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By LARRY VAUGHT
Since her father is a former University of Kentucky basketball player and long-time high school coach — not to mention that both of her brothers played high school basketball — it’s no surprise that Norrie Clevenger Price still finds herself around the game.
However, it’s in a different perspective than most. Price and her family have two basketball players at Huntington (W.V.) Prep living with them while they attend school and that’s given her an opportunity to be around some highly recruited and talented players.
“This is our second year with the program,” said Price, the daughter of former UK player/Mercer County coach Steve Clevenger. “I grew up around the sport, my husband played at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth) and his father played at Marshall. Our son, 13, plays school ball and AAU.
“I didn’t know much about the program with the players until our son, T.C., and my husband got involved and volunteered at some games and started going to practice. T.C. came home and asked if we could have a player live with us and about then two kids transferred in from Canada and there were not places for them. I had a room in our basement. We had a concrete floor and I had one bed. We got carpet, bought another bed and they moved in.”
One was 7-4 Sim Bhullar, who is now at New Mexico State where former Wildcat Tony Delk is an assistant coach. Another player, 6-9 Stefan Jankovic, signed with Missouri. Tanveer Bhullar, who is 7-2, also lived with the Prices.
“Because we had two Canadian players, all the Canadian players tended to come over. They would sit in our baseman, play video games and eat my food and try to get my 17-year-old daughter to invite her friends over. They are just normal high school kids, just maybe a little more high profile,” Price said.
Little more? Try a lot more.
One of those players who visits her house is 6-7 Andrew Wiggins, regarded as the nation’s top player in the 2014 recruiting class and even ranked as the best high school player in any class by some recruiting analysts.
“I think last year during soccer season we had seven Division I basketball coaches at a Huntington High soccer game because the players went to watch my daughter play and all the coaches followed,” she said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff certainly know about Wiggins. They have seen him play recently and will plenty more times this summer during the evaluation period. Price says Wiggins knows about her UK connections, but they don’t talk about schools.
“I have a picture of my dad’s team framed in the basemen and a UK cutting board on my (kitchen) counter,” she said. “I told him last year if he was invited to a Kentucky game I would be happy to take him, but I was out of town with my daughter playing soccer when he went to the North Carolina game with Xavier (Rathan-Mayes) and my husband took them. I really don’t talk basketball with him or any of the players. I am there mor to talk about girls, not missing curfew, keeping their grades up and cleaning up my basement.
“But Andrew is a great kid with the greatest smile in the world. He’s just always kind of grinning at you. He’s just a real normal kid. He plays video games. He might be out having a water balloon fight. He’s just really a normal teenaget except for when he’s on the basketball court and he is not normal at all.”
Price is not a recruiting analyst. But she says anyone who knows anything about basketball knows how gifted he is.
“He is absolutely special. He is just an amazing athlete. You can’t miss it when you watch him play. You don’t have to know anything about basketball to see how special he is,” Price said.
She says he doesn’t talk about recruiting, but realizes that could change as he goes into his junior season.
“The amount of attention he’ll get is only going to pick up even more with visits and phone calls,” she said. “But he still seems very humble about it all. He just went and tried out for the Canadian national team. I wish him good luck and he just grinned at me. Maybe he knew he didn’t need a lot of luck.”
Wiggins’ father, Mitchell, played at Florida State and then had a six-year NBA career. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, was a Canadian track Olympic silver medalist. He was dominating at times at the Nike Hoop Summit and will have both Tanveer Bhullar and Mayes, who has a scholarship offer from UCLA, on his Toronto-based CIA Bounce AAU team that also included recent UNLV signee Anthony Bennett, a Kentucky target.
“Andrew’s father is very knowledgeable obviously about the game and will be very capable of handling all the recruiting questions,” Price said. “His dad is very involved in that role as they start through this process.”
Still, for Price and her family, being around these high profile basketball players away from the gym has been fun.
“We are a sports family. Our daughter played basketball and is committed to play soccer at Gardner-Webb. We are always in the gym or on a field somewhere,” she said. “It’s just what we do. We have no artistic ability, no musical ability. Sports are what our families do and that’s why we’ve had so much fun being host to these players and great kids. It has really been more fun than I ever imagined.”