Over the years, legendary Wisconsin high school basketball coach Tom Diener has instructed his fair share of great athletes. Three of his former players have made it to the NBA; he's coached a McDonald's All-American Game and helped USA Basketball with training.
However, none of the high-caliber players Diener has coached compare to his latest pupil, Kevon Looney
The 16-year-old from Hamilton (Milwaukee)
is turning heads nationwide and is one of 17 five-star recruits for MaxPreps in the Class of 2014 100 to Watch
"I've been fortunate. I have coached a lot of great players over the years, but I would have to say Kevon's the most gifted kid I've had a chance to work with," said Diener, who has been a head coach for 27 years, the last four at Hamilton.
The 6-foot-7, 170-pound small forward closed out his sophomore season in March playing in Milwaukee's rugged City Conference. He averaged 10.9 points per game while making 49 percent of his shots. He also grabbed 8.6 rebounds and handed out 1.9 assists per contest.
"The game has really become dominated by what I call athletic players, not necessarily skilled players, but Kevon is extremely skilled," said Diener, who has won five state titles. "Meaning he pivots very well, passes very well, has a very textbook-looking jump shot and then he's just very smart -- makes great decisions."
Looney excels at his jump shot, but Diener thinks his star player does his best work from inside 15 feet. Looney can post up undersized forwards and centers and work his way inside for rebounds and is a tremendous shot blocker with his long arms.
"I see myself as a wing, almost like a slasher-type player," Looney said. "Off the wing I can shoot the ball pretty good."
Looney said getting to the basket and his mid-range game are his two best attributes. The junior-to-be can play any position on the floor, but he considers himself a small forward. However, it's not uncommon for Looney to bring the ball up the court.
"I think he's going to be one of those guys that can play all over the floor," Diener said. "More and more, the great players are the ones that can play all over the floor. … He's a lot like (Oklahoma City forward Kevin) Durant in the way that he plays where he can go inside and he can play facing the basket, 20 feet from the basket. He's going to be pretty versatile."
Diener hears all the time from Division I coaches saying how much Looney reminds them of Durant. That's quite an accomplishment for a 16-year-old to be compared to a player who has won three straight NBA scoring titles.
"It's an honor to be compared to someone so good like him," Looney said. "I'll be honest, I watch him a lot. I take some of his moves."
Looney said he duplicates Durant's crossover dribble and his pull-up 3-pointers in transition. Durant isn't Looney's favorite player, however. That distinction belongs to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
Looney is playing on the AAU summer circuit with the Milwaukee Rebels and just wrapped up the prestigious Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, Calif. He always makes a point to look ahead of time and see who will be attending the events.
"Usually the players are ranked higher than me," Looney said. "I look forward to playing them to prove I'm one of the best players."
"I don't think Kevon will play second fiddle to any other high school player in the country," Diener said.
Looney received offers from in-state schools Marquette and Wisconsin during his freshman season and most every other major Division I school has followed suit, according to Diener.
"Michigan State and Kansas, they call me every other day," Diener said. "He's getting hounded."
Georgetown, Michigan, Tennessee and DePaul have all gotten on the bandwagon and are aggressively recruiting Looney.
Looney doesn't want to rush the process of deciding on a college. He wants to enjoy the summer and hopefully sit down with his parents after his junior season to talk over his options.
"I think he'll be in a situation where it will be, ‘Kevon, what schools are you interested? What are the five or seven schools that you're interested?'" Diener said. "Rather than, ‘These are the schools that are recruiting you' -- where that's how most kids operate."
Let the recruiting war begin.