Kansas State elevated the talent of its front court on Monday, as head coach Frank Martin announced the additions of high school standouts Laimonas Chatkevicius (Klaipeda, Lithuania/South Kent [Conn.] Prep) and Robert Upshaw (Fresno, Calif./San Joaquin Memorial).
"Once again our assistants, as they have done every year since we have been here, did an unbelievable job of identifying the right people for our program and organizing the recruitment and being diligent in their efforts to land us two guys that we had targeted since the summer," said Martin. "We are extremely excited about us being able to finalize our recruiting with two guys that were right at the top of the chart for guys that we wanted."
A 7-foot, 275-pound center, Upshaw is rated among the Top 50 high school players for the Class of 2012, including a ranking of No. 43 on the Rivals150 by Rivals.com and No. 49 on the ESPNU100. He is also ranked among the Top 50 by CBSSports.com (40) and MaxPreps.com (44). In addition, he is regarded as one of the top centers in the nation, ranking eighth at the position nationally by Rivals.com and 10th by ESPN. Upshaw is also rated the fourth-best high school prospect in the state of California by ESPN.
"Robert gives us by far the biggest young man that we have signed in our time here in terms of height, length and size," said Martin. "He is every bit of seven feet tall and maybe even a little taller with great hands, great natural ability and somebody that we are extremely excited about because he will be a big time presence at the rim to help the guys that are in place right now and to continue to add more depth at our front line."
Upshaw is a rising senior for head coach Pat Geil at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, Calif., which also produced 7-foot twins Brook (New Jersey Nets) and Robin Lopez (Phoenix Suns) as well as guard Quincy Pondexter (New Orleans Hornets). He did not play as a junior in 2010-11 due to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) transfer rules after leaving Edison High School for San Joaquin Memorial. Upshaw helped Edison win 41 games as a freshman and sophomore, including 25 victories in 2008-09.
Upshaw starred this past summer on the California-based AAU team Dream Vision, which included some of the top prep players in the country. The team reached the finals of the Adidas Super 64 in July. He received interest from a number of schools, including scholarship offers from Fresno State, Georgetown and Louisville.
A 6-foot-10, 230-pound center, Chatkevicius is currently playing his senior season at South Kent Prep Academy in South Kent, Conn., for head coach Kelvin Jefferson. South Kent plays their first games tomorrow (La Jolla) and Saturday (St. John's Military) at the National Prep School Invitational in New Haven, Conn. A native of Klaipeda, Lithuania, Chatkevicius came to the U.S. in the summer of 2009 to experience high school basketball before playing his junior season in his native country. He also played as a member of Kansas City's Spiece MoKan AAU organization this past summer for head coach Matt Suther.
"He gives us a 6-foot-11 to seven foot guy," said Martin. "He is a typical European guy, who is highly skilled, but the thing that we like about him is that he plays a very physical game. He does not run away from contact and is very involved with the physical part of the game and while he has skills, he does not run away from playing with his back to the basket, which is something that our team needs."
Chatkevicius played in three games for Lithuania during the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championships in Hamberg, Germany. The Lithuanian team posted a 4-1 record and finished in the tournament behind champion Team USA and Poland. The squad also finished second in Group A to Team USA. He played 15 minutes in the 102-66 loss to Team USA on July 3, finishing with two points and three rebounds.
Chatkevicius also played his club team Klaipedos SM as both a sophomore and junior in Lithuania. He averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in four games in 2009-10 and 3.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games in 2010-11.
Chatkevicius is the 10th international player to sign with Kansas State, including the first from Lithuania. Overall, he is the third European player, following Ivan Sulic (Split, Croatia) and Dramane Diarra (Paris, France). He received interest from a number of schools, including Arkansas, Marquette, Mississippi, Missouri and Wisconsin.