TERRE HAUTE —
If it seems early, it really isn’t, T.J. Collett told the Tribune-Star on Sunday evening.
The Terre Haute North High School sophomore had a fairly uneventful afternoon on Saturday, getting walked four times — twice intentionally — in Big Four baseball tournament play, but made up for it that evening by traveling with his family to Lexington, Ky., and giving a verbal commitment to the Wildcats to play baseball for them starting in the fall of 2016.
“I’m very, very excited,” Collett said Sunday. “The decision took about a year to make.”
The Patriot catcher and slugger is ranked in the top 10 of the Class of 2016 in baseball recruiting lists. “Most of the top 40 are already committed,” he pointed out Sunday, “so I’m one of the last. Kentucky already has two other 2016 commits from the top 40.
“I love coach [Brad] Bohannon, [head] coach [Gary] Henderson and coach [Brian] Green,” Collett continued. “I’ve seen what they’ve done with A.J., and [Kentucky is] relatively close to home so my parents can come watch me on weekends. … I absolutely love my family. I have 20 cousins, so I wasn’t going to go more than a few hours from home.”
“A.J.,” of course, is 2011 Terre Haute South graduate A.J. Reed, who is possibly on his way to national Player of the Year honors with the Wildcats. Reed didn’t try to recruit him, Collett said, but he gave him some help.
“My brother Dougie caught [Reed], so I knew him through American Legion [baseball]. He knew how it felt to be recruited, and he gave me advice through the whole process. It was great to get his point of view and use that to my advantage,” the younger Collett said Sunday.
The disappointed suitors for Collett, whose left-handed power is quite similar to Reed’s — if the Colletts had stayed for Sunday’s Kentucky game, they’d have seen Reed intentionally walked four times — included the expected ones in the few-hours radius.
“I talked to Indiana, and Purdue, and Ball State,” Collett said, “and Indiana State of course. Coach [Mitch] Hannahs is amazing, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll be doing with ISU.”
Saturday’s trip to Lexington only confirmed what he was already feeling, Collett indicted.
“It’s a gut feeling, but I’m 100-percent sure I made the right choice,” he said. “We went down [Saturday night] to watch the game, so I was able to do it face to face. I’m definitely more excited than [the Kentucky coaches] are.”
Reed will be awaiting his second major league draft in a month or so, after spurning the New York Mets after high school to attend Kentucky. Collett, with breathtaking power and wisdom-beyond-his-years leadership behind the plate, is a pretty good bet to be on the 2016 draft radar himself.
“I really, really, really want to go to college,” Collett said. “It would have to be a lot for me not to go [to Kentucky].”
Then he proved the wisdom-beyond-his-years statement.
“Let’s get through high school first,” he said with a laugh. “[North plays in] a good, solid sectional, but we have a good chance at the sectional and hopefully at the regional. With our lineup … I think we have the best lineup in the state.”