College Sports

How history, connections help USC with top-80 basketball recruit. ‘My kind of people.’

The reporter turned his recorder back on, so he could pick up clearer Leo Papile’s message.

“To have a kid play for Frank would be an honor,” Papile told The State in a Georgia high school parking lot. “And you can print that.”

A good majority of college basketball coaches have descended upon the Georgia-South Carolina border this week to scout both the Peach Jam (in North Augusta, S.C.) and Peach Invitational Tournament (Augusta, Ga.). USC’s staff is no different. Frank Martin and crew have targets — and connections — at each AAU event.

Papile has run the Boston Amateur Basketball Club for over 40 years. His best player this spring/summer is Matt Cross, a 6-foot-6 forward ranked by 247Sports composite as the No. 79 prospect in the 2020 class. South Carolina offered a scholarship to Cross in April. Cross visited USC’s campus in June.

The mere interest is enough to make Papile smile.

“Frank’s like family,” Papile said. “He’s a great man.”

It’s a compliment rooted in history. Papile, who’s worked with the likes of Cleveland State, Boston University and the Boston Celtics, first knew Martin when Martin was at Miami Senior High School. When Martin moved to the college ranks in the early 2000s, the new assistant coach at Northeastern University briefly stayed in the basement of Papile’s Boston home.

“He had come up from Miami and didn’t have a place, and it’s expensive neighborhood,” Papile said. “So we made a place for him.”

Such comfort in Martin can now be found in Cross.

Cross has blown up this AAU season, going from, as he put it, two or three offers from “low major schools” to now being courted by programs in the Big 10, ACC and SEC. He scored another 18 points Thursday to lead BABC over Charlotte’s Team United, 71-70. He’s up to nearly 24 points and 10 rebounds a game for Papile’s club.

But the Gamecocks were on to Cross well before the spring. While the Martins (Frank and assistant coach Chuck) landed Trey Anderson to their 2019 class in November, they spotted Cross, Anderson’s former teammate at Woodstock Academy in Massachusetts.

“(Anderson) was a post-grad (player) and I was the only junior on the team,” Cross said. “Everyone was post-grads and seniors, so they found me there. I did my thing. So we first started there.”

Cross, who as a senior will play at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, has visited Indiana, Butler, Miami and USC. He wants to make a final decision before school starts in August.

Where do the Gamecocks stand?

“I have a good relationship with them,” Cross said, “and I don’t take that for granted. ... They’re my kind of people, old school. I like that.”

He’s in constant communication with the Martins — and Anderson.

“(Anderson) said it’s awesome down there,” Cross said. “You can’t beat it. He goes, ‘But the main thing that’s the biggest difference between the two is the lifting. The workouts are different.’ He’s like, ‘They get you ready down here.’ I was like, ‘Yep.’”

Papile says he avoids being too involved in the college recruiting process, allowing a player’s parents the bulk of that responsibility.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t talk up an old friend.

“As far as Frank and the SEC and South Carolina,” Papile said, “it doesn’t get bigger or better than that.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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