July 19, 2010

Mature approach suits hoops prospect

It's rare for a high school basketball prospect to be reflective about decision-making. Most of the important choices regarding career and school are still on the horizon.

But Vinny Zollo has already gained more knowledge about the inner-workings of collegiate athletics than most athletes ever do. The power forward prospect experienced a full cycle of the recruiting process before reaching his senior year of high school.

After committing to Kentucky as a freshman, he re-opened his recruitment when the Wildcats changed coaches from Billy Gillespie to John Calipari.

Since then, Zollo has opened his eyes to the array of options that exist in college basketball.

"I really never thought about it before, because I thought Kentucky was such a perfect place for me," Zollo said. "But now I have been talking to some smaller schools and I realize that the mid-major route may be one I want to explore. You don't have to play at the most prestigious programs in order to be a success on the basketball court.

"Honestly, I feel like a lot of the time people just listen to what others around them say. So when they're trying to decide between a high-major and mid-major, even if they like the mid-major more, they choose the high major because it's what they hear from everyone around them."

Having entered the recruiting process for a second time, Zollo insists he won't get caught up in the hype this go-around.

While he's still considering schools from the Big East, Big 12 and SEC, he knows there is more out there than the schools others choose to promote.

One place which has gained Zollo's interest is Tulane. The development comes even as a surprise to him, considering Zollo was unaware of what city or state Tulane was located in, prior to his conversations with coach Ed Conroy and his staff.

But after hearing about the Green Wave from its new coach in a long conversation on Monday afternoon, the Winchester, Ky. product is considering taking a trip south to take a look.

"I mean it's hard to talk to coach Conroy and not get the feeling he truly believes in the place," Zollo said. "Not a lot of people know about Tulane basketball. But there are some things for Tulane to really sell. He said they have every tool to pry their way into the national spotlight.

"He also pitched to me that a lot of people can't name Tulane's greatest player of all time and I can be a guy who helps bring a program back to a national level. It's a very appealing thought."

Conroy's offensive system, while it doesn't necessarily spotlight individual talent, is the kind of scheme which Zollo said suits his game. He pointed to the national championship between Duke and Butler to illustrate his belief in the team above individual concept.

As an adamantly unselfish player who wants to contribute in the frontcourt, backcourt and on defense, Conroy's system fits Zollo's wish list.

But it was Conroy's story and passion for Tulane which truly captured Zollo's attention.

"I mean how can you not be interested in a guy who left his school and his family's tradition for a place he believes in," Zollo said. "It's a pretty special thing to listen to and I think he is going to do a great job at Tulane."

While Zollo's interest was obviously piqued by Conroy, the 6-foot-9 athlete was not ready to give the Wave any sort of ranking amongst his impressive offer sheet.

Instead, he is in the process of taking in as much information as he can while finishing out the AAU season in an attempt to make a clear-headed, coherent decision before the November signing date (though he didn't rule out waiting until the spring to sign).

"It's all been a growing process going through this recruiting for a second time," Zollo said. "It has helped me understand all of this a lot better. I just need to take my time and understand what works for me, not what the people around me are saying. At this point, I feel like could end up playing in a huge conference in a big arena or a smaller league in a place trying to get to the next level.

"Anything is possible."

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