The interview with Trinity Christian Academy (Fla.) baseball coach Mark Gattis takes an awkward turn. Thirty seconds of near silence turns into a minute and that turns into almost two.
Though the interview was over the phone, it was obvious Gattis was scouring every cell in his brain to find an answer. Does recent South Carolina dual-sport commitment Ahmad Christian have any flaws?
“I’m trying to think of what he would have as a weakness, and I really don’t see it,” Gattis said, “I hate to just keep throwing out the superlatives, but I’m trying to take the ‘s’ off best.”
Christian also gets rave reviews from TCA football coach Verlon Dorminey.
“I believe he’s the best corner in the country,” he said. “The reason I say that is this: I’ve seen him in 7-on-7 against some of the best receivers in the country, and the kid can really, really play.
“But he spent most of his time in the summers playing baseball. If he had taken the time to go down and work out at Florida, they would have been all over him. He wouldn’t have gotten out of the state of Florida, but he’s playing baseball all summer.”
Christian is a three-star prospect in football, but he could be the steal of this recruiting class for the Gamecocks, who effectively used the Spurriers’ ties to the Jacksonville, Fla., area to help land the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder.
TCA alum and assistant coach Guss Scott played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, so Christian had met him before. Also, the Spurriers came to TCA several years ago to recruit former Clemson tailback Jamie Harper.
“Coach Scott always told coach Spurrier that he’d be back to get me one day,” said Christian, who is friends with several USC players from the Jacksonville area, including Shaq Wilson and Tramell Williams.
As it turned out, Spurrier wasn’t the only USC head coach interested in Christian’s services. He could play an even larger role for baseball coach Ray Tanner, who had already built a powerful signing class before Christian decided that he wanted to play both sports in Columbia.
Much like Lake City tailback and fellow USC commitment Shon Carson, Christian may never play for the Gamecocks. Both players have been told they could come off the board in this summer’s MLB Draft within the first five rounds, potentially landing them a signing bonus big enough to warrant skipping school altogether.
As an all-state shortstop, Christian has the full repertoire. He can hit for average and power, has great plate discipline, steals bases with ease, has the range to cover the left side of the infield and can throw out runners from deep in the hole, Gattis said. Scouts project him as a professional second baseman.
“He’s got a very high baseball IQ,” the coach said. “He’s just extremely coachable and just loves the game of baseball. He does whatever I ask him to do. He’s a leader with my young guys, because obviously he has the ‘it’ factor. He doesn’t have to say much, but kids follow him. He realizes that he has a platform, and he makes my team better because he works hard at practice. It translates from there.”
Christian played both offense and defense at TCA, though he projects to play corner in the SEC.
He was typically matched up against the opposition’s best receiver – TCA mixed both man and zone coverage – and doubled as a running back. He often lined up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation and returns both kicks and punts. Last year he had a 99-yard scoring run, the longest in state championship game history, against American Heritage (Fla.) in a 30-20 loss.
Dorminey is excited to see how Christian’s dominance on the prep level translates to the SEC stage. However, he may not get that chance.
Christian is adamant that he wants to attend college and get an education, but he comes from a single-parent household and may not be able to turn down the right sum of money.
“If somebody starts throwing money in your face and your 18 years old ,” Dorminey said. “If they offer $1 million, what are you going to do? It’s going to be a tough decision for him.”
Gattis wasn’t ready to handicap USC’s chances of getting him on campus.
“I know he loves South Carolina,” he said. “I think he’s leaning toward school. I think it would have to be a ridiculously high number that would solve the decision itself. He’s got a very good mother. She’s very grounded. I think he wants to go to school, but he wants to be prudent with his options.”