NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — For top high school basketball recruit Trey Lyles, getting a little peace and quiet meant taking a trip all the way to the Czech Republic.
The class of 2014 power forward spent much of the last month in Prague, where he competed with his native Canada in the FIBA under-19 world championships.
The extended European “vacation” meant a break from the recruiting circus that began when he decommitted from the University of Indiana last summer.
“It was nice,” Lyles said. “Being overseas, talking to your teammates and not having your phone ringing every five minutes. It was a good time away from everything.”
Lyles returned to the United States Wednesday and then made the quick turnaround trip from his home in Indianapolis to the Nike Peach Jam in South Carolina. He sat out the first game Thursday morning but said he planned to play the rest of this week’s schedule.
As soon as he hits the court, the recruiting hoopla will return.
The 6-foot-9 Lyles — the No. 4 overall recruit in the class of 2014 according to Scout.com — has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Louisville, Florida, and Butler after eliminating Duke and UCLA from contention Thursday.
Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels said one of those four schools will be getting a potent offensive threat.
“What I like about Trey is his ability to score,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “From the four spot, he can step out and stretch the floor with his shooting. But he’s also pretty equipped around the basket with his scoring moves on the block. I think that’s what makes him a special post player.”
Lyles said Thursday that all of the schools he’s considering are on equal footing. But most recruiting analysts and observers are of the mind that Kentucky and Louisville are at the top of the list.
“That’s the vibe that I get,” Daniels said. “He won’t say that, but I think those are the two schools that stick out. That’s kind of the scuttlebutt, anyway.”
Lyles visited UK three times last season, including once for Big Blue Madness in October. John Calipari offered him a scholarship shortly after his decommitment from Indiana, and the Cats were immediately viewed as the favorite.
“They have great facilities, great school, great fans, great coaches and a great history with getting players to the NBA,” Lyles said.
Louisville has also come after him hard. U of L Coach Rick Pitino said recently that he would like to add two elite big men to his recruiting class of 2014, which already includes three guards ranked among the top 50 prospects in the nation.
One of those players is Evansville’s JaQuan Lyle, a five-star combo guard who committed to Louisville last month. Lyle is also a close friend and former AAU teammate of Lyles, which could work in the Cards’ favor.
“Playing with somebody that you’ve known and played with for a couple of years is always good.” Lyles said. “That helps (Louisville) a little bit. … We know each other’s game and we know what one another likes to do and wants to do. I think it’ll help us.”
If the recruitment does come down to Kentucky vs. Louisville, there’s probably no one in the class better equipped to handle the madness than Lyles.
He was just a high school freshman when he committed to Indiana, giving Coach Tom Crean an early recruiting coup and Hoosiers fans something to look forward to a few years down the road.
Then Lyles saw his peers going through the recruiting process. He wanted to experience it for himself.
When it became public knowledge that he had backed out of his pledge to Indiana, the locals weren’t pleased. Lyles eventually held a press conference — alongside his father and high school coach — to explain his decision.
He said it still took a couple of months for the negativity to die down.
“You had a lot of people saying a whole bunch of stuff to you,” he said. “Making comments, stuff like that. But you’ve just got to let it go through one ear and out the other and not let it bother you.”
He was admittedly caught off guard the first time around, unaware that the college future of a then-16-year-old would be such a cause of distress for so many.
This time, he’ll be prepared.
“Whatever happens, you’re going to have backlash on whatever you choose to do,” he said. “So I’m ready for it. It doesn’t matter.”