Hawaii men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold figures it won’t be long before the rest of the country wakes up on Gerry Blakes’ sleeper status.
Anticipating heavy scrutiny of the Morningside (Calif.) High senior in the next few months, Arnold ordered a preemptive strike. UH offered Blakes a scholarship for the early signing period, and saw that pay off yesterday by securing a 2011-12 national letter of intent yesterday from the athletic combo guard.
Blakes completed his paperwork just in time, on the last day of the one-week period. According to Arnold, that was a must. Blakes missed most of his junior season at Leuzinger High with an injured ankle, so he flew under the radar for most schools. He’s not likely to remain that way at Morningside, his new school.
"We were in there first, and went after him pretty hard with that in mind that this is a guy, who, if he has a great senior year, would be on everybody’s list," Arnold said. "Right now, outside of the immediate Los Angeles area, he’s not really well known."
Blakes, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior, wasn’t concerned about waiting until after his senior season to check his options.
"I really wanted to get it done, and that’s gonna be that," Blakes said.
The other primary choices for Blakes were Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara. He’d given Hawaii his oral commitment in early October.
Blakes is the second player to sign a letter of intent to UH in the fall, following Serra (Calif.) High power forward Ronnie Stevens.
Blakes’ versatility and athleticism are a big part of what makes him appealing to Arnold. Unlike Stevens, who Arnold followed for several years, Blakes was brought to the coach’s attention recently by some of his contacts in L.A., particularly Morningside coach Donnell Meekins. Meekins was a former recruiting target of Arnold’s more than a decade ago.
"It’s not always knowing the player, but knowing the guys who know the player," Arnold said. "When they give you a call and say, ‘Hey, I got a guy who I think can play for you,’ (you) just listen to guys who’ve had pretty good players over the years. (They) have a pretty good eye for basketball players and what we’re looking for here."
The Rainbows currently have one scholarship still available for 2011-12. Arnold said the team isn’t looking for any particular position, but "best player available."