LAS VEGAS - Maurice Harkless has left Queens (N.Y.) Forest Hills for South Kent Prep this school year but college coaches won't lose track of him. The 6-foot-6 small forward, a former UConn commit, is one of the hottest prospects at the Las Vegas Fab 48 and he's playing like it.
Harkless, rated No. 19 at small forward and No. 86 overall by Rivals.com, was outstanding in a victory against the Danny Granger Hurricanes Saturday afternoon, hitting open jumpers, taking the ball to the basket and tipping in multiple offensive rebounds.
Former coach and advisor Nate Blue said moving out of New York City but staying relatively close will allow Harkless to focus on school, basketball and getting better against much stiffer competition.
"It will prepare him better for college because he'll be playing against a lot of 6-10 guys, 7-footers, competing every day against guys his height or taller," Blue said. "He didn't really get a chance to do that in high school. It will force him to play harder every day. He's already talented but it will make him bring it every day instead of playing down to the competition.
"Getting out of the city is a good development for him. He'll get a chance to do his own laundry and go to 6 a.m. practices. It's just being away from home. Also, South Kent, the reason they get a lot of New Jersey and city kids is it's maybe a little over an hour away so it's a country setting but you can get back and forth and it's easy."
Recruiting continues to pick up for Harkless, who has been compared to Trevor Ariza and JaRon Rush by some college coaches. Blue said Kansas called on Friday and that there are plans to visit Connecticut, Maryland and either Cincinnati or Florida sometime in August.
That the Huskies have been accused of eight major recruiting violations by the NCAA had no influence in Harkless' decision to de-commit, Blue said.
There was just a sense that other programs were getting involved and Harkless wanted to see what else was out there and be available during July before making his decision.
Harkless said Saturday that he had considered re-committing to UConn but decided to hold off. Huskies' assistant coach Andre LaFleur along with many other coaches were seen at the New York Panthers matchup.
Blue said those August visits will help everyone decide which schools should get an official visit and that Harkless would prefer to keep things low key in his recruitment until that point.
"His final two schools were UConn and Kentucky," Blue said. "If he would have (committed) to Kentucky, he would have backed out too with everything going on with (John) Calipari. Either way, sanctions didn't have anything to do with it because (UConn was) being investigated for a while so we already knew everything prior. We knew along the whole process of everything that was going to happen.
"If something hit the media two weeks later, we already knew it was going to happen two weeks before. We were prepared for all questions. He'll be OK. UConn is still loving him but they have to bring in certain guys.
"He still fits with what they're trying to do but I don't know if they have the patience to wait. They want him but they already offered, he already committed, it's not like they don't want him but they already had him. We're really just trying to see what's out there."