In many ways, Arnaud Moto is everything Jim Fitzpatrick wants an Episcopal student to be.
Moto, who came to the Alexandria, Va., high school two years ago from Cameroon, is "an outstanding student" who played soccer in the fall and runs track in the spring. Sandwiched in between those seasons is basketball, where Moto stars for Fitzpatrick's varsity team and has emerged as one of the top recruits in the 2012 class.
"He is a basketball sponge," said Fitzpatrick, a former Wake Forest player and Elon assistant who also serves as Episcopal's associate director of admissions. "It's really a special thing, and he's also very coachable. He takes instruction as well as any player I've ever seen. His demeanor on the court, he never gets too high, never gets too low. He's very even-keeled. He's just constantly working on his game. For me, as a coach, it has just been an absolute delight. I know that any future coach is going to say the same thing. When he graduates after four years at wherever he decides to play, they'll have success and Arnaud will be a big part of that."
Maryland is one of many high-major programs involved with Moto, who's spending this week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va. Scouts have taken note of the 6-foot-6, 215-pound small forward, who's starting to realize the potential Fitzpatrick saw in him upon his arrival as a 15-year-old sophomore."With many international kids, the first year in the United States is acclimating," Fitzpatrick said. "The way the game of basketball is played here is very different – the way the game is officiated and coached. It's just a new world in terms of basketball for these kids. First year is a transition year. Sophomore year, he showed signs and flashes in practice of what we consider a high-major player. I saw it right away. My coaching staff saw it right away. But it takes time, just getting his footwork together, not traveling as much, figuring out the speed of the game, how the game is officiated."
At first Moto attracted a smattering of local mid-major interest, starting with George Mason and VCU. In the fall, Fitzpatrick hosted several college coaches interested in taking a look at Moto.
"Teams began to say, 'Oh my gosh, this kid is a gem.'" Wake Forest and Jeff Bzdelik came in the fall, Paul Hewitt when he was at Georgia Tech came in the fall," Fitzpatrick said. "Both of those coaches knew they saw something special in him. They offered him right away. Seton Hall was one of the first to offer, really because they saw him and saw the potential that he has."
Moto lived up to the hype as a junior, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds in leading Episcopal to "the best season it's had in years." Scholarship offers began to pile up for the Washington Post All-Met selection.
"Just in terms of sheer numbers of offers, he's in the neighborhood of 30 to 35 Division I offers at this point," Fitzpatrick said. "Several ACC schools, SEC schools, Big East schools, the Pac-10 – UCLA has done a great job. Florida and Billy Donovan have offered, Vanderbilt, Stanford. So several schools [are in the mix]. The ACC schools are Wake Forest, Georgia Tech – Coach [Brian] Gregory and his staff continued that offer that [Paul] Hewitt [made]. Miami, with Coach [Jim] Larranaga, is doing a great job of following him. Virginia Tech, with Coach [Seth] Greenberg, and N.C. State. That's a strong group of schools in there."
Maryland got involved with Moto thanks to former assistant coach Rob Ehsan, who's now at Virginia Tech. The Terps have maintained contact since the coaching change, and Fitzpatrick readily acknowledges that 2012 is "a very important class" for UM. The Episcopal coach and his star player made an unofficial visit to College Park last Friday. The first meeting with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was "a very good introductory visit."
"Coach Turgeon is a terrific person," Fitzpatrick said. "He really has … a great way about him. He speaks very well and is very excited about the future of Maryland basketball. I think coming in, he heard a lot of great things about Arnaud from [Team Takeover coach] Keith Stevens, from myself, and from [Terps assistant coach] Dalonte Hill. But to offer a scholarship is a big deal – and it should be. So I think that Coach Turgeon would like to evaluate him a little bit more before he looks Arnaud in the eye and says, 'You're the guy that's going to help us hang banners in the rafters of this university.'"
Fitzpatrick said he mailed more of Moto's game film to Maryland on Tuesday. He expects the Terps' staff to continue evaluating Moto once the open period in July begins.
"Some programs may offer kids off of what they've heard," Fitzpatrick said. "I don't think that Coach Turgeon does that, and I give him credit for that."
Moto has bonded over the past year or so with Team Takeover teammates James Robinson, Jerami Grant and Bee Jay Anya, all of whom attend DeMatha. All four players are at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week. After that, Moto is scheduled to take part in the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and the LeBron James Skills Academy before rejoining Team Takeover for the stretch run of the AAU season.
Fitzpatrick said Moto's recruitment is fairly wide open at the moment, but he has some clear criteria for picking a school.
"We want a good academic school," Fitzpatrick said. "We know some day the ball will stop bouncing – for him, hopefully after a pro career somewhere. But the mind will work a lot longer than his knees. So a very good academic program where he's going to grow as a student and a thinker. We want him to be around a coaching staff and a makeup of a team that feels like a family. We know he has to work hard over the next four years and be in a situation where he's competing for championships. He wants to play in the NCAA tournament, and obviously we want to make sure that the team comes first. He's looking for that opportunity. He's young and he wants to play."