By MICHAEL KELLY
When the calendar turned to July 1 and it became OK for college coaches to begin directly contacting Izaiah Brown, the Amsterdam High School track and field star's mother, Crystal Albino, asked him if he was ready to handle the next step in his recruitment.
"It's just a phone call," was Brown's response at the time, he relayed earlier this week.
That coolness lasted, oh, a day.
After missing the first day's calls intended for him -- Louisiana State University led a pair of schools that called the first possible day, while Brown was attending summer classes at Fulton-Montgomery Community College -- Brown found himself sitting near a ringing telephone July 2. When he saw where the call was coming from on the telephone's screen, the composure faded in a hurry.
"All that changed when I saw it was UCLA calling me," said Brown. "I was home for that one and I didn't want to pick it up at first. I was a little freaked out."
But Brown did pick it up, and he has been fielding and returning more calls for the past two weeks. Since the start of July, AHS boys track and field head coach Kevin Wilary said roughly 30 colleges have contacted him about Brown; approximately 10 have spoken to Brown; two -- the universities of Michigan and South Carolina -- have visited Brown in Amsterdam; and, the University of Connecticut is scheduled to see Brown today.
More home visits are expected to be scheduled for this summer, while Brown will be able to make five official visits to schools of his choosing once his senior year of classes start at AHS in September. Theoretically, Brown could make a verbal commitment to a school at any time, but his first chance to sign a National Letter of Intent comes in mid-November.
While Brown is a four-time state champion in his sport and has owned the fastest 400-meter dash time in Section II history since his sophomore season, Wilary said there is no hurry or timetable for the rising senior to choose a college.
"It's a decision that he's going to have to make and it's going to be a very tough one because he doesn't have limited options," said Wilary. "He has unlimited options."
Wilary said no schools have made what he would deem an official offer, but that a multitude of colleges had let the Rams coach know that there is a full scholarship waiting for Brown if he wants it -- and that list of schools includes ones that have not even directly contacted Brown yet.
Wilary has been receiving letters of interest from colleges regarding Brown since his freshman season, so the rush of interested schools this month was something the athlete's support group had been preparing to deal with for some time.
"But we've never done this before," said Wilary, who is one of three AHS coaches -- John Decker and Stu Palczak are the other two -- helping Brown with the recruitment process.
So far, things have been handled in an orderly process, with Wilary handling most of the correspondence with college coaches and setting up meetings. While Brown has sometimes needed prodding, the AHS coach commended Brown for his attention to the process, even as Brown does not have a full handle on the unique nature of his situation. For example, Michigan, Wilary said, has informally committed to offering Brown a full, four-year scholarship, whereas the vast majority of college scholarships are one-year offers with the school holding the option to renew the offer after each year.
But Brown is very early in the process and is still unsure what he is looking for in a college. The brand-name schools from faraway places that are recruiting him are intriguing, he said, but he is not sure how far he wants to be from home; he wants to attend a "medium-sized" school, but admits he knows little about what constitutes such a college; and, some of the universities seeking his attention are getting it for the first time, as he had not previously heard of several of the schools that have contacted him.
What Brown is sure of, though, is that he wants to compete for a college program that sees him as a key piece, while finding a place that has a strong pre-dental program for him to study. Michigan jumped out in both regards to Brown after meeting with Wolverines assistant coach Steven Rajewsky, who has likely been the most avid recruiter of Brown during the past couple months; Rajewsky spoke with AHS coaches at the state and national championships about Brown, called him July 2 and was the first to garner a face-to-face meeting with the AHS star, which was a three-hour affair Monday.
What most impressed Brown from Rajewsky was that the Michigan coach made an exhaustive appeal from all angles. While the coach spoke highly of what Brown could mean to the Wolverines' track and field program -- "He said he wanted Izaiah to be the cornerstone to help rebuild the program," Wilary said -- Rajewsky also had done his homework on Brown's other interests and had a whole folder of information about applicable academic programs to go over with him.
"That was pretty cool how he did all that for me," said Brown. "It was really eye-opening and got me thinking more. I really didn't know a lot -- I was oblivious -- but he opened my eyes up."
For the rest of the summer, the intention is for Brown to continue taking calls, setting up home visits and gathering information. Meanwhile, he finishes up his summer courses at F-MCC this week, and has been staying in shape while competing at once-a-week track and field meets conducted at Colonie High School.
That first possible signing period in mid-November is a ways off, and Brown's coach said that is not the worst thing for the star.
"I think making a decision is going to be hard for him," said Wilary. "Even [Rajewsky] said to us that he's going to have an offer from anywhere he wants to go because he's a hot commodity and people want him. So, he needs to find the place that makes the most sense for him."
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