Too short. Too small. A nice little mid-major prospect, perhaps.
So went the recruiting rap on point guard Dominic Artis of Vallejo, California. Until recently, that is.
Now fast forward.
A phenomenal summer playing for the Oakland Soldiers on the national AAU circuit has the 6-1 rising senior scaling the rankings quicker than his whiplash-inducing crossover dribble. Unranked this time last year, Artis now checks in as the No. 81 overall prospect in Rivals.com’s 2012 rankings as he makes a push toward top ten status at his position.
"No point guard is moving up the charts faster than Artis," Rivals national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said recently. "He can do a lot of positive things at the point of attack."
Artis has spent much of the spring and summer torturing Soldiers' opponents in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL). He just lit up the New Jersey Playaz for 26 points -– while shooting 6 of 9 from deep -- to lead his squad into today's EYBL semifinals. His quickness, solid jumper and marionette handle keep defenders guessing. And, despite a baby face, Artis possesses the wizened poise of a classic floor general, controlling the ball and distributing it to the Soldiers' stable of talented wings and posts.
Artis characterized himself as "a guy that gets everybody involved, runs teams, and wins games" in a recent interview with blogger Adam Zagoria.
Those attributes were often overshadowed last summer when he was already on the Soldiers' loaded top squad but playing behind older point guards Josiah Turner (expected to start next year for Arizona) and Kiwi Gardner (headed to Providence).
Northern California basketball junkies, however, have been aware of Artis' talent and skill since 2009, when he was a diminutive freshman guiding Salesian High School to California’s Division IV state championship. This past high school season, Artis led Salesian to the brink of another state title, but a relatively poor showing in the final game reinforced his critics' doubts.
Then summer began, and, in addition to starring for the Soldiers, Artis performed well at two national exposure events -- the Pangos All-American Camp in Southern California and the LeBron James Skills Academy in Ohio. Displaying an improved all-around game and increased bounce to complement a growth spurt and added muscle, Artis began catching attention from a host of major college programs. Now, the nation’s fastest-rising point guard has scholarship offers from power conference schools UCLA, Cal, Baylor and Florida State, while also drawing interest from Louisville and Texas, among others.
"A coach I can get along with, a system that gets up and down, a lot of ball screens, just a school that fits my style of play,” Artis said when asked by Zagoria what the biggest factors in his college decision would be. "I don't really care about location or anything like that. Whatever's the best fit, really.”
To get ready for his next step, Artis will play his senior season at Las Vegas-area powerhouse Findlay Prep. Findlay plays a national schedule against some of the best competition in the country and consistently produces All-Americans. Artis will follow in a long line of elite Findlay point guards including Myck Kabongo (a freshman-to-be at Texas), Corey Joseph (recently drafted by the San Antonio Spurs) and Avery Bradley (drafted last year by the Boston Celtics).
"I just feel it's the best situation there, to prepare myself for the next level," Artis told the Oakland Tribune of his move to Findlay.
Findlay coach Michael Peck, meanwhile, sounds excited to have the budding star. "We are just thrilled to be able to work with him in his senior year and help him with his development," Peck told the Tribune. "He is about success."
About success. Just ask the New Jersey Playaz, while they watch Artis today in the EYBL semifinals. Or ask the nation’s top scouts, as they scramble to move him up their boards. Or top college coaches, whose scholarship offers continue to roll in.
The Dominic Artis bandwagon is filling up quickly. And his critics, whose chorus –- too short, too small, mid-major -– echoed for so long before fading away this summer should reserve a seat soon. Otherwise, they may find themselves too late.