre Jones going to college--is apparently about to be answered.

The 6-foot-6 O'Bannon, a multitalented swingman who was impressive in the Magic Johnson all-star game Sunday in Auburn Hills, Mich., will announce his choice Friday evening. But it will probably take longer for the 6-11 Jones to make a decision. He is considering a final official recruiting visit to possibly Louisiana State, Missouri or Iowa.

O'Bannon and Jones will be on center stage tonight when Artesia has its awards banquet. The keynote speaker is Kentucky Coach Rick Pitino, who gets one last chance to pitch his program to O'Bannon. Those close to O'Bannon, the younger brother of UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon, believe he will choose either UCLA or Kentucky. Officially, O'Bannon is also still considering Michigan and USC.

The short list for Jones is Michigan (which many insiders now believe is the leader; he has relatives in the Midwest), USC (Jones reportedly has been telling Trojan Coach George Raveling all along that he was coming to USC), UCLA and Arizona. Besides Pitino, other coaches expected to be at the banquet tonight are Jim Harrick (UCLA), George Raveling (USC), Steve Fisher (Michigan) and Lute Olson (Arizona).

Typically, about 75% of the top high school players sign letters of intent in November during the early signing period. But O'Bannon and Jones were steadfast in their determination to wait until April before signing--not a bad idea, according to former UCLA and NBA player Marques Johnson, whose son Kris, a 6-5 forward at Crenshaw, will be among Southern California's most heavily recruited players in the fall.

"It's better to sign late because you have more time to judge a program and its coaching staff," Johnson told a group of honored players at The Times' Central City basketball awards banquet on Sunday.

As for O'Bannon and Jones, now that April is about to become May, a significant slice of basketball followers--from prime-time college players and coaches to the sizable subculture of hoop addicts--awaits their declarations.

Notes

As expected, USC has signed 6-foot-3 shooting guard Claude Green of Dunbar High in Washington. The Trojans may sign two more players, including Avondre Jones, to go with Green and their two fall signees, 6-4 guard Stais Boseman of Inglewood Morningside and 6-6 forward Jaha Wilson of San Francisco Riordan. However, Boseman has not yet passed his college entrance test. . . . UCLA, which signed its first player last week, 6-1 point guard Cameron Dollar of Frederick, Md., may have to wait a while for a decision from 6-9 All-America forward Jerald Honeycutt of Grambling, La. Honeycutt's visit to UCLA April 9-10 was his first official recruiting trip. Louisiana State is considered the favorite to sign Honeycutt, who is also considering Tulane, Arkansas and Memphis State. Honeycutt and Charles O'Bannon were the starting forwards for the West team in Sunday's Magic Johnson all-star game. Perhaps more significant, the starting West guards were All-Americans Randy Livingston (New Orleans) and Ronnie Henderson (Jackson, Miss.), who have signed with Louisiana State and were openly encouraging Honeycutt to join them. Adding Honeycutt would give LSU Coach Dale Brown a recruiting class comparable to North Carolina, which recently signed the nation's top center prospect, 6-11 Rasheed Wallace of Philadelphia, to go with 6-6 forward Jerry Stackhouse and 6-4 guard Jeff McInnis, All-American teammates from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

Another top center prospect from Philadelphia, 6-11 Jason Lawson, signed with local favorite Villanova. . . . Add centers: 6-10 Ed Elisma of New York City, who had flirted with UC Irvine, signed with Georgia Tech. . . . Stanford, which was thin in the backcourt, has signed 6-3 point guard Frank Harris of Connors State Junior College in Warner, Okla. The left-handed Harris, a New York City native who started his career at Davidson (N.C.) College, averaged 21 points and seven assists a game last season. . . . Arizona State signed one of California's top community college players, 6-3 shooting guard Isaac Burton of East Los Angeles (Washington High), who was originally thought to be going to Oregon or San Diego State. Burton is a standout baseball prospect who could be a high draft choice in the June major league draft. The Sun Devils would also like to sign 6-1 guard Al Dillard of Southern Union College, a community college in Wadley, Ala. Dillard will visit Arizona State this weekend.

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