How Big Would Isaac Likekele Be for UTEP Men’s Basketball?
In today’s NCAA men’s basketball world, prospects have never been more highly regarded.
Recruiting sites grade the best talent available, state by state, offering up stars to high school athletes who they deem are worthy of performing at the next level. Locally, UTEP men’s basketball fans have stepped in recruiting efforts, connecting with Miner prospects on social media like never before. These players, who are 16, 17 and 18 years old, are getting more national media attention and fan and program interaction than ever before.
More recently, Mansfield Timberview guard Isaac Likekele’s recruiting journey has become a household story to tell for avid Miner men’s basketball fans. The 6-foot-4 guard is a 3-star prospect, ranked as the No. 147 prospect in the country and No. 10 recruit in Texas for the 2018 class by 247Sports rankings. His final decision, which he will announce on Twitter at 3 p.m. MT, has been narrowed down to three choices: UTEP, Oklahoma State or Texas Tech.
He told TheTB5Reports, “The UTEP visit went really well, I enjoyed it and enjoyed seeing the local fans and facilities. My relationship with coach RT (UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry) is very strong and I like that a lot, that's been my guy for the longest.”
As a 6-foot-4 guard, Likekele could fit in a lot of different areas in UTEP’s backcourt. With sophomore guards Evan Gilyard and Kobe Magee being primarily ball handlers, the Miners could use Likekele as a spot-up shooter, like Omega Harris was in his sophomore and junior seasons.
El Paso fans have already fallen in love with Likekele, photoshopping UTEP jerseys and posting it on social media and even photoshopped his photo over LeBron James’ with a Miner jersey. Sites like PickAxe Social and Minerrush continue to push for Likekele coming to UTEP through interaction with the prospect on social media.
The last time Miner fans were this excited about a recruit like this was in the summer of 2013, when Tim Floyd landed his prized possession recruit in Isaac Hamilton. However, a month before he was set to come to UTEP, the top California recruit said he would no longer come to the program because his grandmother was ill and wanted to be closer to her. He wound up playing three seasons for UCLA, averaging about 14 points per game and started every game from sophomore year onward.
But the ceiling Likekele has is even higher. And if he were to choose UTEP over the two Big 12 schools, he could be in the debate for the most sought out prospect to ever enter the program.
Prior to his senior season, Likekele committed to play for Rodney Terry and Fresno State. His breakthrough senior season and Terry leaving the Bulldogs to become the Miners head coach led to Likekele more-than-expectedly decommitting from Fresno State.
His monstrous senior season included averaging 19 points, nine boards and six assists a game, and helped Mansfield Timberview to a Texas 5A state championship his junior year and a quarterfinals finish his senior year. Likekele’s accolades range from being named Whataburger Tournament MVP, Dallas Morning News first-team all-area, District 10-5A MVP and Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 5A first-team all-state honors.
Weighing his options
Opening back up his recruitment, Likekele told InsideTheRedRaiders.com, “Since he’s (Rodney Terry) changed to UTEP, I still have the same trust in him, but right now I’m just weighing my options. There could be different opportunities.”
He gave UTEP the benefit of the doubt by visit El Paso first before the two Big 12 schools in late April. Following his visit in the Sun City, he traveled to Lubbock to visit with Texas Tech’s coaching staff.
The Red Raiders have a huge 2018 recruiting class, including 4-star wing Khavon Moore, 3-star guard Kyler Edwards and 3-star junior college transfer Deshawn Corprew. They are coming off a huge Elite Eight appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and were among the best teams in the Big 12.
“I met all of them and they are all great coaches. I feel like they are very key on development and Coach Beard is very key on having his players’ back and all that. I just feel like that’s the type of program I’d like to play for. I definitely want to feel like the coach has my back,” Likekele told InsideTheRedRaiders.com.
This past weekend, he visited Oklahoma State and met up with head coach Mike Boynton. They have three openings on their roster for scholarship positions.
“Coach Boynton is a very young coach. I feel like I have a great relationship with coach Boynton. Also, he just got his contract renewed so he’s obviously going to be there for quite some time. Stillwater seems like a great atmosphere. I have watched plenty of games and that’s a great place to play,” he told InsideTheRedRaiders.com.