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Michael CarvellMichael Carvell

The story behind UGA’s big recruiting victory

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UGA beat out Michigan State and Indiana for 3-star Yante Maten (susanadamsphoto.com)

UGA beat out Michigan State and Indiana for 3-star Yante Maten (susanadamsphoto.com)

UGA has to wait exactly one more week to officially claim one of its biggest recruiting victories under basketball coach Mark Fox.

Yante Maten, a 6-foot-8 forward from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., abruptly committed to UGA last Saturday night. He’s only ranked as a 3-star prospect but the pledge was a pretty big deal in recruiting circles because the Bulldogs beat out hometown favorite Michigan State, along with Indiana.

Although Maten been contacted by other colleges this week – and the courtship will likely continue until he officially signs his UGA papers next Wednesday — his mother told the AJC that the Bulldogs have nothing to worry about.

“Yante remains faithful to God, and because God told us to go Georgia, he will remain faithful to God because that’s what God said to do,” said Maten’s mother, Toiya Paige. “He could have chosen any school but he decided to go where he was told to go. And he remains obedient to that.”

Maten is one of two 2014 commitments that UGA got last weekend, along with Fred Iduwe, a 6-11 center from near Milwaukee. Maten was recently named Michigan’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

“He’s like your typical 17-year-old boy,” Bloomfield Hills coach Duane Graves said. “I mean, he’s 6-foot-8 and all 235 pounds. He doesn’t have a tattoo or a pierced ear. He doesn’t swear. He’s a young man who is down to Earth, and very religious.

“Georgia won the lottery and doesn’t realize it yet. He took our team on his back and carried us to the state finals in Michigan, and we weren’t even supposed to be there. We’re a blue-ribbon school where we produce academic scholars, not basketball players or football players. What Yante did for (our high school) is awesome.”

Last fall, Maten took official visits to both Colorado and Utah, but he decided to hold off until April’s late signing period. The gamble paid off for Yaten, who had a monster senior season in front of college scouts; both Michigan State and Indiana extended scholarship offers at the end of March.

But UGA fended off the Big Ten powerhouses.

“Yante has been praying for several months for the Lord to speak to him,” Paige said. “I told him from the very beginning that he would hear the Lord’s voice audibly. And so he heard from the Lord last Saturday night after he fasted and prayed. It was Georgia, so that’s where Yante is going.”

It was a big recruiting win for UGA for several reasons, including the fact that Maten’s mother attended Michigan State and that the recruiting battle took place on the home turf of the Spartans.

“It was a big deal to get that offer from Michigan State,” Paige said. “They’re a good team, and they went very far this year. I went to Michigan State, but that’s not where Yante was supposed to go. He was supposed to go, according to God, to Georgia.”

Could things have turned out differently if Michigan State had offered Maten earlier? Maybe not, but maybe so.

“I think Michigan and Michigan State are so worried about being national brands right now,” Graves said. “They’re recruiting nationally and not doing a good enough job locally to get a kid like him. I’ve seen a lot more out-of-state schools in my gym within the last year than I have local schools. I just think sometimes when you get big, you forget about the small things, and the things that made you big.

Michigan's 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year (susanadamsphoto.com)

Michigan’s 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year (susanadamsphoto.com)

“Georgia was the best fit for him for his education, for his spiritual life, and for basketball. He had some pretty good offers on the table. But he felt like Georgia was the right place for him. I give him credit for making the right decision for him and his family and not taking the popular decision that everybody else wanted him to take. Michigan State would’ve been the popular choice to take.”

Since Maten committed to UGA, he has heard from other colleges, his mother confirmed. “A couple of coaches have sent text messages after Saturday, but I think those were just ‘why’ questions. ‘Why not us versus Georgia?’ But we haven’t been inundated with (communication).”

While de-commitments are popular in college football (nearly a third of the Georgia’s 2013 signees switched their commitments at least once before signing), it’s not as common in basketball. Maten’s mother and coach said the prized prospect is ready to sign with UGA next Wednesday.

“Yante remains faithful to God, and because God told us to go Georgia, he will remain faithful to God,” Paige said. “Because that’s what God said. He could have chosen any school but he decided to go where he was told to go. And he remains obedient to that.”

“This is what I can tell you about this family: When they make their decision, that’s their decision,” Graves said. “We’re a public school, and right down the road we have basketball factory called (Detroit) Country Day, where they produced (Ohio State center) Amir Williams (and NBA stars Chris Webber and Shane Battier). They try to come into your school and take your best players. And Yante chose to stay at a public school right down the road from them, and not go to a school like that.

“He’s not going to change his mind about Georgia. Once his mind is made, and once his Lord and Savior has made his decision for him, he’s going to stick with it. Other colleges can try, but I don’t think anything is going to change.”

As a senior, Maten averaged 19.5 points, 15.2 rebounds and 6.9 blocks per game. He will study Wildlife Biology at UGA.

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– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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