Former Lake Clifton standout Cleveland Melvin is headed to the Big East.
Melvin, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward, committed to UConn today, picking the Huskies over DePaul, Memphis, Seton Hall and South Florida.
"It was kind of hard to choose because a lot of colleges were recruiting me heavy," Melvin said. "But at the end, I chose UConn because it's ... just a great staff and has great coaches. They support me, they just love me and have so much respect for me. I think I can improve my game there next year."
Melvin's commitment comes one day after the end of the fall signing period. Even though that means he will wait until spring to sign his letter of intent, Melvin was ready to end his recruitment early.
"He visited UConn for Midnight Madness," said Anthony Lewis, Melvin's AAU coach with Cecil Kirk. "Then he went back on an official visit last weekend. He had two more visits scheduled on his docket -- Seton Hall and Memphis. The question for him became whether he wanted to extend this thing to the spring or whether he was going to make the decision now. He decided he was just going to be done with it and commit."
Melvin, a Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection last spring, averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks per game as a senior, helping the undefeated Lakers to the Class 3A state championship. Melvin is now doing a post-grad year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., where he has teamed up again with former Lake Clifton point guard and Cecil Kirk alumnus Antonio Barton. Melvin's summer on the circuit ensured his status as a legitimate high-major prospect.
"His summer was huge," Lewis said. "He had the opportunity to [showcase his game] on the major stage, a major platform. That's not anything against Lake Clifton -- that's all of high school. You're limited by where you can travel because of the rules and the number of games they can play because of the rules. So just having the ability to be seen at that [AAU] level was huge."
Melvin agreed with his coach's assessment, noting that Lewis told him after his high school season that he would earn those scholarship offers playing for Cecil Kirk.
"When I went on the circuit for the summer, we had a really good team and I think I proved [myself]," Melvin said. "It was a great summer for me because I had gotten a lot more colleges looking at me, so it was great. Coach Anthony Lewis, he's a great coach. He helped me get through everything. He's just a great coach."
Lewis, who also coached former UConn standout and current Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, thinks Melvin is the perfect fit for the Huskies' system.
"I think his style of play [fits well at UConn]," Lewis said. "He has almost freakish athleticism. He just has really, really good athleticism. And you couple that with the ability to get to the bucket, put it on the floor and knock down the mid-range shot, and he's just a natural fit for an up-tempo type of team. He's also long and can guard the perimeter, so he gets out. I see him as a 3-man, maybe a 3/4 in that set. He just has that ability. He's worked very hard to expand his game beyond the mid-range. So I see him doing very well [at UConn]."
Melvin said he's enjoying his time at Notre Dame Prep. The Crusaders are 8-1 and he's one of the leading scorers thus far. He'll finish school in the spring and move to Storrs, Conn., in the summer.
"It's kind of weird [being away from Baltimore] but I've got to get used to it," Melvin said. "When I go to school next year, it's going to be exciting. ... Jim Calhoun is a great coach. He's put a lot of NBA players into the league. Rudy Gay, Ben Gordon, Josh Boone, all of them had great impacts on their teams. ... I'll be coming in playing with Kemba Walker, a great point guard, and [hopefully getting] a lot of playing time."
Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / Feb. 23, 2009