Wichita State remains in the running for 6-foot-1 point guard Neftali Alvarez, one of the most coveted floor generals remaining in the class of 2018.
Alvarez, a native of Puerto Rico, averaged 27.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists while leading Miami Christian to back-to-back state championships and being selected as a finalist for Florida's Mr. Basketball. He is rated as a three-star prospect by recruiting services.
A key in Wichita State's recruitment of Alvarez has been assistant coach Donnie Jones' long-standing relationship with Alvarez's mentor, long-time Miami coach Art Alvarez, from his stints at Florida and Central Florida.
"It's huge because I know Donnie has taken care of my kids before," Art Alvarez said. "Plus what I like about Wichita State is that they have two head coaches. Gregg Marshall is one of the top coaches in the country, then they have Donnie, who's been there and done that. The fact that we have a great relationship with coach Jones, that makes for a good situation."
Neftali Alvarez made an official visit to Wichita State in October and the mutual interest has continued through the spring. Jones and Marshall have been to Miami several times to visit with Alvarez, who has already taken official visits to Akron and Arkansas State.
WSU is in desperate need of a point guard, not only for competition for senior Samajae Haynes-Jones but also because the Shockers don't have another point guard on the roster after Landry Shamet declared for the NBA Draft and recruit Alex Lomax was released from his letter of intent.
According to Art Alvarez, Neftali Alvarez is intrigued by the possibility of playing early and other things that WSU can offer.
"He likes that WSU basketball is the biggest thing in that area," Art Alvarez said. "There's no professional football or baseball or anything. People around town are going to come and support the Shockers. That's very appealing to him to play in front of 10,000 people.
"We also like that a lot of their games are going to be televised, so people back in Puerto Rico can watch him every night. His mom and dad having the ability to watch him from there is important."
Playing for Miami Christian, which has a strong tradition of pumping out Division I point guards — most notably J.J. Barea, a 12-year NBA veteran — Alvarez wants to follow in those footsteps.
He likes that Marshall has sent his last two point guards to the NBA in Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet.
"They give the ball to the point guard and let them run the show," Art Alvarez said. "They give them a lot of responsibility and I think Neftali is up for the challenge. He's a mentally tough kid that plays with a chip on his shoulder. Every school recruits differently and Wichita State recruits tough kids. Neftali just happens to be that kind of kid."
Alvarez had offers from high-major programs such as Virginia, Purdue, and Georgia Tech last summer, while mid-majors like Dayton, VCU, UTEP, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Akron, Arkansas State, and Colorado State have also been involved. He made official visits to Akron and Arkansas State in the fall and has two remaining, although Art Alvarez said he's not necessarily going to use them.
Neftali Alvarez, Art Alvarez, and Miami Christian coach Juan Cardona will convene regularly, with a final decision coming before April 30.
"At the end of the day, it's going to be Neftali's decision to make where the best fit is for him," Art Alvarez said. "We'll do a pro-and-con sheet with him and make sure he makes the right decision. We love Donnie and coach Marshall and that's a big plus, but it's going to come down to where Neft feels like the best fit, where he feels comfortable, and where he's going to get minutes.