Eric Chenowith's star is shining brighter than several members of the high school recruiting class of 1997.
Case in point.
Chenowith, Kansas University's junior center from Villa Park, Calif., last week posed for Playboy's Preseason All-America basketball photo. He was joined by fellow junior blue chipper Khalid El-Amin of UConn.
Missing were the highly acclaimed Chris Burgess, Shane Battier, Schea Cotton, Tony Harris, Jarron and Jason Collins, Ryan Humphrey, Kenny Brunner, Luke Recker, Kevin Augustine and Max Owens -- players all ranked much higher than Chenowith back in '97.
"I got lucky. I made the decision to come to KU," said Chenowith, a second-team All-Big 12 player and honorable mention All-American who averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 boards his sophomore season.
"I think I came in with the right attitude. Some came in as superstars in high school and didn't realize what it takes to be successful at the next level. It (Playboy team) is a pretty good group."
It includes just one other West Coast player -- Matt Santangelo of Gonzaga. Others on Playboy's team: Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State; Scoonie Penn, Ohio State; Chris Porter, Auburn; Quentin Richardson, DePaul; A.J. Guyton, Indiana; Edjuardo Najera, Oklahoma and Chris Mihm, Texas. The coach is UConn's Jim Calhoun.
Of course, some members of Chenowith's prep recruiting class might have made the Playboy shoot had they not turned pro. Included are Lamar Odom, William Avery, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Dion Glover, Larry Hughes and Ronnie Artest.
"This doesn't prove anything," Chenowith said. "It proves that a lot of people are looking at me now. If anything it gives you more pressure."
Chenowith was a bit disappointed, but not crushed he failed to make first-team All-Big 12 last year.
"The first thing Chris Mihm (a first-team pick) said to me was, 'I can't believe you didn't make first team,' '' Chenowith said. "I was not disappointed or crying about it. One of my goals is to make it. One thing I did find odd was to be named honorable mention All-America and not make first team all conference."
Chenowith was treated all world at the weekend photo shoot in Chicago.
"It was first class," Chenowith said. "We were picked up in a limo at the airport. They took us downtown. We stayed at the Omni and had an awesome room with view of Watertower Place. They took us to a nice steakhouse and the House of Blues for a medals presentation. We also did a clinic for some kids.
"It was a lot of fun. I was impressed at how nice those guys were. You watch these guys in the Final Four and it's kind of refreshing to see they are good guys, too."
Chenowith, who is enrolled in summer school, is working camps throughout the state, lifting weights four days a week and playing pickup basketball four days a week.
He weighs 263 pounds, compared to 260 at the start of last season. He finished last season at 245 pounds.
"It's good weight. My body fat has not gone up," Chenowith said. "(Strength) coach (Fred) Roll calls it lean body mass."
Chenowith's body fat is 11.9 percent. He started last season at 9.9 percent.
"I want to be as big and strong as possible and keep my speed and quickness," Chenowith said.
-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org