The college recruiting profile of Scarborough’s Dom Campbell skyrocketed after his performance at a high-level club basketball tournament in Dallas this spring. Campbell and his coaches say he has received scholarship offers from more than 20 NCAA Division I programs, including Notre Dame, Stanford, Illinois, Oklahoma, Penn State and Tennessee. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

In one weekend, Dominick Campbell’s basketball future changed dramatically.

In May, the 6-foot-9 Maine native went to Dallas to play in a high-level club tournament called “The Circuit,” featuring some of the top high school basketball players in the nation. Playing for his Middlesex (Massachusetts) Magic club basketball team, Campbell scored 18 and 23 points in separate games against two of the Top-50 recruits in the Class of 2022.

Within days, Campbell went from a player pursued by Northeast colleges known more for academics than hoops to becoming the most sought-after boys’ basketball recruit from Maine since Nik Caner-Medley of Deering High in the early 2000s.

“I absolutely went into that tournament with that attitude of wanting to make a statement,” said Campbell, a Scarborough resident who starred at Waynflete School and now attends Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. “I played against three or four top-100 big men and I knew I had to show what I could do, but also I didn’t want to play outside of myself.”

Two days after the tournament ended, Campbell’s Twitter feed became a steady flow of “very blessed and honored” announcements about receiving scholarship offers from big-time NCAA basketball programs, ending each tweet with a “Thank you” to the program’s coach. Notre Dame started it on May 25, followed quickly by Virginia Tech, Minnesota, South Carolina, Penn State and Virginia Commonwealth on the 26th, according to the player and his coaches. Stanford offered a scholarship the next day, he tweeted.

“He’s one of the first kids from Maine I’ve seen since I went to (the University of) Maryland to get recruited at that level,” said Caner-Medley, who recently completed his 15th season of professional basketball.

Scholarship offers are not made public by colleges. The NCAA, in fact, prohibits coaches from speaking publicly about recruits before they sign with a school. But Campbell clearly has been gaining notice.

247 Sports, a website that focuses on college recruits, ranks him No. 20 among the nation’s high school centers in the Class of 2022. Bloggers across the internet are sizing up what Campbell could bring to various schools.

“These are full scholarship offers that he’s been getting,” said Jay Tilton, Campbell’s coach at Phillips Exeter Academy, the prestigious prep school in Exeter, New Hampshire, where Campbell enrolled prior to the 2020-21 school year and repeated his junior year.

By the time Campbell tweeted of a scholarship offer from Oklahoma on June 8, he had offers from schools in each of the Power Five conferences – Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference – along with the Big East (Providence College) and the Ivy League (Penn, Princeton, Yale and, most recently, Harvard). Tennessee of the SEC and reigning Big Ten champion Illinois have since joined the ever-growing list of suitors, according to his Twitter feed.

ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein tweeted about Campbell after watching him at a tournament on June 26. “With head coaches from Pitt, BC, Notre Dame, Davidson, & Harvard front and center, @ExeterHoop big man Dom Campbell opened the game with four threes in the first five minutes.”

Campbell took his first official recruiting visits to colleges in late June, with trips to Oklahoma (June 22-23) and Notre Dame (June 28-29).

“It’s kind of overwhelming to be honest,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level, so really it’s a dream come true.”

His coaches say it’s a dream Campbell is realizing through hard work and performance.

“It’s the result of his consistent and persistent hard work,” said Michael Crotty Jr. of the Middlesex Magic.

“One thing I really respect in Dom is he’s not afraid to get out of his comfort zone,” Tilton said. “It would have been very easy to stay in the environment he was in (going to Waynflete) and being the big fish in a small pond and there’s nothing wrong with that. But he really wanted to push himself, physically, socially, intellectually.”

TAKING ON NEW CHALLENGES

Campbell grew up in the small town of Raymond and spent his first three years of high school at Waynflete, a private school in Portland with roughly 250 high school students. With the Flyers he was a big kid who could play, but his weight and lack of fitness limited his minutes and overall effectiveness his first two seasons. He improved significantly as a junior in the 2019-20 season, averaging around 17 points and 11 rebounds as Waynflete advanced to the Class C South regional final, losing to Winthrop, 39-30.

Shortly after that season, Campbell, his father and mother, Lynn and Kathleen Campbell, along with Dom’s godfather Erby Mitchell, the dean of admissions at Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, began discussing prep school and club basketball options. The Campbells, who now live in Scarborough, made the switch from the Portland-based Blue Wave program to the Middlesex Magic and opted to repeat Dom’s junior year at Phillips Exeter.

“I knew my body wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I knew the path I was going to in Maine, the schedule wouldn’t change much unless I made big changes,” Campbell said.

Dominick Campbell, going to the basket during the 2020 Maine Class C South basketball regionals at the Augusta Civic Center, was a force at Waynflete School. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Despite limited opportunities to play in the summer of 2020, Campbell did receive offers from Division I mid-major programs Boston University, Central Connecticut State and McNeese State in Louisiana. With good efforts at New England tournaments early this spring, combined with his solid academic background, the Patriot League (Holy Cross and Lehigh) and Ivies joined the hunt, along with offers from Siena, Albany, Howard, William & Mary and Rice.

