Durham sets summer priorities

LAKELAND – At some point it will be time to start taking all this recruiting stuff seriously, just not right now. “I’m a sophomore,” Juwan Durham (6-9, 191, Tampa, FL Tampa Prep) says. “I’ll get serious about it sometime but right now, I’m just having fun and trying to get better.”

Durham has skills that he’s learned through a lot of hours in the gym. He’s also got things that no one could teach him. Like speed, agility, athletic ability and height. You can’t teach tall.

He’s also got grades and a very high basketball IQ. It’s the combination of all these things that will have him at the USA Basketball tryouts in Colorado Springs for the 17-and-under team that will play in Dubai at the FIBA World Championships.

“Making the USA team, playing AAU ball (for Team Breakdown), getting stronger and going to some camps – that’s what my priorities are this summer,” Durham said Wednesday afternoon after Tampa Prep’s season concluded in the Florida 3A championship game with a loss to Sagemont Prep, which concluded the season 38-0.  Durham had 19 points and six rebounds for a Tampa Prep team that was overmatched at four of the five positions on the floor. Tuesday night was a better night for Durham as he dominated Shorecrest in the semifinals, scoring 25 points to go with 17 rebounds and five blocked shots to get Tampa Prep into the title game against Sagemont.

Getting stronger will have to be a priority. Durham doesn’t lack for skills and he has a feathery touch around the rim. His jump shot is mechanically sound and accurate from the foul line on in. He can put the ball on the floor, has good footwork that allows him to step through or spin around defenders. On the defensive end, he doesn’t go for head fakes and is quick off the floor.

But, when he’s pushed, he doesn’t have the strength to push back and that’s got to change.

“I really have to get stronger,” Durham said. “I’ve got to do a better job of holding my ground. That’s a big priority for me now.”

Recruiting isn’t such a priority, however. He’s a 2016 recruit so there will be plenty of time for that. He’s still growing – “I think I’m close to 6-10 now,” he said – and tall players with grades and skills are always going to be in demand. His mailbox is filled with recruiting letters. Florida, Florida State, Louisville, LSU and Texas are among the many who have already offered.

He admits that Florida has caught his eye.

“I’d have to say they probably recruit me the hardest,” Durham said. “I see them on television a lot and I know about their tradition and that Coach (Billy) Donovan is a great coach. And, they’re not far from home. They have a lot going for them.”

Florida will likely see Durham at camp this summer as long as the UF camp doesn’t interfere with the USA team tryouts and camps in Colorado Springs. There is also the AAU season where he will team with good friend Dewan Huell (6-9, 200, Miami, FL Norland) for Team Breakdown, after which Durham says he will probably start taking a longer and harder look at recruiting.

When he does get serious about recruiting, he says he will look at a number of factors, not the least of which is academics. Durham is already planning for life beyond basketball.

“The academic part is important,” Durham said. “I’m at Tampa Prep. You have to make good grades here. The school gets you ready for college.”

And once in college?

“I want to major in broadcasting,” he said. “I’d like to be that guy behind the microphone someday.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.