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Q&A: '09 hoops recruit Donnovan Kirk

After making a few pit stops Monday at a trio of high schools in South Florida for spring football, I got a chance this morning to squeeze in some blog work by speaking with the newest big-time basketball recruit headed to The U -- 6-8, 213-pound forward Donnovan Kirk of Detroit Country Day.

Kirk, rated the 56th-best recruit in the 2009 class by Rivals.com and a Scout.com Top 100 player,
committed to UM coach Frank Haith last week to become the first recruit in Miami's '09 class. (Villanova Donnovan_kirktransfer Malcolm Grant, a 6-foot point guard, will also make his debut in '09 but is technically part of Miami's '08 class. The Hurricanes still have three scholarships available in '09). Kirk, whose parents both work in the auto industry, told me he's excited to be the first of what he hopes is a Top 25 national recruiting class at Miami. A B-student, Kirk said he still needs to get his SAT or ACT score to qualify at Miami. But he said it shouldn't be a problem. Here's what else we talked about...

Q: Being a guy from Michigan, I have to imagine you grew up a Wolverine or Spartans fan. That being said, the Canes were able to lure you from both of them and get you to commit to coming to South Florida. What did coach Haith do to convince you to come here?
A: I grew up in Pontiac and was a Michigan fan. But I wouldn't actually say it was that hard of a decision. I had narrowed it down to four schools, but really it was Michigan State and Miami. Coach Haith definitely built a strong relationship with me. I definitely see the relationship going forward in a great way. I met him at the beginning of my junior season. Miami was the second the school to offer me. But they definitely made me feel more comfortable than anyone else. Plus, I have family down there.

Q: Your high school coach mentioned last week that you had made an unofficial visit to Miami. What were your impressions and how did it play a role in your decision to pick the Canes?
A: My trip was definitely good. I went at the start of winter, I think when they opened the season against a D-II school. The highlight was sitting down and talking with the coaches and getting to know the players. The one thing I could see right away is that they're not selfish. They try to work together to win basketball games. What impressed me the most was when I watched them play and I watched coach Haith and how much they respect him and how he gives them respect. It was great to see that. I saw it again when I watched them on TV a couple times. I really feel like I can fit in.

Q: How important was it to you that UM had as good a season as it did. I mean, a year ago the Canes were 12-20 and in last in the ACC. How much did their turnaround to 23-11 and the second round of the NCAA Tournament help you in picking them?
A: That was very important. I was able to see that they really are good and on their way up, they're building something. I needed to see there really was a winning attitude. Its hard to go to a school where you are not winning games. I see players coming in and know players who really want to be a part of something special. I see a team coming in now that is ready to take Miami to the next level. And I want to be a part of that. I'm definitely going to work hard to make Miami one of the best schools in the nation.

Q: How do you see yourself fitting in? Your coach compared you last week to [former Gator and Atlanta Hawks rookie] Al Horford. He's a little bigger than you, bulkier. Do you see yourself being like Horford at all?

A: I think my game is a lot like his. But I'm still trying to get as big as he is. Coach Haith told me he'd like for me to get to like 230 pounds by the time I get to Miami. They want me to get stronger. I could also be 6-9, 6-10 by then. I'm really just trying to pick my game up, but the ball on the ground more, working on my handles. I think I can be strong and quick. My game is really inside, not out. I mean, I can hit the shot from the outside. But I love getting to the basket, dominating down low.

** Along my pitstops at American, Miramar and Carol City Monday, I got a chance to speak with '09 football recruit and Rivals.com 4-star defensive end Olivier Vernon. While I'll have my complete report over on the high school blog later this afternoon, I figured I'd let you know Vernon now considers himself "a soft verbal" to Miami.

He says while the Hurricanes are still the team he wants to play for, he said other college coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban have intrigued him with the notion of playing a flex linebacker/defensive end position like Vernon's idol, Jason Taylor. This season, Vernon will start at middle linebacker for American. He said UM is only recruiting him as a defensive end.