International center visiting Pitt today
With limited exposure and an absence from the AAU scene, international prospects often fly under the radar.
When Steven Adams committed to Pitt out of New Zealand, not one person outside of Adams' inner circle and the Pitt staff had any clue how good he could be. Fast forward four years, and Adams is one of the best young centers in the NBA. That is the nature of international recruiting at times.
Now first-year Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings is hoping to secure a comparable gem. Tis time, it is Felipe Haase from Chile, where the story is slightly different but Pitt's need in the interior is the same.
Longtime Florida basketball coach and guru Art Alvarez has been involved with coaching and mentoring over 100 Florida high school players who moved on to play in college, and he is now serving as Haase's mentor and legal guardian. Alvarez spoke to Panther-Lair.com about the center prospect.
"Felipe is a great kid," Alvarez said. "You are talking about a 6'10" kid that can be a stretch forward or center. He is about 235 right now, down from 250. He has worked hard and gotten in great shape. In a few years, he could get back to 250 after a commitment to a college-level strength program.
"His biggest strength is his shooting and passing. He is a lights-out shooter and is capable of making shots from behind the arc. His footwork and vision is next-level - just a very skilled young post player that has a chance to be special."
With four seniors and three forwards leaving the Pitt program, there will be gaping holes in the rotation next season. There is not much in way of depth returning to Pitt's front court next season, so it is imperative that the coaching staff add another big to contribute. Haase was first introduced to Pitt because of the strong relationship that assistant coach Kevin Sutton has with Alvarez.
"Coach Sutton and I go way back," Alvarez said. "I was coaching down here when Kevin was at Monteverde. He was just getting that program started and off and running. He is a great guy and I am lucky enough to have been friends with him for over twenty years. We always talk and when he heard about Felipe, he wanted to come see him right away. When he first saw him, all it took was about ten minutes. He was sold and Pitt offered.
"Almost every coach that has been down here to see him has loved him. He spent last season in California and then transferred here to Miami Christian. So he has only been in the states for about two years. His family is still in Chile and he plays for the Chile National Team in FIBA. He has played very well for them and opened a lot of eyes. At one point, just about everyone that came offered him. He was up to over 12 offers, but we decided to narrow it down to five schools."
The Pitt staff has just recently gotten involved, but Stallings and company have clearly made a positive impression. Haase was scheduled to visit four schools officially, but has also decided to add Pitt to that visit list. He visited Missouri last weekend and will arrive in Oakland this morning for a visit to Pitt that will keep him in town through Friday.
"Felipe wanted to get to Pitt and we only had this week to make it work," Alvarez said. "We have narrowed his list down to a final five: Missouri, Pitt, Purdue, Louisville and South Carolina. We are not going to rush into any decisions or make any commitments until he has seen all of the schools.
"We want to have a decision and sign in the early signing period, so it will be soon. He leaves Pitt and flies directly to Purdue for that visit. Then has Louisville and South Carolina to see."
With all five programs having offered and aggressively pursuing, this one won't be easy. But it sounds like Sutton has Pitt in a good spot due to his relationship with Alvarez.
"I know and trust all five of these staffs. I have a lot of respect and trust for both Kevins at Pitt (Sutton and Stallings). Pitt really likes him. I think Coach Stallings can do great things at Pitt. He has coached a few pros and that helps. One of the main things that we are looking at is how these coaches develop their big men. Coach Stallings has done that. The other thing is the opportunity to play as a freshman, While nothing is ever guaranteed, he wants to play right away. Pitt has made it clear that he is a priority for them.
"At the end of the day, it is going to be a tough decision. Five great schools and staffs. No matter where he goes, he will be in a good situation. The target date is during that early signing period week. So once the visits are wrapped up, we will all get together and discuss everything. Four more visits and a decision here in about two weeks or so."