* Xai Ricks made his decision final on Wednesday, signing with Georgia over the National Letter of Intent period
Photo Credit: Xai Ricks/Instagram
By Tim Casey - MileSplit Recruiting Reporter
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It was only natural, then, that Ricks, now a senior star at Long Beach Poly (CA) High School, seriously considered attending USC, which is only about 20 minutes from his home. But instead of following his aunt, Ricks has chosen to forge his own path.
On Wednesday, Ricks committed to the University of Georgia, whose head coach, Caryl Smith Gilbert, was USC's head coach before leaving for the Bulldogs two years ago.
Ricks, who is MileSplit's No. 5 boys recruit in the Class of 2024, said it was hard choosing between Georgia and USC, but he was drawn to what the Bulldogs had to offer.
"I felt most comfortable with the team (at Georgia)," said Ricks, who also visited LSU, Arizona State, Mississippi State and Texas. "They've got a good coaching staff out there. I feel like it's a good place for me to have a successful academic and athletic career."
Ricks had a breakthrough junior season that drew the attention of college coaches. He set personal-bests in the 400m (46.06), which was more than 1.8 seconds faster than his sophomore year; and 1:49.19 in the 800m, which was more than five seconds faster than his sophomore year.
Those were the No. 2 and No. 3 fastest times in the Class of 2024. He also ran 21.31 in the 200m, tied for No. 29 in his class even though he had never run the 200m in a high school race before last year.
At Georgia, Ricks will be with teammates with a fellow member of the Nike Elite Program: Jayden Keys of Katy Tompkins (TX), who signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Keys, an elite hurdler and long jumper, is MileSplit's No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2024.
Dwight Phillips, MileSplit's No. 11 boys recruit, has committed to play football at Georgia, the two-time reigning national champions and current No. 1 team in the country. It is unclear if Phillips will run at Georgia, but if he does, he should make an impact. Phillips ran 10.24 in the 100m in the spring, tied for the third-fastest time in the Class of 2024.
The Georgia men's team has a talented freshmen class as well, including several top high school recruits from the Class of 2023 such as long jumper/sprinter Micah Larry, sprinter Brody Buffington, sprinter Mekhi Gammons, high jumper Riyon Rankin and long jumper/triple jumper Zavien Wolfe.
Before arriving at Georgia next fall, Ricks has some lofty goals to achieve. He is hoping as a senior to break the national high school record in the 800m (1:46.45) that Michael Granville set in 1996 and eclipse the Long Beach Poly record in the 400m (45.38) that former USC star and Olympian Bryshon Nellum set in 2007. He is also hoping to run about 20.50 seconds in the 200m.
For the past several weeks, Ricks has been training with his teammates and longtime Long Beach Poly assistant Keith Anderson, whom he has worked with for a few years and has helped Ricks improve.
"I've learned a lot from him," Ricks said. "As we go over workouts and different training, he really communicates with us and how it helps. He's a good coach. I trust him."
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