The long and short of Lawrence North’s success next basketball season will hinge largely on a pair of juniors.
Kevin Easley, a 6-6 forward, and Antwaan Cushingberry, a 5-8 point guard, led their G3 Rising Stars to the championship of the Las Vegas Classic platinum bracket last week to end the July evaluation period.
Easley, considered by many as the No. 2 prospect in the state’s 2018 class behind New Albany’s Romeo Langford, is the more high-profile college prospect of the two. But Cushingberry is also gaining Division I interest.
“I know they knock everybody who is 5-7 or 5-8, so that just makes me work harder,” Cushingberry said. “I feel like if I keep working hard and grinding, things will fall into place. (In July) I was just trying to show coaches I’m able to win games and be a leader on the court.”
Cushingberry picked up an offer from Division II University of Indianapolis during July. The Division I programs showing the most interest include Ball State, Cleveland State, Eastern Illinois, Loyola (Ill.), Northern Kentucky and Western Illinois.
Cushingberry has already earned the trust of veteran Lawrence North coach Jack Keefer. The point guard played a key role his freshman year for a team that finished 19-6 and won the program’s first sectional in six years. The Wildcats finished 19-6 again last season but were left unsatisfied after a first-round sectional loss to rival Lawrence Central.
“I felt like we could have made a big run and we didn’t,” Cushingberry said. “I could have contributed more. That’s going to be a chip on my shoulder. But I can’t wait. I’m excited.”
Cushingberry said he watches Tyler Ulis, Kay Felder and Isaiah Thomas – all listed at 5-9 – to soak up tips on how to excel as a smaller guard.
“I watch Tyler Ulis a lot,” he said. “I like how he plays. I watch how he plays defense and how he comes off the pick-and-roll. I watch how he controls the game.”
Cushingberry worked alongside Easley all summer, including early mornings in the Lawrence North gym in June. Easley, who has 16 Division I offers, said the areas he’s targeting the most for improvement as a junior are shooting and ballhandling.
“My first step needs to be quicker,” he said. “My stamina is another thing. That’s something Michigan told me personally. My skills are good. I’ve got the size. But I need to be able to beat my man off the dribble.”
Easley is ranked No. 105 nationally in the 2018 class on the 247sports.com composite. Though he moved down on some national lists from his freshman to sophomore year, he said he wasn’t fazed by it.
“I think I could have done better (as a sophomore),” he said. “I had a little sophomore slump. But I wasn’t terrible, I don’t think. My junior year is going to be something special.”
Easley’s offer list includes Butler, Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati, DePaul, Temple and several mid-major programs. Michigan and Vanderbilt are among the programs showing interest.
“I’m hearing from Michigan a lot more,” he said. “I’m really interested in them. I think Michigan State likes me. Florida, Iowa. It’s been pretty crazy lately.”
Easley said he plans to take his time in the recruiting process.
“It’s still early,” he said. “My dad is like, ‘Kevin, take your time and enjoy it.’ He lets me make the decisions. I’m just taking my time and talk to other players and some dads who have been through the process before.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.