One of the more consistent names in the Western Kentucky recruiting game for the past few years has been Warren Central rising senior forward George Fant.
A local product that plays less than five miles from E.A. Diddle Arena, folks around Bowling Green and Warren County have had a chance to watch Fant grow from a rather skinny 6-6 tweener into a much stronger, physical 6-7, 230-pound legit power forward prospect.
Offered by WKU during his freshman season, Fant has consistently garnered more and more interest with each passing year.
InsideHilltopperSports.com lists Akron, Arkansas, Cleveland State, Colorado State, Murray State, Ohio and Seton Hall as others who have offered. Fant also told Daily News prep editor Chad Bishop recently that Missouri State and Clemson could also be added to that list.
In addition to those offers, Fant has also drawn serious interest from former WKU coach Darrin Horn at South Carolina, as well as USC and Purdue – according to Rivals.com.
I spoke with longtime Warren Central coach Tim Riley this week about Fant. About his development as a player, his recruitment heading into his final high school season and where exactly Western Kentucky continues to stand in the whole conversation.
“Western has been there the longest with him, they’ve recruited him very hard and they’re still very much involved,” Riley said. “I think when push comes to shove, it’ll be hard for George to say no to Western.
“But it all comes down to the fact that his parents both really understand the game and it’ll be a family decision and what all of them are comfortable with.”
As far as when Fant will make a decision remains up in the air. Riley said that Fant has expressed interest several times in making an ultimate decision and signing during the early signing period this November – but that choice isn’t quite set in stone just yet.
“He’s talked about making his decision in the fall, but I don’t think that’s a concrete thing just yet,” Riley said. “He’s talked about getting it over with, but I’m not really sure right now, we’ll have to sit and talk about it more. But he has expressed before that he’d like to be a part of the early signing period in November.
“But again, that’s not 100 percent right now.”
“I’ve had some (college) coaches call me this summer and tell me that he’s really kind of blowing up and getting better every day out there. He’s heard from Big Ten schools, ACC, SEC, Pac-10, things like that. So he’s getting better and more people are starting to take notice.”
One thing that might have unexpectedly jump-started Fant’s development as a player has been a friendly rivalry with Bowling Green High School big man – and recent national mega-recruit – Chane Behanan.
Bowling Green and Warren Central tangled four times last season, and each game featured some of the larger crowds to watch a high school contest in Warren County in recent memory. The main game within a game – so to speak – on those occasions was the Fant-Behanan matchup.
While Behanan continues to rightfully garner a great deal of attention, Riley said he thinks Fant has used the competition in a very constructive way.
“I think he’d like to be listed as a top 100 player in the country and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder from that standpoint,” Riley said. “But George knows and can admit that (Behanan’s) a great player and he really does have a healthy respect for him and it presents a very good challenge every time as well.”
Asked what Fant still needs to work on to be a productive player at a high level of collegiate basketball, Riley continued to express that strength and overall skill will be the main focuses heading into his final season at Warren Central.
“He’s got to continue to strengthen his body and his core and work on his overall skill,” Riley said. “He’s got to develop a perimeter game and inside game both. He’s got to be a factor out on the floor while always being a factor inside. He’s got to shoot better, pass better and dribble better and that’s what we’ll work on.
“Strength is still big and he’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s got a nice game and he’s become a pretty good player.”
Jordan Shanklin update
Riley told me earlier this week that it’s probably safe to say that WKU is no longer vying for Fant’s rising senior teammate Jordan Shanklin at this point.
Shanklin also drew interest from Ken McDonald’s staff during his freshman year at Central, but due to a severe shin injury during his sophomore season – the speedy point guard began to slip a bit in terms of national recruiting.
Shanklin hasn’t completely vanished off the recruiting map, however, as some tireless rehab work has him back on track, according to Riley.
Shanklin told Chad Bishop recently that his offer list includes Portland State, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, The Citadel, IUPUI and South Dakota.
“Shank with that adversity he’s had to suffer through, I’m really proud of him about how he’s fought back and fought through it,” Riley said. “I have no doubt that he’d have been recruited at a much higher level had he not suffered that injury. But he’s put a ton of time in and he’s fought back and I’ve seen him work harder each and every day and I’m just really proud of where he’s come.
“And who knows – it could be something where it gets late in the spring and someone really needs a point guard or a two guard, you never know who could pop up with him.”