Naijiel Hale had particularly high hopes heading into this past weekend's Nike Football Training Camp in Los Angeles. The junior from Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco met, and by most accounts, exceeded his rather lofty expectations.
The 5-foot-10 and 175-pound cornerback held his own, and then some, against some of the country's premier prospects around. His effort did not go unnoticed either as Hale received an invite to Nike's The Opening by the end of the day.
Mission accomplished. One of his goals checked off the proverbial to-do list. Hale does not appear to finished, however. Far from it, in fact.
“This camp was a chance for me to prove myself, let people know that I'm one of the West Coast's top players, one of best in the nation too,'' Hale said. “There's some more work to be done. My game is on film. Things are starting to blow up.''
Junior Denzel Fisher from Compton (CA) Centennial took home MVP honors for the defensive backs at the Los Angeles NFTC, though signs point to Hale being a close second on the scorecard. Junior Jonathan Lockett from Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei and sophomore Iman Marshall from Long Beach (CA) Long Beach Poly also played well.
In terms of being recognized as one of the best in the business for the Class of 2014, Hale is well on his way. In the 247Sports Composite Rankings, he's the country's No. 19 player at his position and No. 26 overall from the Golden State.
Recruiting is starting to pick up for Hale. He has scholarships waiting from Pac-12 Conference schools such as Arizona, Arizona State, Cal and Washington State. On more of a broader scale, Boise State and Nebraska have offers on the table.
“Right now, Arizona and Cal are in front, both are coming at me hard, and that's something I'm going to have to think about,'' Hale said.
USC is another college that's been in contact with him. The Trojans have not offered though. “I'm in contact with them daily,'' he said. “I like USC. If coach Lane Kiffin offered, it'd be an easy commit. No reason to second guess things.''
Whether Kiffin & Co. extend a scholarship to him remains to be seen. The same thing can be said about Oregon, UCLA and Washington, each has expressed varied levels of interest in Hale. Northwestern and Wisconsin are in the mix as well.
One thing is certain: Hale has emerged as a legit prospect. One need not look any further than his effort at the Los Angeles NFTC for proof.
Sean Ceglinsky has covered prep and college sports on the West Coast for the better part of the past 15-plus years. Follow him on twitter: @SeanCeglinsky