By MATTHEW STEVENS
Gavin Ware was all set to go on his recruiting visit to Alabama before he told his father Calvin the trip wouldn’t be necessary.
“He said, ‘Daddy I don’t want to go,’” Calvin Ware said. “I kept telling him, ‘Make your decision. The choice you make is yours, and I’ll support you.’”
The four-star center prospect from Starkville High announced Thursday he will be playing his college basketball less than 10 minutes down Highway 12 at Mississippi State.
“I just felt it would be good to stay at home in this environment,” Ware said.
Ware averaged 19 points, 10.5 rebounds and five blocked shots in his junior season for the Yellowjackets but was out during SHS’ run to the Class 6A state semi-finals in Jackson after injuring his knee earlier in the playoffs.
Ware, a 2011 All-Area first team selection by Starkville Daily News, had a visit scheduled a couple of days ago to Alabama but canceled that trip when he’d reached a decision on his college choice.
Ware’s high school coach Greg Carter played for Mississippi State from 1988-91 for then-head coach Richard Williams.
“He’s been on the AAU circuit since about seventh grade, so I knew before I got him that he would end up being a Division 1 prospect,” Carter said. “He just keeps getting better and better. I think he’ll improve this year before he heads to Mississippi State.”
Ware and his family took a visit to the MSU campus last week, and the part of the tour that impressed him was seeing the Templeton Academic Center. Ware said he plans to major in criminology once he arrives at Mississippi State.
“I thought it was just about basketball there and was a downslide for academics,” said Ware. “But then I saw all the possibilities they have with academics, and the athletic-academic facility they have is amazing.”
Along with MSU, the 6-foot-8-inch post presence had scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgetown and Missouri.
Mississippi State had recruited Ware since eighth grade and impressed coaches with a new body after his freshman year when he dropped 40 pounds toward his 247-pound frame.
“When I told them I lost like 40 pounds, they told me that I knew how to work hard and be ready to go into the program,” Gavin Ware said.
Robert Kirby was deeply involved in Ware’s early recruiting when he as an assistant at MSU and continued that relationship when he moved to John Thompson III’s staff at Georgetown.
“When he was there, there was no doubt that I was going to Mississippi State,” Ware said. “That put a halt on me for a second and made me look into the options that I had.”
With his father Calvin, brother Keivin and his SHS teammates in attendance Thursday, Ware stated his intention that he would be staying close to home.
“We love Robert Kirby, but the distance between Starkville and Georgetown is too many miles because if something happens, it would be a while before I could get there,” Calvin Ware said.
Ware will get the opportunity to make Thursday’s announcement official in November during the early signing period for the Class of 2012.
“I would just tell (the other schools) that as far as to fit my needs, I find Mississippi State has what I want,” Gavin Ware said. “I’m sticking with Mississippi State.”
Ware is rated as the thirteenth-best center prospect in the country according to Rivals.com and will join guard Craig Sword of Montgomery, Ala. who is rated as the thirteenth-best shooting guard in the country according to Rivals.com, and three-star guard Fred Thomas of Jim Hill High School in Jackson as commitments to the 2012 recruiting class.
“I have a big frame and I can be the big guy and we could do some good things,” Gavin Ware said. “I want to give the team that big presence in the post and defend and rebound.”
Mississippi State is bringing in a top-20 recruiting class this season. That was influential in Ware making his decision toward the Bulldogs program, including being recruited by the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year Rodney Hood of Meridian.
“I talked to (MSU 2011 signee) Rodney Hood and asked him how it was at Mississippi State,” Gavin Ware said. “He said it was a good program and that I could learn a lot with this program.”