Then came the May 21-23 trip to Dallas to play in a tournament called “The Circuit.” At that point, college coaches were still not allowed to watch the games in person, but the tournament drew several shoe-company sponsored teams.

Against a Nike-sponsored Houston Hoops squad, Campbell scored 18 points with nine rebounds in 20 minutes against Zuby Ejiofor, considered the No. 39 overall recruit (No. 8 power forward) on the 247 Sports composite ranking. Ejiofor had already been offered scholarships by Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Then Campbell dropped 23 points with six boards on the No. 58 ranked player, Vanderbilt commit Lee Dort, who was playing for Adidas-sponsored Team Trae Young out of Oklahoma.

“Dominick more than held his own and outplayed those guys,” Crotty said. “Dom was as good a player as there was in those games and, with much respect to them, I think he’s at that level of a big guy himself. He scored inside, he scored outside. He delivered passes, defended and rebounded.

Crotty said he wasn’t surprised by the ensuing offers because he had been touting Campbell all winter, essentially telling coaches, he isn’t playing because of the pandemic, but just wait. Then Campbell performed as advertised – maybe even overperformed in terms of the assortment of his skill set.

“It’s his versatility. You look at him and he’s a big, strong, back-to-the basket forward,” Crotty said. “But he can also face you up and drive by you, or face you up and shoot. And he can step out beyond the 3-point line and shoot 3s and handle the ball and the pick-and-roll handoffs.”

Those in attendance, or watching the video, also saw Campbell’s assertiveness – what Crotty terms Campbell’s love for “putting a shoulder into someone’s solar plexus and moving them off the spot, scoring on them, and then snarling at them a little.”

Campbell said his improved conditioning has translated not only in better play but also better confidence. He’s gone from nearly 300 pounds to a strong 263.

“I feel like a man out there. I can hang with the best guys in the nation for sure,” Campbell said.

And, according to Campbell, now those “best guys” know who he is, too.

“I could tell that my presence was felt after the game. I got a lot of respect from those guys,” Campbell said. “I represented myself in a good light. It’s a really good feeling to have a guy ranked in top 100, say, ‘Geez you can play.'”

Before the summer is out, Campbell and his Middlesex Magic teammates will be in three more national-level tournaments where college coaches can be in attendance. Crotty believes Campbell’s recruitment is likely to intensify.

RAREFIED AIR FOR PLAYER FROM MAINE

When looking for a Maine high school comparison to Campbell in the past 15-20 years, the best choice might be Mackenzie Holmes of Gorham, now a star 6-foot-3 center on the Indiana University women’s basketball team. As a high school senior, Holmes was considered a five-star recruit and was ranked No. 53 in the Class of 2019 before choosing Indiana.

This winter, as a sophomore, Holmes led Indiana in scoring and rebounding, earned all-Big Ten honors and was the program’s first Associated Press All-America honoree (honorable mention). Both she and Campbell have classic post-up abilities as part of all-around games.

“She was getting offers from the ACC, Big Ten, and the other Power Five conferences, and not the doormats of the Power Five,” said Don Briggs, Holmes’ coach in the Maine Firecrackers club program. “It sounds like Dom is getting high-level programs in Power Five conferences and the combination of high-level basketball and high-level academics. Notre Dame, Stanford, Penn State. I mean, holy crap, that’s the best of both worlds.”

There have been other boys’ players out of Maine who have played at a high collegiate level. Tom Knight, out of Dirigo High in Dixfield, played at Notre Dame, graduating in 2013. And Nick Mayo, who played at Messalonskee High in Oakland, left mid-major Eastern Kentucky University as its all-time leading scorer, graduating in 2019. Keegan Hyland, of South Portland, attended both Gonzaga and Fairfield before finishing his college career at Bentley University.

But you still have to go back to Caner-Medley, a 2002 Deering grad, to find a player from Maine who was so highly recruited. Caner-Medley became a four-year starter at Maryland and a two-time all-ACC third-team selection. He said all of the top 10 teams in the country at the time except Duke offered scholarships.

Caner-Medley said he had been keeping tabs on Campbell via social media while living in the south of France playing for FOS Provence of the France B league, where he won his first professional championship this year.

“I actually reached out to Dom’s parents just the other day on Facebook,” Caner-Medley said during a telephone interview in June. “I just wanted to tell them how excited I was for them and for Dom and not to hesitate to reach out to me.”

What advice would Caner-Medley offer? Essentially to look deeply at how the head coach has utilized players with similar skills.

“As a young guy, to be able to say, ‘I’m going to this school,’ it’s a great feeling,” Caner-Medley said. “But when I look back, it is very important to look at the meat of the situation. What system does the coach run? Am I going to play? Is it a system that works for me? It’s easy to get caught up in their pitch.”

For Campbell, the summer’s focus will be on continued improvement. The early signing period for basketball recruits to officially accept an athletic scholarship starts on Nov. 10.

“Just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Working out every day, eating right and then performing at the highest level in all these tournaments.”


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