WEST LAFAYETTE — Now standing 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Lawrence North rising sophomore Kevin Easley has always been big.
At younger ages that meant spending time under the basket. But thanks to his athleticism and jump-shooting touch, college coaches tell Easley he’d better get used to being a wing.
Though he hasn’t completely grown accustomed to calling himself a big guard yet, Easley thinks he can fulfill those projections.
“Definitely, because of my jump shot and my ballhandling,” Easley said. “It needs work still, but I’m working on it.”
With Easley mostly on the perimeter, Lawrence North won the Purdue Shootout championship on Thursday. The Panthers beat Pike 60-58 in the final in Mackey Arena.
Easley said his father called prior to the game to tell him he’d just received his seventh scholarship offer, from Cincinnati. Purdue, Indiana, Butler, Bradley, Temple and IUPUI previously extended offers.
Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer said, barring a growth spurt, Easley will be a wing at the college level. Keefer said Easley is still maturing in terms of putting in a consistent effort, but he has a knack for showing up in big games.
“His shot’s as good as any I’ve got,” Keefer said. “It’s putting it on the floor and slashing, attacking, that he’s got to work on. He’ll figure that out. He’s only a sophomore. That’s what’s good about him.”
Keefer already has one Wildcat at Purdue — junior forward Basil Smotherman. Easley said he enjoyed winning in Mackey Arena and that the Boilermakers’ have made an impact with their recruiting efforts.
“I like the campus, and the coaching staff,” Easley said. “It’s going to be big in my choice.”
One reason Keefer can keep Easley on the wing is Lawrence North’s post depth. That includes 6-8 rising junior Ra Kpedi, the son of former Illinois center Andy Kpedi.
Kpedi has an offer from IUPUI, but other programs have taken notice, including Purdue. Young for his age (he turns 16 in September), Kepdi was Lawrence North’s sixth man last season.
“I think he’s got as much potential as anybody on that team,” Keefer said.
On the brink
To win the title, Lawrence North had to overcome Pike’s talented guards. One of them, 5-11 junior Justin Roberts, awaits his first offer. But he said he’s heard from Purdue, Ohio State and other high major programs.
Roberts said he thinks his height might give some programs a reason to hesitate before offering. He averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists as a sophomore.
“People tell me they’re going to come, so I really don’t worry about it,” Roberts said. “It just makes me more humble and makes me work harder.”
Roberts projects as a point guard, which is where he plays with his summer team. But Pike’s primary point man is senior Justin Thomas. Roberts said that balance has helped him develop into a more complete basketball player.
“My freshman year, he was probably a lot stronger than me,” Roberts said. “He has really good defense, so in practice we would go at it a lot, and it would make me better.
“It’s making me a better basketball player, because I have to move without the ball and see the game from another perspective.”
McCutcheon went 3-1 behind sophomore point guard Robert Phinisee. He’s also awaiting his first offer, but he’s gaining exposure this summer with the Indiana Elite AAU program. … Purdue sophomore P.J. Thompson spent a lot of time in the various gyms Thursday watching his brother, Isaiah, a talented incoming freshman for Zionsville. … Park Tudor played without Jaren Jackson, Jr., who already has a Purdue offer.