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July 16, 2012

Iverson not following famous cousin's blueprint

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First, let's get the obvious question out of the way.

Yes, Class of 2013 small forward Kuran Iverson is related to former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson. They are second cousins, though Kuran says they've met only once, a couple of years ago at a family reunion.

Even though the two share a last name, they have very different games. Kuran is a 6-foot-9 forward, not a 6-foot guard. So he doesn't feel any pressure about following in his cousin's footsteps.

"It's just a last name," Iverson said. "I don't worry about the last name. The name at the end of the day doesn't get you where you need to go.''

While Iverson may seem quite different from his famous relative, they have at least one thing in common. Just as Allen Iverson's life has featured more peaks and valleys than the typical All-Star's career, Kuran Iverson has endured a similar roller-coaster ride up and down the Class of 2013 rankings.

Iverson was the fifth-ranked player in his entire class when the initial 2013 rankings came out in September 2010. After literally enduring growing pains on the AAU circuit last summer, he fell all the way to 65th. Now he's back on the rise at No. 25.

Plenty of prospects move up or down the rankings during the recruiting process. But usually if they start moving up, they stay in that direction. Players who sink in the rankings generally don't move back up. Rarely does anyone have the type of yo-yo effect that Iverson has experienced.

"Everyone loved him, then everyone jumped off his bandwagon," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said. "And now everyone's jumping on his bandwagon again."

Iverson insists he doesn't pay much attention to what analysts are saying about him. He just focuses on getting better and tries to avoid those types of distractions.

"I don't really care about the rankings that much," Iverson said. "It doesn't mean anything. It's just a number."

But his progress over the past year tells a different story. Iverson couldn't really ignore the fact that his performance last summer raised some skepticism about his potential. He clearly took steps to make sure people had a different impression of him as he headed into his senior year.

"Sometimes, I think he just (knew) he's more talented than a lot of players so he used to not go as hard," said Iverson's AAU coach, Andre Harrington. "But now he just wants to prove a point at every camp he's going to. I'm proud of what he's doing."

The biggest changes with Iverson were physical. His knee was bothering him last year and caused him to take some time off. When he returned to action, he wasn't quite in playing shape. Harrington said the knee pain resulted from Iverson's rapid growth. Iverson gained about 1 inches, going from 6-foot-8 to over 6-foot-9, according to Harrington.

Iverson said the knee pain limited his jumping ability. When he couldn't jump, his ranking took a dive. "The way he looks now is the way you expected him to look as a freshman going into his sophomore year," Bossi said. "Last summer, it didn't even seem like it was him."

BACK ON THE RISE
Kuran Iverson's stock has fluctuated quite a bit since the initial Class of 2013 rankings first came out in the summer of 2010. Here's a look at where Iverson has been ranked each of the last three summers.
Year Rank
2010 5
2011 65
2012 25
His knees are feeling better now, but that's not the only way he's changed. Although Iverson said he doesn't worry about rankings, perhaps his plunge served as a wakeup call. He headed into this year's AAU season much more serious about his game.

He's following his coach's advice.

"It's cool that you're a kid and you're going to make friends, but when you're on that court, make sure you take care of business," Harrington said. "Off the court, you can joke around and exchange numbers, but every time you step on the court, please make sure you take care of business so people will take you seriously, or at the end of the day people will think it's all hype."

He's backing up that hype so far.

Iverson has been running a few miles a day and says he has dropped 15 pounds over the past year. The change in his game was obvious this summer when Iverson worked out at the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy and the Nike Global Challenge.

"I've just been playing and trying to get back to where I was," Iverson said.

Iverson was one of the biggest movers in the most recent Rivals150 list that came out on July 3. He isn't back in the top 10 just yet, but he certainly is back on the rise.

Now that he's back in peak shape, Iverson once again is displaying the ability that made him such a heralded recruit in the first place. Although he has the size of a forward, he possesses the skill set of a guard.

"Most players his size are interior players," Bossi said. "He can play on the perimeter and it's not a forced thing, it's natural. He can handle the ball."

That is what makes Iverson so unique.

"I don't care who's out there, there's nobody 6-foot-9 with guard skills like that right now," Harrington said. "I just want him to prove his point."

Now that his stock is soaring again, Iverson wants to make sure he doesn't waste that talent. Schools showing interest in Iverson include Florida, Memphis, Connecticut, Oklahoma State and Seton Hall. Iverson mentioned Syracuse, Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Connecticut and Arizona as some of the programs that appeal to him the most.

He certainly has made plenty of strides on the court. Now he wants to make similar progress in the classroom and Harrington has said he expects Iverson to qualify. After spending last season at West Hartford (Conn.) Northwest Catholic, Iverson is transferring to Waynesboro (Va.) Fishburne Military School, which is all part of his plan to get better in every area.

"He's focused all the way around -- on the court and everything, his whole swagger and everything about him," Harrington said. "He understands what has to happen for him to be able to play college ball. At the end of the day, you can have a goal of playing in the NBA and stuff like that. But I tell him you need to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. You need to take it one step at a time. Start from getting grades up in high school, get to college and from there on, whatever happens."

Iverson already has passed one major test by showing he can overcome adversity.

Other prospects might have treated a slip in the rankings as a cause for self doubt. Iverson instead picked himself back up and changed people's opinions of him once again.

"They loved him, then they hated him, then they loved him again," Harrington said.

This time, he wants to make sure the honeymoon doesn't end.



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