When coach Donnie Jones left Marshall to take over at Central Florida in the spring, many wondered why he would make a seemingly lateral move from one middling Conference USA program to another.
In a span of just a few months, however, Jones has taken a step toward proving he was right about his new gig having greater potential.
Jones landed a significant committment on Monday from promising three-star small forward Rod Days, who chose Central Florida over numerous higher-profile programs including Maryland, Alabama, Wake Forest and Arizona State. The Westmont, Fla. native preferred Central Florida because he built a strong relationship with the new coaching staff, he's interested in the school's forensic sciences major, he likes the direction of the program and he sees an opportunity to contribute right away.
"I don't think it was that hard for him to turn down some of those other programs because he has a great head on his shoulders," Broward Bobcats AAU coach Joe Calamaro said by phone. "The way Central Florida recruited him was quite different. They got to know his family and made a point to find where the heartbeat was coming from. That really sold the family and him."
Days' commitment is the latest piece of good news for a Central Florida program that rapidly appears to be positioning itself as the Conference USA program most capable of challenging Memphis in the coming years. Central Florida may not be a contender for the conference title in Jones' first season, but the influx of talent set to arrive in 2011 portends a rapid upswing.
In addition to Days, fellow three-star small forward Kasey Wilson chose Central Florida on Sunday after decommitting from Virginia Commonwealth earlier this summer. And Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock, Oregon transfer Josh Crittle and Illinois transfer Jeffrey Jordan are headed to Central Florida as well.
It's no surprise to Calamaro that Days would choose Central Florida over the more high-profile schools that recruited him because the level-headed senior-to-be has always forged his own path. Instead of accepting an offer from a well-moneyed Nike or Adidas-sponsored AAU program this summer, Days chose to stick it out on Calamaro's Broward Bobcats, soliciting money on street corners earlier this year to fund their travel to summer tournaments.
A 6-foot-6 small forward with a smooth jump shot and a quick first step to the basket, Days' biggest challenge will be adding muscle to his spindly 175-pound frame. If he works hard in the weight room the next couple years, Calamaro believes he can be a star in Conference USA.
"Central Florida is headed in the right direction, and Rod will be a major part of it," Calamaro said. "He's going to go there and make a contribution early."