Dominick Pointerís inner drive to grow his skill set is largely responsible for his improvement. (Scout.com)
A year ago at this time the name Dominick Pointer was a relative unknown on the basketball recruiting trail. He had shown overwhelming athleticism during his career at Roseville high, but at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds he was regarded by many an undersized frontcourt player. Combine that with his academic difficulties and you have a youngster with serious questions about whether he'd ever play college basketball at the high major level.
That concern prompted Pointer's family to make the difficult choice to send him to Quality Education Academy in Winston Salem, N.C. to finish his high school career. Their objective was to jump-start his collegiate readiness both on and off the court. Today the benefits of that decision are obvious, because the young man affectionately known by family and friends as "Ziggy" is one of the fastest rising seniors in the country.
"Ziggy's grades were failing up here and (Roseville) had him playing a position that he wasn't developing in," explained Pointer's father, Tony Nolan. "He was playing center and he wouldn't get no better at the other positions because he was forced to play center. I knew by sending him down to this school that he could work on his (academics) and he would play the wing. He would learn and develop by playing (against) top-ranked kids. He made a total U-turn in the last year since he has been down there.
Pointer's turnaround in the classroom has him on track to be a full academic qualifier. Meanwhile, his evolution on the hardwood has vaulted him from obscurity into Scout.com's top 100 as the No. 81 prospect (regardless of position) in the country.
"My shot is way better than what it was before," Pointer said confidently. "I got a little more handles. I've been working on everything, learning everything. I still got the same (leaping ability). The (leaping ability) will always be there.
"I think I play like Jason Richardson."
Pointer's inner drive to grow his skill set is largely responsible for his improvement, but Quality Education head coach Isaac Pitts deserves credit for showing his talented pupil how to achieve it.
"When he first got here he was just an athlete," recalled Pitts. "What I talked to him about before we started our skill development last spring was that before he could take his game to the next level, he had to get better at shooting the ball and handling the ball. He had to do that so that he can start on the next level because everybody (on the college level) is athletic. You've got to be able to beat people off the dribble, make the correct pass, hit the pull-up jump shot, or hit the wide open 3. So we've been working with him on ball handling and putting up 500 to 1,000 shots a day. Now he can shoot the 3-ball, he can put it on the floor, and he can get to the basket. He is also an excellent defender and he's a great passer. He has just developed his game into an all around player."
When Pointer finally hit the AAU circuit last summer, the recruiting interest in his talent rose precipitously. Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander was among the throng of college coaches that became fixtures at the explosive forward's games. Alexander soon forged a fast rapport with the four-star prospect and was able to lure him to Ann Arbor for a few unofficial visits in August.
"It was real good," said Pointer after his first visit. "I had a good time. We just went out to eat and talked to the coaches, communicated, and got to know them. They showed a little video of how they would play me like Manny Harris — come off screens, midrange jump shots, attacking and kicking."
"I was very impressed with Michigan," Nolan added. "They laid the whole program out (including) the educational part. We watched their first practice and they showed us how Dominick will fit in their program. I was satisfied with that. Everybody I had talked to (before the visit) was saying that they're only 3-point shooters (at Michigan) and that they weren't going to let him run like he does. But (the Michigan coaches) showed me how they were going to give him free choice to do some things that he wants to do, and I was impressed with that."
West Virginia and St. John's joined Michigan on Pointer's list of finalists, but after official visits to each of the Wolverines' competitors, only one of them remains in the running.
"West Virginia was out when we got back (from the official visit)," Nolan reported. "It is down to St. John's and Michigan, but we think Michigan is on their game. They are going all out for this kid."
Michigan headman John Beilein appears to be pulling out all the stops for Scout.com's No. 18 small forward, and his efforts definitely haven't gone unnoticed. In fact, they may be gaining extra notice thanks to the clear preference of Pointer's family for the Maize & Blue.
"Beilein flew down (to Quality Education Academy) and he took his whole staff with him," remembered Nolan. "Then Beilein went down to visit Ziggy twice by himself. When we came back from St. John's, Beilein was down in North Carolina (at Quality Education Academy the following Monday). When we came back from West Virginia, Beilein was back down there again. Also, he is picking up Ziggy from the airport. He told us nobody will touch Ziggy but him Friday. He said, 'I'm picking Ziggy up.' What coach do you know that will do all this? From jumpstreet he told me that he was going to show Ziggy how much he loved him. That's what he is doing.
"I made it clear to everybody involved that I want him home. That was my biggest concern. I'm not hiding it. My biggest concern is that I want him home."While that parental influence is certainly a feather in Michigan's cap, it's not a guarantee that Pointer will become a Wolverine. His parents may prefer the Wolverines, but they won't force their son to become one.
"I'm very impressed with St. John's," Nolan confessed. "I really, really like the staff and the people of St. John's. I was really impressed with all of them, but they are not Michigan. Me and his mama — that's how we feel. But if he really feels that strongly about St. John's, I'm not going to kill him. I'm going to be mad at him, but I've got to stand next to him. The way he made the U-turn and changed his life, what can I say? Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan. I'm Michigan all day long, but if I got a kid that made a total U-turn with his whole life, I can't criticize him about making his choice if it's St. John's. I'm not going to kill him. Me and his mom are going to be stomping the floor and kicking the walls, but at the end of the day I'm going to support him" For his part Pointer is keeping any leanings close to the vest, choosing instead to share his positive impressions of both schools.
"I like the coaches at St. John's," said Pointer. "They're really cool. Plus it's a lot of playing time there. Another thing that stood out was just how small it was. I liked how small it was.
"Michigan is close to home. The coaching staff is really cool, of course. I haven't met the players yet. I'm going to do that this weekend."
Pointer's trip to Michigan this weekend will be his final official visit. That, by the way, is exactly how his dad planned it.
"I made sure Michigan was last," Nolan said proudly. "After our last visit we'll come back and it will be over (soon). What makes (the Michigan visit) so good for that day is (Beilein) is planning on all the recruits being there. It is the homecoming day where all the teams get together and it is the first day of practice. That was (Pointer's) whole concern — getting to know the players. After that visit is when we'll take 24 to 48 hours and make a decision."