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Posted On: 08/19/18 5:01 PM
Jason Jitoboh didn’t let a broken foot derail his recruiting train. Too many top DI programs wanted him in April and few backed off after the EYBL injury. Though Jitoboh played zero AAU games in the pivotal July month he will gleefully and deservedly take four integral official visits in the coming months.
Much thanks to Coach/Mentor Mark Smith of Chattanooga for expounding on Jason’s options. Coach Smith has been with Jason throughout his development. Much credit goes to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy Zach Ferrell, Coach Smith, and then Jason himself for putting the previously overweight big man in a position to play college basketball at any level, let alone high major.
The University of Tennessee gets the first official visit. September 14th-September 16th Jason Jitoboh heads back to Knoxville, a place he has been numerous times. Tennessee came in early and hosted Jason more than once in the last two years.
“Tennessee is great,” said Coach Smith. “They are looking to have a great year this year. With Admiral and Kyle Alexander leaving this year Jason sees himself filling a void at the 4/5. They will have DJ Burns who signed early with him. Tennessee has been selling Jason on being a big man tandem. Jason has been building on a strong relationship with (Assistant) Coach Rob Lanier.”
Nobody, not Jason nor his coaches or mentor said anything about which schools are leading. My guess is that Tennessee leads by a nose. Official visits can change everything though. If Florida gets him on campus they could make up a lot of ground. There is a legitimate worry that Illinois never sees Jitoboh on campus as he might end his recruitment after either of the first two stops. Who knows?
October will begin with a Jason Jitoboh visit to the University of Florida.
“Florida was the first school that offered him two years ago,” said Coach Smith. “Coach Jordan Mincy has been the one that has been recruiting him. Coach Mincy has ties by Chattanooga. He has had a relationship with Dickie Simpkins for a long time. He convinced Coach (Mike) White that he is a big fit. They were the first school to offer Jason from day one.”
Florida is in a great position. Jitoboh feels comfortable with their staff and would be playing in the SEC conference.
Illinois is trying to build some recruiting momentum. They landed top 50 recruit Ayo Dosunmu in 2018, but can’t find anybody in 2019 to sign on just yet. Jitoboh visiting is a gigantic deal for the second year University of Illinois staff. They need any kind of big man to play with their elite guards (Ayo, Trent Frazier). Of the four, Illinois has the most to prove in Jitoboh’s recruiting mindset.
“They just did their due diligence,” said Coach Smith. “Liked what they saw. Coach Jamaal Walker is the one that is recruiting him. Coach Antigua was in USF and knew of Jason. He passed info along to head coach of Illinois. Jason started slowly but surely building a relationship with those guys.”
Illinois is the only Big 10 involved with Jitoboh, but he would make a big splash with orange and blue.
“Coach Mike Pegues has been watching Jason since he was at Xavier,” said Coach Smith. “When they were at Xavier they felt that Jason was “bigger” than their program. They knew he was looking for something high major. Once they got to Louisville they got on the phone real quick.”
Louisville is in the middle of re-discovering their program’s place in this basketball world. Without Denny Crum or Rick Pitino it just feels different. Still Louisville is the most profitable college athletics program in the nation. They have resplendent facilities and a fantastic regionally-accessibly location.
“They have been doing a lot of work to get him there. Coach Mack has been known for using his post players. It is an opportunity to come and play right off the bat. That is something Jason really is intrigued with. He has aspirations to playing professional basketball. He knows that they have a history of helping guys to that next level by feeding them in the post.”
After the foot injury Jason Jitoboh completely shut it down. His AAU season and opportunities to showcase his game ended abruptly. Though Jitoboh is certain to have a meaningful senior season he intends to wrap up the recruitment by November.
“He is going to do the early signing period,” said Coach Smith. “That is why we hurried up to get the visits out of the way early. Focus on visits. Commit. Sign. And then worry about HHCA business.”
The physical recovery is going well.
“He is doing well,” said Coach Smith. “He has been back to working out for the past three weeks. He is doing water workouts.”
Jitoboh needs to recover mobility. Already a back-to-basket big Jitoboh’s value plummets if he can’t get up and down the floor in a timely manner.
“We are back on the court as of last week. We are going back over some fundamental stuff. Some light jogging to get him back into best conditioning. Taking it slow since he has been cleared.”
Jason used to weigh in excess of 350 pounds. Any worries that he will be too out of shape to compete this year can be nudged aside.
“His weight is good. We are going to try to get him down to about 275 before the season starts. He has to lose about 10 pounds before he gets there.”
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