The road went through Nashville, Spokane and Eugene, but in the end it led five miles down El Cajon Boulevard to San Diego State.
Trey Kell will be an Aztec.
The four-star shooting guard from nearby St. Augustine High orally committed to SDSU on Tuesday night, ending a recruitment that began modestly and by summer had many of the nation’s top programs in hot pursuit. Kell also took campus visits to Vanderbilt, Gonzaga and Oregon, and cancelled a scheduled trip to Arizona last weekend.
“It’s a dream of mine to play Division I college basketball,” Kell said, “and to play it in my hometown at such a high-caliber program around family and friends is really a dream come true.”
Scout.com rates the 6-foot-4 Kell as a four-star prospect (out of five) and the No. 13 shooting guard in the nation. ESPN has him at four stars and recently elevated him from the No. 100 to 79 player overall, calling him “one of the most gifted scorers in the West Coast class of 2014.” Rivals.com rates him three stars and No. 118.
He becomes the second high-profile local player to pick SDSU in three seasons, joining redshirt freshman wing Matt Shrigley from La Costa Canyon. Counting Arizona transfer Angelo Chol (Hoover), that gives the Aztecs the county’s top recruit from three of the last four prep classes.
More important, though, it gives them a pure shooter.
It was the one piece missing from a recruiting class that very well could be the best in school history. Already the Aztecs landed Canadian point guard Kevin Zabo and the 6-9 Chol, and they are finalists for highly-regarded forwards Zylan Cheatham and Malik Pope.
Kell and his outside stroke helped lead St. Augustine to a 29-4 record and a CIF Division III state title. But what impressed scouts in the spring and summer club circuit were the other facets of his repertoire: his midrange game, rebounding, passing, toughness, defense, basketball IQ.
“A lot of people didn’t know who he was,” said Marshawn Cherry, his coach with the San Diego All-Stars. “He just needed to get some exposure.”
Coach Steve Fisher and his staff recognized that earlier than most and began recruiting him as a sophomore. They also took a slightly different tact than many schools, passing on other high-profile shooting guards as a show of allegiance to Kell instead of publicly courting them in hopes of pressuring an early commitment.
It was a risk, no doubt, because had Kell picked Vanderbilt, SDSU would have no pure shooters in the 2014 freshman class to join a roster that loses its best marksman in senior guard Xavier Thames.
But Kell and his family, according to Cherry and others close to them, were not overly enamored with the constant hounding of the recruiting process and the mind games that schools routinely play, and in that respect SDSU’s no-nonsense approach may have been a plus.
“Coach (Brian) Dutcher and Coach (Justin) Hutson are very personable people,” Kell said of the Aztecs assistants who were instrumental in his recruitment. “They understand everything you’re saying. They don’t sugarcoat anything. They tell you the truth.
“That was a big thing to me. They passed on some tremendous players because they wanted me to be their No. 1 recruit. I really appreciated that.”
Kell trimmed his list to SDSU and Vanderbilt, then spent the past week agonizing over his decision – several times appearing to be close to an announcement only to delay it another day. The Commodores had already received commitments from two shooting guards rated higher by Rivals.com, and on Tuesday they landed a third: point guard Riley LaChance.
Potential playing time, he admitted, “was a big factor, too.”
“I made my decision (Monday) night, then slept on it,” Kell said. “I woke up and felt the same, that San Diego State was the right school for me. So I called the coaches and committed.”