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Thousand Oaks eighth-grader commits to playing hoops at Kentucky

May 1, 2008 |  1:15 pm

Billy Michael Avery, a 15-year-old eighth-grade basketball player who’s 6 feet 4 and lives in Thousand Oaks, has committed to Kentucky.

“We know what college he’s going to before his high school,” his father, Howard, said Thursday.

Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie, pictured, who can’t comment because of NCAA rules, saw Avery play in a tournament last weekend in Ohio. Avery’s father made contact with Gillispie by phone and received the scholarship offer. He called Gillispie on Thursday and told him his son had made a final decision.

“In terms of basketball programs, they don’t get better than Kentucky,” Howard said. “In terms of basketball towns, they don’t get better than Lexington.” Blog sites that focus on Kentucky basketball were buzzing Thursday with news of the commitment.

Avery, who attends Ascension Lutheran Middle School in Thousand Oaks, has never visited Kentucky but has traveled frequently to the Midwest where his mother grew up. “This is all Mike's decision,” his father said. “He wanted to commit.”

Colleges offering scholarships to eighth-graders is no longer considered a rarity. Former Santa Ana Mater Dei standout Taylor King committed to UCLA before his freshman year of high school, later changing his mind. USC has a commitment from a former eighth-grader, and UCLA added a commitment from a sophomore last season.

As for which high school Avery will attend, he has registered at Encino Crespi but is trying to gain entrance to a boarding school in Indiana. “He’s got great tools for an eighth-grader,” Crespi Coach Russell White said.

-- Eric Sondheimer

-- Image by Matt Sayles/Associated Press