As a former professional basketball player with a son who followed in his footsteps, Rick Brunson knows a thing or two about elite basketball.
So when the nine-year NBA veteran, former league assistant and father of college basketball’s 2017-18 national player of the year accepted the head coaching job at Burlington (New Jersey) Camden a few months ago, it gave him a chance to coach a player he’s had a relationship with years.
Now as Lance Ware prepares for his senior season against the backdrop of a growing recruitment that includes Ohio State, the elder Brunson is high on what the four-star power forward prospect can do both now and down the road.
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“In high school, he’s definitely going to be on the box,” Brunson said. “He’s an inside presence and I’m a firm believer in him establishing himself as a post player. The great thing about Lance, and that’s why I think he’s going to be extraordinary in college, is he has the ability to put it on the floor, he has the ability to make plays, but I think he has to own the low-post first.
“He’s wiry, but once he gets to college and fills out he’s going to be a man. I’m telling you, sophomore year people are going to say, ‘Man, where’d this kid come from?’ ”
Listed at 6 feet 9 and 215 pounds, Ware is the No. 47 national recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings, the No. 2 prospect in his state and the No. 8 power forward.
Ohio State offered Ware a scholarship in early June. The Buckeyes have one available roster spot for next season, no commitments for their class of 2020 and are in the market for a versatile post player.
“Left-handed, rim-runner, rim-protector, big-time shot blocker, big-time rebounder,” Brunson said. “But the best thing about Lance is he’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever met. Great kid. It comes from his mother, first of all. Second of all, he wants to be great and he wants to be coached. That right there gives him a step up on everybody.”
Brunson has familiarity with the Ohio State coaching staff. He hails from the same high school that produced Buckeyes star Scoonie Penn, now on staff as director of player development. Brunson also knows coach Chris Holtmann by way of his son, Jalen, who played for Villanova while Holtmann was coaching at Big East rival Butler.
“I’ve talked to coach a few times, I know Lance is on the phone with them (and) I know his mother has been on the phone with them,” Brunson said. “I can’t say if they’re first, second, third, that’s dumb. I have a lot of respect for (Holtmann) and what he did at Butler and what he’s done for the small amount of time he’s been at Ohio State. The fact that Lance is impressed with him, that’s a good thing. And they’re doing a really good job with Lance and the mother, which is the most important thing, because those are the people making the decision.”
Ware is at the Peach Jam in Atlanta during what is a time period that allows for college coaches to watch and evaluate prep prospects. Once he returns, the plan is likely to cut his list to 5-8 schools, Brunson said, and potentially set up some official visits.
“It’s pretty much crazy,” he said of Ware’s recruitment. “UNC, Michigan, Ohio State, University of Miami, there’s a lot of schools that want him. I can’t tell you what he’s thinking, but I would love for him to take official visits to the five schools that he thinks fit his style and then go ahead and make a decision. If he decides to let it go on, I think they’re smart enough to figure out they need more time. Talking to him, if he felt this is it, he’d pull the trigger.”