September 30, 2010

Four-star power forward set for final official visit

Johnny O'Bryant doesn't have a firm date set to announce his college decision.

However, the four-star power forward from Cleveland (East Side), Miss., said Thursday it will be "soon."

How soon? O'Bryant, a 6-foot-9 standout who spent his summer playing overseas for the U.S. U17 national team, said his visit to Ole Miss this weekend will be his last.

O'Bryant, ranked by as the nation's No. 8 power forward and No. 38 overall prospect, said he wants to see the campus lifestyle in Oxford as well as some of the current Rebels' workouts.

"Since I've been there, I just want to go have fun and listen to what they have to say," said O'Bryant, who will arrive in Oxford late Thursday and stay until sometime Saturday. "Me and (Ole Miss assistant) Coach Owen (Miller) and Coach (Andy) Kennedy have a great relationship. With them being from Mississippi and both being southern guys, it's a great relationship."

"They're in good standing with him," East Side High School coach Leroy Cotton said earlier Thursday. "He's just looking to get around the players and interact with them a little bit. We've been over there so many times. We've pretty much seen what they have. He'll just get a chance to mingle with the coaches and players a little bit more during his visit."

O'Bryant has already taken official visits to LSU and Maryland. Mississippi State and Miami are in the picture for O'Bryant, but more and more, the race for O'Bryant's signature appears to be a battle between the Rebels and Tigers. Both schools have advantages.

Two of O'Bryant's former AAU teammates, Jalen Courtney and Andre Stringer, are on the LSU roster, and O'Bryant and Courtney are good friends.

"With him and Andre being there, that's a plus and a positive for LSU," O'Bryant said. "I'll just try to do what's best for me."

"He definitely likes LSU and is considering LSU," Cotton said. "Those guys (Stringer and Courtney) are guys he played with for years. They are down there, but that won't be an overwhelming factor when he makes his decision."

O'Bryant is also friends with fellow Mississippians Dundrecous Nelson and DeMarco Cox, both of whom are set to begin their Ole Miss careers this fall, and current Rebel commitment Ladarius White.

"It's going to be very difficult," O'Bryant said. "The schools I'm down to are great choices. I'm just going to try to take my time and make the right choice."

Whatever choice he makes, Cotton said, the program adding O'Bryant to its roster is getting a winner.

"They're going to get a high-energy guy who's going to work hard to become the best player he possibly can," Cotton said. "He's unselfish. He's going to contribute on the offensive and defensive end, and they're going to get a player who hasn't tapped into his full potential yet. He's going to be a better player for whatever college he goes to than he is for me.

"He's going to be an instant-impact guy. He's played against high-level competition with the USA team and done very, very well. I expect that to continue as he progresses to his first year of college."

The two years of international experience (O'Bryant also played on the U.S. U16 team in 2009) gave O'Bryant confidence and a constant barometer, Cotton said.

"I think it helped his game quite a bit because he got a chance to see different styles of play and play against some very, very experienced and good players," Cotton said. "That has given him a chance to see where he needs to elevate his game to be the player he can be."

None of the travels or the competition prepared him O'Bryant for the decision that looms, however. That fact has begun to dawn on his young star, Cotton said.

"It's going to be pretty hard. Very hard," Cotton said. "We talked a little bit last night and some this morning. It's going to be a very tough decision for him. He's very careful about trying to make the right decision for him and his future."

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