On the eve of Villanova's 90th season of intercollegiate basketball - and in the aftermath of its fourth appearance in the NCAA Final Four -
The Wildcats were able to formally land two new players - James Bell and Markus Kennedy. (See the separate post on Kennedy.)
Bell is a 6-5 wing forward, currently enrolled in Montverde (Florida) Academy. The recruiting victory for the Orlando, Florida native is an instance of Villanova's ability to recruit outside its geographical base - according to ESPN.com, Florida and the University of Miami were also interested, as well as Clemson and West Virginia.
The Orlando Sentinel had this to say, on Bell:
James Bell, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard from Jacksonville, signed with Villanova. The No. 43-rated player in the nation by ESPN has the athleticism and skills set to contribute immediately for the Wildcats, who are coming off a Final Four season...
So on a day when some high school student-athletes officially set down tracks for their futures, the work being done in that little corner of Lake County needs to be applauded.
"Major program, major academia. What's happening down there is really impressive," Scout.com analyst Dave Telep said of Montverde, which is 140-25 under Sutton, including a 30-0 record (and mythical national crown) in 2007. "And most importantly, it passes the smell test."
All these gifted players at one school might raise an eyebrow among some, especially in the oftentimes cynical world of recruiting and big-time athletics.
But don't think for a second that Sutton's program equates to one of those "prep schools" that doubles as a way station to get players eligible. There are no scholarships at Montverde — only financial aid based on need — and the academics are demanding. It's been that way since the school opened in 1912 (about 90 years before Sutton arrived).
"Sometimes there are perceptions, but in every walk of life perception overshadows reality," said Sutton, 45. "I don't focus on anything other than what we're trying to accomplish at our school and in our basketball program."
The academic environment at Montverde speaks for itself. What happens to basketball players when they get there speaks to the coaching staff.
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