Critics of the UC Irvine basketball program can say what they will about Anteaters men's basketball coach Russell Turner, but his recruiting strategy is definitely outside the box. After all, it would be hard to find a box big enough to house one of his new recruits, let alone both of them.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, on Friday UC Irvine signed 7-foot-2 Greek center Giannis Dimakopoulos, who is currently attending Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral High. Dimakopoulos' commitment would normally be big news on its own (pardon the pun), but in this case he wasn't even the first 7-footer to sign with the Anteaters that week.
That's because enormous, 7-foot-5 Huntington Park (Calif.) Brethren Christian School center Mamadou Ndiaye signed on to attend UC Irvine just two days earlier. In case you forgot, Prep Rally introduced Ndiaye to the masses in January thanks to a highlight reel that showcased the rather comical ease with which he was dominating the California prep scene.
Three days, two highly regarded, international 7-footers? That's a heck of a recruiting class for a school that isn't exactly a Gonzaga or St. Mary's College in the West Coast collegiate basketball scene … at least not yet.
That may change if Turner has his way, with the coach quick to credit his international scouting department for unearthing Dimakopoulos, a star of the Panathinaikos U-18 team in Athens that won the Greek U-18 title in 2011-12. The Greek center has not been cleared to compete in high school athletics yet, though Cathedral officials are hopeful he will eventually be given the green light by the California Interscholastic Federation.
Meanwhile, Ndiaye cited the school's academics and his comfort in Irvine as primary motivators behind his decision to attend the school.
"I chose UC Irvine because I felt very comfortable at the University and with the coaching staff," Ndiaye said in a statement. "It is an excellent school that will help me develop as a student and basketball player."
Now that Ndiaye has signed on, it will be fascinating to see how Turner and the Irvine coaching staff work both of the talented -- and very large -- young centers into his plans. It seems unlikely that the Irvine staff would have anticipated having both players in the fold. Kentucky? Maybe. Irvine? Hardly.
Still, if there was ever a duo worthy of a customized twin towers offensive formation, it would be these two recent emigrants. They may both be a year away from game action, but it's already hard to avoid feeling sorry for Big West foes come 2013.
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