Inside top-100 guard AJ Green's unique recruiting process

Dargan Southard
The Des Moines Register

In any basketball setting, the shooting motion stands out amongst his basketball peers — like a catapult, rocked back, ready to unload. He hoists it up high, seemingly set on taking the ball completely behind his head, but he stops just short and fires away.

Iowa Barnstormers' AJ Green is a consensus top-100 prospect and has offers from UNI and a number of Power 5 schools.

AJ Green’s mechanics are a product of defiance. As a middle school baller, he was told he needed to get his release point higher if he wanted to consistently get his sweet stroke off.

The instructions, though, weren’t coming from just anyone. This was a familiar voice.

“We would kind of debate that back and forth as you do with junior high kids,” said AJ’s father, Kyle Green, a Northern Iowa assistant whose coaching career spans 25-plus years. “And he took it to an extreme. He was like, ‘OK, if you want me to put (the ball) up here, I’m going to put it (way) up here.’

“And instead of arguing with him about it, I’m like, ‘Hey, if the end result is where we want it — and it goes to show you that if you get in the gym and work on your game and the finish of the shot is good — it works.’ But it kind of came from us butting heads and him saying, ‘I’ll show you.’ I think that happens a lot with coaches’ kids. They don’t want to hear from dad all the time.”

Cedar Falls sophomore A.J. Green moves the ball up the court against Council Bluffs Lincoln on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Years later, there’s no denying the production.

Pick whatever basketball setting you like — high school, AAU, Prime Time League, doesn’t matter. AJ, buoyed by that deadly jumper he can splash home from nearly anywhere, has emerged as one of the nation’s most prolific point guards for the 2018 class. The rising Cedar Falls senior is a consensus top-100 prospect — Rivals has him at No. 90, 247Sports Composite at No. 75 — and one of Iowa's finest recruits seen in quite some time.

But the younger Green has a hefty decision ahead, one that only gains more visibility as another summer evaluation period commenced Wednesday.

Does the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter stay home and join his father at UNI or venture elsewhere, likely to a Power 5 school? He has a number of big schools to choose from, owning offers from Iowa State, Clemson, Nebraska, Minnesota and others, as well as recent interest from USC, LSU and more.

“It’s definitely been kind of a weird situation, obviously with my dad coaching at UNI,” AJ said. “But he’s also been able to help me with a lot of it, giving me advice. But I’m looking to probably make a decision sometime after July.

“It’ll be kind of nice, just to finally make a choice and to be able to focus on just getting better.”

AJ has maintained an open mind, but his familiarity with UNI is not insignificant. Kyle is now in his third stint as a Panther assistant, having been in Cedar Falls for 12 of the last 16 seasons. AJ has been a McLeod Center mainstay, regularly joining UNI in team workouts and open gyms over the last few years.

One-on-one foes included Seth Tuttle and Wes Washpun. Panther road games and NCAA Tournament runs doubled as family trips.

“Green would become part of the minority if he does not commit to Northern Iowa,” Corey Evans, one of Rivals’ national recruiting analysts, wrote earlier this summer. “Very rarely does a prospect whose father coaches at a higher-shelf program that he does not end up playing for.”

That has naturally limited some recruiting interest, though not entirely. AJ has taken multiple unofficial visits to Ames, the most recent coming in early June, and has had nothing but good things to say about the Cyclones. He has grandparents in Minneapolis and is intrigued by the opportunity to play in the ACC as well.

But scan the top 100 list and most players’ offer list at least reaches double digits, some even into the high 30s. AJ’s sits at seven.

“It’s understandable to a certain extent that no one wants to waste time, effort or money recruiting players who won’t attend their school,” said K.C. Schmitt, AJ’s AAU coach with the Iowa Barnstormers. “However, it’s an extremely tough thing for a top-100 player to go through.

“I commend AJ and his family for the way they’ve handled the situation.”

Kyle’s had to walk a fine line. Although recruiting coordinator is in his title, he’s let UNI’s other coaches handle AJ’s situation, honing in tightly on being a father first throughout the process. He’s fielded calls from other college coaches, some he’s known for multiple decades, and tried to remain as objective as possible.

Kyle knows his son deserves that.

“I just keep reminding myself that it’s his decision, and we’re here to support him,” he said. Because of the way he’s raised, we feel like he’s going to make a great decision. He’s not going to make a wrong decision.

“It’s probably a lot harder on him than it is on us, going through it. For me, it’s been fairly easy. For him, it’s tough. He’s getting pulled a lot of different directions.”

Even so, performance hasn’t been a problem. AJ shined at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in Virginia last month, and flexed his offensive prowess at UNI’s team camp and in the PTL against quality Division I competition.

The schedule only toughens as the summer pushes on. AJ left this week for Spartanburg. S.C., where he’ll compete in the adidas Gauntlet Finale with the Barnstormers. He said he’ll then finish up with tournaments in Kansas City and Las Vegas. Whether more schools jump in the mix remains to be seen. The final NCAA evaluation period ends July 30.

A decision could arrive shortly after.

"No matter where he goes,” Schmitt said, “that school is getting a very mature young man who hates to lose.”

Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.