May 28, 2011

Terra Linda’s Best is proving it

Kevin McCarthy

It hasn’t been a matter of being overlooked for Terra Linda High and Lakeshow player Michael Best. More one of just not being visible enough. But that situation has changed dramatically for the 6-foot-10 senior as his play this spring has prominently boosted his name on to the radar screen of many a college suitor.

photo of Michael Best

There’s a system of sorts in recruiting and a critical component is playing club team ball. Miss the spring/summer series of tournaments as a junior and a player literally ceases to exist. That’s just the fate that befell the 6-foot-10 Best. Plus playing up in Marin County, not a regular recruiting territory stop, put a stranglehold on looks during his high school play. As Best put it, "I kind of went under the radar because of no circuit last year."

But now Best is out there and quite a number of schools have noticed.

But first some background.

It’s been basketball for as long as Best can remember. "I grew up around it. My Dad played for Babson, a school on the East Coast [in Massachusetts] and he has been my biggest influence." Being immersed in the sport has paid off handsomely as Best notes “my shooting touch” as one of his better skills but also "my basketball IQ. I’ve been around the game so much that I have a sense for things and pick up on players and how they play."

The elder Best measures out at 6-foot-5 and initially the thinking was his son might end up similarly sized. Now five inches taller than his father, Best said, "as a freshman I was 6-foot-2 and came off the bench [at Terra Linda]. But I went up to 6-foot-8 my sophomore year and I finally grew into my body during my senior year."

Here’s Lakeshow Coach Joe Fuca on Best: "When Mike walked into my gym in March I was wondering, ‘who is this 6-foot-10 center and can he really play?’ The advantage I had was my seniors are there in March and April and I could see him play against the very best players in the area. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. He can flat out play with anyone at the highest levels. Mike has a strong motor, can block shots with either hand and can score from all major areas. He has a terrific touch for guy 6-foot-10 and really reminds you of a lighter Dirk Nowitski. The big area that he needs to work on is his post game down low and his drop-step to the basket. Mike is very competitive and really has a drive to win every time he is on the court. In the 10 games he has played for Lakeshow this spring, Mike averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. This July period will be critical for Mike to show the high- level D-1 teams how good he is. I look forward to him being a big part of our top Lakeshow team."

Philippe Doherty, the longtime basketball skills trainer, Bay Area Hoosiers Director of Basketball Operations and former USF assistant coach offered this: "having worked with Mike the last three 3 years at our 1 Percent Club Showcase camps, I have seen the growth in his skills, maturity, and passion for the game. Every fall, Mike showed up and we went to work, if only for a few days, but Mike has gotten better every year. He is a skilled 6-foot-10 forward who can really shoot it, is long, and has great athletic ability. He runs very well for his size and finishes well. On defense, he blocks a ton of shots because he is so long."

Doherty continued, " "Mike has a huge ceiling and will break out in college because he moves very well and is so skilled offensively. Bottom line, Mike has the ability to play at a number of levels, he just has lacked exposure. This may help him in the long run because he has a hunger to prove people wrong and erase the stigma of playing in the MCAL [Marin County Athletic League] which sometimes is perceived as a less talented and athletic league. Bottom line, if you are a college coach you evaluate the player for his skill level, willingness to get better, attitude, coachability, aptitude of the game, and project where he fits with your program in regards to position. A lot of college coaches have missed the boat on Mike. He will impact a lot of programs if given the opportunity and whoever lands him will get a kid who has a chip on his shoulder, a lot of talent, and a willingness to work to get better."

As for the academic side of the equation, Best has a 2.8 grade point average and is leaning towards majoring in criminology, an area of interest influenced by his friendship with some law enforcement figures.

He was initially stumped when asked about his best basketball moment but then offered this: "It was during an alumni team game. I made a three against someone [now a Terra Linda assistant coach and alumnus who is considered the best defender ever in the program]. He also fouled me, making it an and1. I made sure to stick it to him for some time afterwards."

About recruiting, Best said "I don’t have a [geographic] preference. Maybe somewhere not too close. I want it to be a defensive-minded style and team That’s because "as a junior [at Terra Linda] we scored 70 points a game but didn’t play defense. We had talent but didn’t play together. Then we averaged 50 points my senior year. It [the change] was due to different personnel."

So what about the recruiting process? Best is processing the interest of a number of schools. According to Doherty, UOP, Sacramento State, UC Davis, San Jose State, USF and many, many others are showing interest.

Best is also awaiting a financial aid offer from New Hampton School which should arrive within the next two weeks. 6-foot-8 Will Davis, out of Sacramento High and former Turlock High backcourter Travis Souza, are finishing up there right now and headed next season to UC Irvine.