San Diego — Harvey Kitani, the head coach for the West squad at this year's McDonald's High School All-American boys basketball game, has tutored a number of future college players during his 25 seasons as the boss at Fairfax High in Los Angeles.
Now, he has the chance to work with 12 of the nation's elite, including Kansas University signee Sherron Collins and KU recruit Darrell Arthur. As would be expected, Kitani has nothing but high praise for his team now that he's put them through two drill-heavy workouts at San Diego State's Aztec Recreation Center.
"They're the highest high school level possible, so it's fun," Kitani said. "You just tell these guys one time, and they're doing it."
Kitani was especially effusive when asked his initial impressions on Collins and Arthur.
"I've known Sherron from the Nike camp. He's every bit as good as the top point guards in the country," Kitani said of Collins, the 5-foot-11 playmaker out of Crane High in Chicago. "I think (KU has a) future All-American."
While Collins has Kitani's respect, Arthur has him in awe.
"Tremendous athleticism," Kitani said, echoing the murmurs of many bystanders who have honed in on the 6-foot-9 forward from South Oak Cliff High in Dallas at practice this week. "I think his potential is so far from being even tapped into. Once he gets everything together, it's going to be scary how good he's going to be."
Managing minutes: While Kitani finds himself in an enviable position given the talent at his disposal, his job won't come without headaches once game time arrives Wednesday.
His biggest challenge will center dividing playing time for a dozen players accustomed to being the featured performers on their own high school teams.
With just two workouts under their belts, Kitani hadn't made any decisions Monday about either a starting lineup or how he planned to rotate players throughout the 40-minute contest.
"We're just getting a chance to get to know them and see how they're playing together and who's playing well with who," Kitani said. "We'll probably decide (tonight)."
Get me rewrite: With players and coaches flying in from all over the country and a busy schedule jammed with practice time, visits to the Ronald McDonald House and trips to a variety of host city destinations - this year's highlights included Monday's foray to Sea World - organization is key for the staff running the McDonald's festivities.
That means work must be done well ahead of time, including the annual media guide. And that means occasional bad information.
For instance, the list of 54 former McDonald's All-Americans currently playing in the NCAA was last updated in September, which means 2005 participant Micah Downs - who transferred to Gonzaga in January - is still listed as a KU product.
The list of 70 girls, also submitted in September, likewise has a blip of KU misinformation with the inclusion of Lauren Ervin, a 2003 participant who hasn't been with the Jayhawks for two full seasons.
However, former Jayhawks David Padgett (Louisville) and J.R. Giddens (New Mexico) have been updated with their new addresses.