Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dominic Cheek just made the first cut for the USA U18 national team that will head to Formosa, Argentina later this month, so he is not really focusing on his list of colleges just yet.
Still, Cheek said “Villanova is showing me the most love” and added that he plans to cut his list to about 10 after Argentina.
“Villanova (is) recruiting me the hardest. (Villanova) showing me the most love,” the 6-foot-5 Cheek, a rising senior wing at St. Anthony in Jersey City, said Thursday after the morning session at the Verizon Center. “They stuck with me since Day One.”
A slew of schools are after Cheek, the No. 4 shooting guard and No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2009. He is a long, athletic player who can shoot accurately from outside and is also a stellar defender.
Among his list of suitors are Villanova, Wake Forest, Florida, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, Memphis, Louisville, Rutgers and Seton Hall.
Tennessee fans should take heart in the news that both Cheek and Brooklyn Lincoln star Lance Stephenson mentioned the Vols as a possible destination. Cheek was supposed to come on a visit to Tennessee this summer, but may go down for a football game in the fall.
“I’m looking to go down there and check it out,” Cheek said. “See how it is, see how the school is and everything. I will make a top list after all this is over with.”
Cheek said the local schools, Rutgers and Seton Hall, are both in it. Cheek’s former teammate, McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario, will be a freshman at Rutgers this year.
“Yeah, yeah, they’ll be in it, definitely,” he said.
Omari Knight, Cheek’s uncle, added that both Rutgers and Seton Hall offered something attractive.
“It would be great for him to go to one of those schools, being that it’s in the state and you got Mike over there (at Rutgers),” Knight said. “And then you got Seton Hall is close to Jersey City. And it probably would be good for the state if he stays.”
Still, Villanova fans should probably feel good about the fact that Cheek is rooming here with incoming point guard Maalik Wayns.
“That’s my boy,” Cheek said of Wayns.
“I told him he would be the man, his show,” Wayns said of Cheek.
Cheek is also friendly with a number of Nova players, including Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, who played at St. Patrick and St. Benedict’s, respectively.
“I played against most of them and I know them,” Cheek said. “I’ve been down there. I talked to them. They told me it’s a great fit for me and everything.”
When it comes time to decide, Cheek will consult with St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley, his uncle and his grandmother, Izaphine “Ice” Howard.
“I’m going to help him with his recruiting,” Knight said. “I’m just going to tell him what’s good about the school, what I think is bad, what’s good.”
He added: “We don’t have any favorite schools or anything like that. I’m just going to help him narrow it down, tell him the pros and the cons with the schools, and then he takes it from there.”
Knight said Cheek will narrow his list after July, but might wait until the end of his senior year to make a decision.
“That’s what he say, but it may end earlier,” Knight said. “I’m not sure. He keeps changing his mind.”
That would be quite a contrast to the recent past at St. Anthony, when six of Hurley’s players committed to Division I programs as juniors.
Many speculated that Cheek would pick North CArolina early on, but he never committed to the program.
“He just wanted to be open, he wanted to look at different schools, that’s all that was,” Knight said.
Before cutting down his list, though, Cheek is just excited to be wearing “USA” across his chest, and having a chance to compete on the international stage.
“It feels good,” he said. “I never would’ve thought that I would have the opportunity to come here and play for a USA Team. And to see LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and all them play for USA, it motivates me to do it.”
He added: “It’s a huge honor. Not too many people get to do this. Out of a lot of people in the country, I was picked to represent my country.”
Coach Hurley, winner of more than 900 career games and a national record 25 state titles, said Cheek was the first St. Anthony player ever to suit up for USA Basketball.
“Bobby (Hurley) went to the World University Games in the early ’90s, but this is really the first one that’s clearly in tryouts for the whole country to represent the U.S.,” Hurley said. “I’m so excited. Everybody I know calls all day to see how this is going. And I think (Cheek’s) starting to figure it out now. When he got there, I don’t think he realized how big a deal this is. And I think he does realize now what an honor this would be to make the team and to go.”
Given the failure of the U.S. senior national team to bring home gold in Athens in 2004 and the World Championships in 2006, Cheek and his teammates want to earn a gold in Argentina.
“I guess we have to win a gold medal this year to put our country back on the map because we didn’t do too good last time,” Cheek said. “We have to come out and represent our country and come out and win.”
(Photo courtesy Richard A. Lipski, The Washington Post)
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.