Boys basketball: Topper big man wraps up a busy summer

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By Mike Cote

Not that at 6 feet, 11 inches, he needs to stand out more than he usually does, but Alex Kirk has been trying to keep as a high a profile as possible this summer.

With deep runs in recent amateur tournaments, lots of people got to see Los Alamos’ premier basketball player in central Florida.

Kirk, who will return for his senior year when the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team starts its campaign in November, is among the most sought-after prep players in the nation. Numerous colleges have contacted him requesting his services after the finish of his high school career, a number that has grown after his recent swing through Florida.

It’s been a long, hot summer for Kirk, who has been all around the country starting in late spring.

“I feel it,” said Kirk, who participated in upwards of 100 games since the end of the high school basketball season in early March. “My legs are really tired and everything, but it’s good...It was a lot of fun.”

Kirk was a regular on the Nike Showcase Tour this summer, a tour which swung through Cleveland and got him to within an arm’s length of reigning NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James — not to mention a front row seat to an infamous slam dunk.

James was embroiled in controversy after Nike attempted to confiscate video footage of the NBA superstar getting dunked on by Xavier University’s Jordan Crawford at Nike’s camp. In fact, in the now-world famous video, Kirk’s dad and Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk can be seen in the foreground watching the action.

Kirk thought the whole controversy, as well as the actual play itself, was overblown.

“LeBron could’ve crushed that kid,” he said. “(Crawford’s) not a big kid by any means. In a real game, LeBron would’ve put that in the third row.”

Following his appearances this summer, Kirk was contacted by several schools, most notably the University of Connecticut — which won a NCAA championship in 2004 — and the University of Maryland.

While those two programs are among the most respected in the nation, they will simply be added to an impressive list of Division-I schools that have expressed interest in Los Alamos’ blue-chip center. Others schools which have made contact with Kirk at some point include UCLA, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Cincinnati, just to name a few.

Kirk said he will probably try to get signed prior to the November tip-off of the prep season.

One of the big factors in his decision, he said, will be the location.

“That is a really big factor,” Kirk said. “A couple of schools like (University of New Mexico) and Arizona, my parents can drive to. Arizona State in Phoenix, they can drive to or fly to.”

While Kirk said he’s very likely going to use all five of his official campus visits before signing a National Letter of Intent, he’s currently leaning toward becoming a Lobo.

The Lobos, who missed out on Chris Jackson, Los Alamos’ most notable big man until Kirk’s arrival in green and gold, didn’t waste any time in expressing their interest.

UNM, which has taken criticism with virtually every athletic program for not recruiting top in-state athletes very well, started scouting Kirk early in his sophomore year. It kept in pretty constant contact throughout last season, with Lobo head coach Steve Alford taking in several Hilltopper games first-hand.

At this point, he said, he’s considering business as a collegiate major, but his hope is to stay with college basketball — or possibly professional basketball — as a coach or assistant following his career.

Following a fine sophomore season and a pretty busy summer of 2008, Kirk gained national notoriety by being named one of the top prospective big men in the nation by ESPN.com. With the ranking came the D-I attention.

Kirk finished the 2008-09 season as the top scorer in Class AAAA, averaging close to 30 points per game. He was also among the leading rebounders and shot-blockers in New Mexico last season.

With a few months before the start of his senior season at Los Alamos, Kirk said he feels good about his game and about how he fared this summer.

“I played better,” he said. “In the middle of the summer I struggled a little bit compared to what I’d been doing in the spring, but I got better and stronger. I started rebounding better.”

That, combined with Kirk’s senior-season drive to put together a state title run, should put New Mexico prep teams on notice, if they weren’t already.

For now, Kirk is going to take a short respite until his preseason work begins.

“I guess I’m kind of chilling out now,” he said. “I’ll get back into it when school comes around, take some shots in the gym and hit the weights again.”