Vogt-1

Cincinnati center Chris Vogt passes the ball past Houston forward Fabian White Jr. after a scramble during a March 1 game in Houston. During high school, Vogt was heavily recruited by former Northern Kentucky assistant Chris Shumate. Now at Georgia Southern, “Shu” is still very much in close contact with his former center.

Chris Shumate was still an assistant under Donnie Tyndall at the University of Tennessee when he first heard of Graves County High School’s Chris Vogt.

He’d gotten a tip from his former Murray State college teammate and Mayfield native Tim Haworth (who previously coached Hopkinsville boys basketball, and is currently at Shumate’s alma mater at Louisville Male), basically stating: “Hey, keep an eye on this kid.”

So, he did. And what began as a cursory nod turned into earnest interest, sincere and rigorous recruitment and a scholarship offer.

By the end of Vogt’s junior year of high school, the 7-foot-1 big man had become a prolific shot-blocker, low-post threat and all-around force for coach Josh Frick and the Eagles.

By the end of his 2017 senior season (one that garnered a regional title and him winning Paducah Sun All-Purchase Player of the Year), Vogt was inked with John Brannen and Northern Kentucky University — where Shumate had just spent the past year as an assistant after one year under Ray Harper at Western Kentucky.

Fast-forward to now, and Vogt is in the middle of testing the NBA waters, after following Brannen from NKU to Cincinnati and posting a prolific stat-line: 11 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks per game, a 64.8% field goal percentage (best in the American Athletic Conference), and 29 starts.

It was, by far, one of the biggest leaps in the country statistically between a sophomore and junior season, and he did it while jumping from a mid-major program in the Norse (Horizon League), to a borderline high-major program in the Bearcats.

Shumate, who spent this past year on a coaching hiatus before recently returning as an assistant to Brian Burg at Georgia Southern, isn’t remotely surprised at the rise.

He’s still in contact with whom he calls “a close friend,” and he went in on his thoughts about Vogt’s future, and how it stems from his past.

“A huge piece of Chris’ success outside of the fact that he has some very innate, God-given talent, is that he has an unbelievable support system. He was a very highly-recruited player, and he chose to play at Northern Kentucky — a program that I was new to, and a program that was coming off of a nine-win season. He and his family put his faith in our staff.

“When he played 42 total minutes his freshman year (at NKU) — and he probably called home like all freshman do, like I know I did and everybody else does — his parents (Jim and Allyson) said: ‘Chris, be quiet, go to class and keep working,’ ” Shumate said. “We have those conversations all the time. His parents would call and say, ‘You’re not getting (frustration) from us. Is he behaving? Is he doing his schoolwork?’ ‘Yes, ma’am. Yes ma’am.’ ‘All right, we’ll see you!’

“My point is, he had an unbelievable support system. For a highly-recruited kid to come to a school like NKU and play 42 minutes his entire freshman year with no transfer, no ‘the coach is being a jerk’ it was ‘Chris needs to work harder.’ That’s why he’s seeing success. Because of his support system.

“And Chris and I lived in the gym for two years. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, just he and I, a ball, and doing habits work. And over time, those raw things became habitual. And as his body grew, it doesn’t surprise me at all. We’re still extremely close. We probably talk once a week. I can look at his face on television and tell what kind of mood he’s in.”

Shumate had a front-row seat to Vogt changing his body, and the once-lanky lumberjack now clocks in at 260 pounds and — despite his size — managed to connect on more than 65% of his free throws last season.

Now, even fouling Vogt is a bad idea.

The Mayfield native has stated he’s keeping his options open by remaining eligible for a senior return, and CBS Sports analyst David Cobb has listed Vogt as one of the top-15 college basketball players to eye for the 2020-21 season — should he return (deadline: June 15).

But Shumate has had his eye on him all along.