One of the top rising seniors in the Chicago area is Hales-Franciscan newcomer JaVale McGee. Standing nearly 7-foot 215 lbs, McGee has the athleticism and bloodlines of a champion. Despite just moving to the Windy City this fall, McGee has already climbed into the Top 20 Chicago prep players to watch. An excellent student-athlete prospect, McGee recently completed an official visit to the University of San Francisco.
If you want to know more about the prospect they call "Shadow", you have to start with his hoop-famous mother, Pam. One of the best players in USC women's basketball history and a 1984 All-American, Pam has spent her entire life around the game. She was one half of the greatest twins to have ever played the women's college game, with her sister Paula a 1982 and 1983 All-American at USC. The Trojans won back to back National Championships in 1983 and 1984.
Perhaps no woman has accomplished more on the court then Pam. The 1984 NCAA Tournament's Most Valuable Player, Pam has won titles at every imaginable level. She won two Michigan state high school titles at Flint Northern, two National Championships at USC, plus European, Spanish, World, and Brazilian titles during her playing career. McGee also won a gold medal with the 1984 Olympic team along with a WNBA title as a coach with Detroit in 2003. The second overall selection in the inaugural 1997 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs, Pam also coached with the Monarchs for three seasons after her playing career ended in 1999.
"JaVale has always been called "my shadow" because he's been with me and traveled the world since he was 8 months old," said Pam, who now lives and works in Chicago. "Some children are blessed athletically and some are blessed academically but JaVale has been fortunate to have been blessed with both."
Pam also has a younger daughter named Imani, who despite being just 11 years old is already 5-foot-6 and looking to take over the McGee reigns. But for now, with JaVale's growth and desire to be the best student-athlete he can, McGee is ready to follow her son's career.
"I've been very fortunate to have had a great career and JaVale was always with me," Pam stated. "Over the summer, watching his basketball aspirations soar while still performing well academically, I definitely believe he'll do well at the next level."
Perhaps JaVale's best childhood story dealt with an emotional mom on the sidelines of a game overseas.
"I believe JaVale was about 9 years old," recalled McGee. "I was really down because we were losing a big game and we were getting beat pretty hard. I got emotional and started crying. JaVale came over and just said, 'you are crying over basketball? It's just a game Mom.' Of course, when he was in 8th grade and on the sidelines of a game that was important and his team was losing, he started to cry too. So I went down and said, 'you're crying? Over basketball? It's just a game!' We've always been able to have a connection off and on the court like that. He knows how I feel and I know how he feels when it comes to winning and losing."
Can the McGee's picture relocating out west again?
"Most definitely," stated McGee. "Believe it or not, I have more connections in Northern California then I do Southern California and I loved the Sacramento area. We have a lot of good memories out there and would never mind moving back."
JaVale had an outstanding visit to the Bay Area during the recent USF "Midnight Madness" event. He's also going to travel to Reno this weekend to check out the Wolfpack. Along with local Midwest schools like Marquette, DePaul, and Northwestern closely watching him, JaVale is still interested in one more visit during the final weekend of October before making his decision. With Hales starting prep play in early November, a decision could be made before the season starts.
The connection between the McGee's and University of San Francisco head coach Jessie Evans dates back to McGee's youth. "Coach Evans is a basketball icon where I was raised in Michigan," stated McGee. "He's a 'Flintstoner' too. He coached at Flint Northwestern high and then went to Minnesota for awhile too. He is well-respected in my home state."
USF also runs an up-tempo game plan where a versatile frontcourt player like McGee can do very well. Big men that can step out and hit the three and also defend the post are a huge weapon in the Dons offense.
JaVale's scouting report shows that he's a fast-improving post player who moves around the court like a guard. A current Bay Area player that McGee resembles is Cal frontcourt prospect Rod Benson, who developed into a Pac-10 scoring threat a year ago. An extremely good shooter, McGee's game is versatile in that he can score inside and out, with his back to the basket or facing up, while defending just about anyone on the court. He does need to add bulk to develop a true post presence but college coaches' love how active and skilled his game already is. He really flourished over the summer while playing against competition in the Chicago area. A very humble young man, McGee is an outstanding student who transferred to Hales-Franciscan due to the improvement of his game, his mother being able to relocate her profession, and due to the academics at Hales. JaVale spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Country Day high school before transferring to Providence Christian a year ago.
"Dr. Young, the principal at Hales, was very inspirational to me," stated Pam, describing her chance meeting with Dr. Young over the summer. "I was very impressed with how important academic success was at the school and the way they've been able to develop student-athletes both off and on the court."
With JaVale's new teammate Jerome Randle already headed to the University of California, Rivals will continue to follow McGee's recruitment to see if another Spartan baller is headed West.
A.W Prince is the senior writer and publisher of Cal.Rivals. He pens a west coast basketball article entitled "The Weekly Spin" for all Bay Area basketball programs, plus numerous other recruiting features on some of the most talented and highly sought after student-athletes in the country. Along with the "The Weekly Spin", Prince has made radio appearances with Rivals Radio and Bay Area college basketball pre-game, halftime, and post-game in-season shows.