Whether he was playing for St. Frances as a sophomore, Roselle (N.J.) Catholic as a junior, Lake Clifton as a senior or with Team Melo during the summer, there was one basketball-related constant in Andre Rafus' life.
"TCU has been involved since I was in the 10th grade. They came through when I was playing with Team Melo," Rafus said. "They were loyal. They kept coming to me, kept being supportive, texting me every day. They made me a priority and that was different."
Rafus rewarded that loyalty Friday by committing to the Horned Frogs. The 6-foot-10, 185-pound forward was also recruited by Georgetown, Kansas and Old Dominion, among others.
Rafus will become the latest in a long line of local players to suit up for Jamie Dixon, who has led TCU to a 17-13 record in his first year at his alma mater. During his 13 years at Pittsburgh, Dixon recruited Baltimore natives Jamel Artis, Durand Johnson (Lake Clifton), Chase Adams (Mount Saint Joseph), Jermaine Dixon and Aron Nwankwo (City) to the Panthers.
"Jamie Dixon is a great coach. I'm excited to play for him," Rafus said. "It was a good feeling, just getting that weight lifted off my shoulders. It was a good experience. I had a great relationship with [Dixon and TCU assistant] coach [Ryan] Miller. The recruiting process, I was just getting tired of it. I just thought TCU was the best fit. That's why I committed there."
Rafus emerged as a future high-major player during his early high school years at St. Frances and in springs and summers spent with Team Melo on the AAU circuit. His time in New Jersey and his return this school year to Baltimore to play for Lake Clifton cemented his Division I future.
"They just liked his length, that he can make a shot," Lakers coach Herman "Tree" Harried said of TCU's interest in Rafus. "They just see an upside in him. They know he has a ways to go but hopefully his upside will pay off in the long run."
Rafus, a three-star prospect and the No. 190 player in the class of 2017 according to 247Sports.com, averaged around 13 points and nine rebounds for Lake Clifton as a senior, Harried said. His athleticism is undeniable, but Rafus and his coach acknowledged that he'll have to add strength to his lanky frame.
"I think a lot of guys at the high school level, they think athletic ability gets them over," Harried said. "But at the college level, it's a challenge. That'll pretty much be up to him, embrace that kind of work ethic. I tell my guys that at the end of the day, if you can't help your team win you're not going to play. That's the reality of it."
Rafus, who expects to play the 3 for TCU, said he's ready to prioritize "getting in the weight room every day" so he can make an immediate impact. He's looking forward to tapping into his potential by working every day with Miller, who has coached nine NBA players during his college career.
"Coach Miller is one hell of a coach," Rafus said. "He has so many NBA players that he has coached. … It's mainly a reason why I went there as well. I know I'm coming in as a major priority on the team."
Rafus hasn't yet visited TCU but plans to rectify that soon. Harried, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing Rafus tap into his potential in the Big 12.
"It's a great opportunity for his family to be able to do something like this," Harried said. "Every kid wants to go to college. It's great for his family that he reached his goal."
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