Art Alvarez answered the phone Thursday, even though he was already on the other line.
The caller? Florida coach Billy Donovan.
The presumed subject? Freddy Asprilla, a 6-foot-10 center who was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in March after averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds at Florida International.
Because FIU fired Sergio Ruoco – who was the reason Asprilla, who originally committed to Miami but didn’t have a sufficient SAT score, attended the school in the first place – the center is looking for a new home.
“Everybody in America has inquired about him,” Alvarez said.
But because Alvarez, who says he is Asprilla’s legal guardian as well as his AAU coach, is tight with Kan-sas State coach Frank Martin, there is a strong chance Asprilla will end up in Manhattan, following a path already forged by Luis Colon and Denis Clemente.
“He’s a stud,” Alvarez said. “Frank knows about him and wants him bad.”
New FIU coach Isiah Thomas hasn’t granted Asprilla his release, hoping the big man can be persuaded to stick around Miami. But Alvarez said Asprilla has already withdrawn from the university and he’s currently visiting his parents and vacationing in his native Colombia.
“If he’s not granted his release, we’ll go to the appeal process,” Alvarez said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll go the junior college route for a year and decide whether or not to play.
“Either way, the kid is gone.”
He’d be eligible in 2010. If he redshirted somewhere for the 2009-10, Asprilla would have three years of eligibility. According to Alvarez, he’d be well worth the wait.
“He’s a proven commodity,” Alvarez said. “He has the best footwork and the best hands you’ve ever seen. He’s on everyone’s radar.”
Let’s be clear – Alvarez is prone to gush, no stranger to hyperbole.
But he was dead on in his assessment on Clemente – more on him later – and he readily admits his willingness to assist Martin, whom he calls his “little brother.”
“We’ll try to feed Frank a couple more pieces of the puzzle,” Alvarez said. “He’s done a great job with Denis and Luis. I think Freddy is a good possibility.”
Alvarez visited Manhattan during basketball season in support of Martin but also Clemente. Asked if everything is “OK” with the Wildcats’ star guard, Alvarez said,“Oh, he’s fine. Denis just gets bored sometimes.”
The coach said Clemente had just received word that he would be participating as a college instructor at one of Nike’s prestigious Skills Academies – Alvarez said it was Amare Stoudemire’s camp, but the Phoenix Sun’s camp is for big men. Utah’s Deron Williams runs the camp for point guards.