Wednesday, April 24, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Justin Burks is becoming Nevada’s most sought-after college basketball recruit for the class of 2014.
A junior at Arbor View High, Burks’ rise from a middle-of-the-pack recruit to sure-thing Division I prospect includes shining last weekend at the Pangos Spring Spectacular at Bishop Gorman.
Playing for the Las Vegas Prospects, the 6-foot-5 wing averaged about 16 points in five games, helping the Prospects win the Selection Division.
The event was scouted by several colleges. On Monday, Burks received a phone call from one of them — an assistant from nationally respected Gonzaga.
“It’s rewarding to know a school (such as Gonzaga) likes my game,” he said. “They are looking for a good wing, someone who can shoot it from the outside and get to the basket.”
And Burks can definitely get to the basket. One play stands out from last weekend for Prospects coach Anthony Brown.
“We throw him this lob. It was a horrible pass that was high and hard, and he wasn’t even open,” Brown said. “But he jumped high above the box to get it. He is just a freak athlete. People really never knew it, but he is starting to show them. He is the most athletic kid we have in the program.”
The Prospects have several of the top players in Las Vegas for the class of 2014: Canyon Springs point guard Shaquille Carr, a UNLV target and top-100 prospect overall; Valley’s Spencer Mathis; Durango’s Paris Estrada and Malik Davis from Desert Pines.
But it is Burks who is starting to become the main attraction for recruiters.
He currently has no scholarship offers but is being courted by Colorado, Tulsa, Washington, Boise State, Weber State, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara.
His performance last weekend caught the eye of Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for evaluating website rivals.com.
“In our eyes, 6-foot-5 small forward Justin Burks was a breakout player for them,” Bossi wrote. “The product of Arbor View High in Vegas has a prototypical wing’s body and is a good athlete. Better than his athleticism is the stroke on his jumper. He’s got a picture perfect-looking shot and can get it off in a hurry. He can be passive at times, but the three-star is on the verge of taking his game to the next level.”
Burks was often a one-man show last season at Arbor View, averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game in leading the Aggies to their first Northwest League title in the school’s eight-year history. He took every important shot and, more important, thrived as the team’s go-to player.
“That helped give me a lot of confidence and believe in my game,” he said.
When Burks joined the Prospect AAU program as an eighth-grader, he was one of the last players off the bench. But Brown always felt Burks had the talent to become an elite player, never hesitating to give him chances to develop.
“The kid is a late bloomer,” Brown said. “He was one of those kids we wondered, ‘How is he going to get there? How is he going to get there?’ The thing is it takes time, and it took longer than we thought with (Justin). But he has arrived now.”
And so have the recruiters. He’ll be one of the Prospects’ main attractions the rest of the spring and summer.
“That makes me want to work harder knowing I have this much interest from coaches,” Burks said.