CHICAGO: When LeBron James was a sophomore in high school, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knew him only as a talented receiver with good speed, great size and great hands. It’s why Meyer, then the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, offered James a scholarship and why he was so astonished when one of the coaches at St. Vincent-St. Mary laughed at him.

James thanked Meyer for the offer and said he’d consider it. When James walked away, Meyer asked what was so funny.

“He said, ‘Do you know who that is?’?” Meyer recalled Friday. “I said, ‘No. Who’s LeBron James?’ He said, ‘He’ll be the next Michael Jordan.’?”

Meyer said had he stuck with football, James could’ve been the next Jerry Rice. Asked what James’ potential was in football, Meyer said a first-round pick with a hall of fame career.

“I love LeBron James,” Meyer said. “He’s a competitor and a good person. You never hear about anything off the field with him. After being around Tim [Tebow] and some of these high-profile guys, [James] handled a lot of the scrutiny and he handled it real well. He was under the bullet and he handled it real well.”

Under the lights

Meyer returned to Columbus after Friday’s luncheon for Ohio State’s first Friday Night Lights — an idea Meyer created at Florida and is carrying with him to the Horseshoe.

With nearly every school in the country offering camps for the nation’s top high school athletes, Meyer and his staff devised the idea to set their camp apart.

The camp is only a couple of hours, but it’s held at night with the lights and scoreboard operating to simulate a real game atmosphere.

“Most traditional camps are on the practice field, you go out and run around cones and do drills, get a T-shirt and go home,” Meyer said. “We decided we needed to be different … and it exploded. We’re hoping the same thing happens here.”

Camp Meyer

As for the actual camp, Ohio State’s training camp will open next week, and Meyer promises it will be grueling. One national prognosticator predicted the Buckeyes could begin this season 10-0, to which Meyer chuckled.

“If those kids hear that, then I’ve got to beat it out of them the first week of training camp,” Meyer said. “I can promise you after Day Four, they’re not going to be talking about being 10-0, they’re going to be talking about getting to Day Five. It’s going to be a really, really hard training camp.”

Meyer said he always runs a difficult camp to ensure players refocus after spending all summer hearing from family members how wonderful they’ll be.

“The better the team, the harder the training camp,” Meyer said. “It’s to get them ready and for that nonsense right there.”

Traditions remain

Jim Tressel instituted a number of traditions for home games, including the players’ participation in the pregame Skull Session, the walk from the hotel to the stadium and the singing of the alma mater with the band after every game.

Meyer tried installing similar traditions at Florida and plans to keep everything Tressel started here.

“I love that kind of stuff,” he said. “We’re going to continue to try and enhance the traditions here.”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.