After three years of putting up some whopping scoring numbers and emerging as a college prospect early in his high school career, Buffalo Grove’s Kam Craft was quickly a recognized name on the recruiting trail.
That was beneficial for Craft as the Covid pandemic shut down basketball for long stretches and college coaches were sidelined for 15 months from evaluating players in person.
But this past spring Craft went from a recognized name to a hot name nationally among college coaches while playing with Meanstreets on the club circuit. His film from both his high school season and while playing with Meanstreets generated a buzz. The interest and offers followed.
Loyola, the red-hot local mid-major program, offered in early April. South Carolina, Iowa, North Carolina State, Texas Tech and Marquette followed up with spring offers.
Since college coaches were unable to be out on the road evaluating and recruiting for so many months, the thought was that many prospects would have to wait until things opened back up in June and July. That’s when they would be able to generate interest and secure offers.
Craft was one of the fortunate ones. He played so well in April and May that it forced college coaches to do all they could to speed up the process on their end, to evaluate and recruit the player who they kept hearing was tearing it up.
“I wouldn’t say I expected it,” Craft said of the significant spring interest. “But I just knew that during all that dead period time that I would be able to stay in the gym and work really hard. That’s what I did. It was great to see my recruitment pick up when it did, at the right time. I ended up having a good spring with a good team. That’s what it came down to.”
Craft, who would not be seen in June as Buffalo Grove didn’t play in either of the high school “live” weekends, was getting close to committing. He could have played out the month of July and gathered another eight, 10 or 12 offers. He could have taken some official visits and drawn out the process, seeing just what school and coaches would jump in.
In today’s recruiting world many prospects decide to “play it out” and see who they can impress in the summer evaluating periods. Craft could have followed that path.
“I never really thought about it that way,” said Craft of drawing out the process to see where it led to in July.
But even with all the new interest and offers, the 6-5 scoring guard continued to be locked in on a program that had offered him in the fall of 2020. That early interest from Xavier and coach Travis Steele, including those early fall Zooms with Craft and his family, paid off for the Musketeers.
Following visits to Marquette, Iowa and Xavier, Craft pulled the trigger July 1 and committed to the school that was on him the longest.
“I talked to a ton of schools and made some good connections with a lot of coaches,” said Craft. “I went on three visits — to Marquette, Iowa and Xavier — and that is pretty much all I needed to see to know where I would go and what I wanted. I just knew then where I wanted to go and didn’t feel like I needed it to go on any longer.”
Xavier is getting what they call a “bucket-getter,” a natural scorer who has range and a confidence in his game and shooting the basketball. Craft made an immediate impression as a freshman, scoring 31 points in his first varsity game and averaging 20 points a game that first season.
This past season as a junior he averaged 27.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game and has already scored 1,694 career points.
“When I went on my visit I really liked Cincinnati,” Craft said of his Xavier visit. “I have a great relationship with the coaches, and we went over style of play when I was there and I think I really fit into their system. I got a good vibe from the players and I’m pretty close to coach Steele and assistant coach [Dante] Jackson. I mean it felt like home.”
Now Craft will play out two weeks with his Meanstreets teammates in Nike’s EYBL and Peach Jam Tournament in South Carolina. It’s the highest profile summer event in July. National evaluators will get to see Craft as he tries to crack top 100 national rankings and continue that spring momentum.
“I’m glad I didn’t wait,” said Craft of the option of playing through July with so many eyes on him and his Meanstreets team. “I definitely feel like it took some pressure off — committing. Once I got that out of the way I knew I could just focus on getting better and getting ready for college.”