From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.
What We Learned
Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.
Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.
Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.
What You Missed
Coaches Discussed Harsher Penalties at Villa 7. The top young mens’ and womens’ assistant basketball coaches got together at VCU during the Villa 7 and discussed the future of college basketball, and in particular the cheating and recruiting scandals lately. There was a general consensus at the event that infraction penalties need to be harsher and those guilty need to be penalized more. One person, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage, even suggested that using the “death penalty” may be something that will be needed in the future to dissuade people from cheating. William & Mary men’s basketball coach Tony Shaver also discussed how cheating has paid off when you look at the fact that UConn won the national championship while on probation and, on the college football side, both Auburn and Oregon are currently under investigation. The Villa 7 came immediately after the NCAA invited about 25 reporters to Indianapolis for a daylong mock hearing of the committee on infractions, shedding some light on how college sports programs are punished by the NCAA to educate the media on the process. NCAA President Mark Emmert wants to increase transparency in the process and emphasized how he also wants to increase categories of infractions so cases could be ruled upon in a more individualized basis.
ESPN RISE: Height is Overrated. Jason Jordan wrote a good article last week about how height is overrated in the game of basketball. In fact, shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) thinks it’s tougher to play defense against small guards than bigger guards (see what he said in the “What They’re Saying” section below). Sophomore standout Julius Randle also discussed how he thinks smaller players have some sort of a “short” complex so they therefore work harder than bigger guys in the paint. The article also cited examples like 5’6 Class of 2011 point guard Kiwi Gardner (Providence) as an example to show short players can hang with bigger opponents. Although I do think people overrate height at times, there is no denying the fact that height helps. From prep to pro there are examples proving this statement whether you look at the fact that there is only one player (point guard Jahii Carson (#43 – Arizona State)) in my top 50 under 6’2 and in the 2010 NBA draft the smallest first round pick was 6’2 (Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe). Overall I think it’s safe to say that height can be overrated but it also gives bigger guys a real advantage.
Class of 2013 Watch List Released. What would my column be without some more rankings to look at? I released my class of 2013 watch list Saturday and although I didn’t rank the prospects within my top 25, there are definitely a few players that stand out above the rest. Small forward Jabari Parker, power forwards Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, and center Nerlens Noel are a few guys who would be in my top five if I had to rank them today. All are explosive athletes and have tremendous potential who will make an immediate impact at the next level. As for their recruitment, we know Gordon is a heavy Washington lean, but it seems like the other three prospects are wide open at this point and won’t be making any decisions any time soon. Another sophomore to look out for is power forward Derek Willis (Purdue) who is rapidly improving.
Sterling Gibbs Gets Hooked. Class of 2011 point guard Sterling Gibbs announced his decision Monday night via Twitter that he is now committing to the Texas Longhorns (to see why check out the “What They’re Saying” section below). Gibbs is the fourth guard in the Longhorns’ incoming class which includes McDonald’s All-American point guard Myck Kabongo (#9), shooting guards Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, small forward Kevin Thomas, and power forward Jonathon Holmes. Texas has a lot of versatility in its Class of 2011 commits since they have two quality floor generals (Kabongo and Gibbs), two good wing players (Lewis and McClellan) and a solid interior presence (Holmes). It will be interesting to see how much playing time Gibbs gets since Kabongo is the second best point guard in the class between his outstanding passing abilities and court vision.
Tobacco Road Hits a Double Whammy. Class of 2012 shooting guard Torian Graham committed to NC State Monday giving new head coach Mark Gottfried his first junior commitment with the Wolfpack. However, not only did Graham (a Durham native) choose NCSU over Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina, but this looks like it may begin to be a trend as Gottfried is looking to competitively recruit in the state of North Carolina. Graham will be joining North Carolina native point guard Tyler Lewis in the Wolfpack’s Class of 2012 and Gottfried is looking to add shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) and small forward T.J. Warren as well. Purvis is a Raleigh native and Warren is from Durham. Graham has already begun recruiting Purvis to join him via Twitter and you can expect that he’ll recruit Warren too since they are current teammates.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
Jacob Hazzard, Undecided, Point Guard – Hazzard has rapidly improved recently and has a quick jump shot that is most effective on the catch-and-shoot. However, he can hit jump shots from a number of places around the basket and is very quick. Hazzard also plays great defense and puts constant pressure on opposing floor generals. The biggest negative about Hazzard is that he’s developing more into a shooting guard than a point guard at this stage of his game since he is more of a scorer now and less of a facilitator. Given his 5’11, 150-pound frame, it’s unlikely that he would succeed at the two guard at the next level. You would think that the California native would be high on UCLA since his grandfather is Walt Hazzard, but the junior is still open to any new schools that may come into the picture.
Gary Harris, Undecided, Shooting Guard – Harris was clearly one of the best guards at the Adidas May Classic and had a tremendous game when he squared off against fellow Class of 2012 top 50 star J.P. Tokoto (#35 – North Carolina) as he went off for 35 points in an 86-83 loss. Harris displayed his great size and length as well as good athleticism on the defensive end and played amazing on the offensive end considering his defense is what makes him an elite prospect. He needs to improve his shooting consistency and tighten up his ball-handling but he will no doubt be an impact player as a freshman in a couple of years. His top five consists of Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue but definitely look for him to pick up more offers from elite schools by the end of the summer.
J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina, Small Forward – Tokoto was the standout at the Adidas May Classic as he showed the ability to score in a variety of ways, whether it was knocking down mid-range jumpers and perimeter shots, slashing into the lane where he’s explosive around the basket, or posting up defenders. However, the thing that made him stand out at the event and in the Class of 2012 in general is his elite athleticism. He is another prospect with a lot of potential and a high ceiling but he needs to continue to develop his shooting and ball-handling.
Grant Verhoeven, Undecided, Power Forward – Verhoeven is a big man who impacts the game on both ends of the court and has one of the best motors in the Class of 2012 that I’ve seen. He has good strength and footwork when he’s working on the interior which helps him get good position on the offensive end and sets him up for blocks on the defensive end. He also runs the floor really well and consistently crashes the offensive glass which results in a lot of putbacks. He needs to improve his general technique when he’s in the post on the offensive end and should continue to improve his footwork on both ends of the court but he will be a one of the better Class of 2012 prospects that colleges in the west pursue. Right now, he says Stanford and Cal have shown interest but I would be very surprised if more Pac-12 schools didn’t start chasing him.
Isaac Hamilton, Shooting Guard, Sophomore – Hamilton turned heads at the Double Pump May Tournament this weekend as he showed the ability to be an impact player in every phase of the game. On the offensive end, he has the ability to slash into the lane and get a bucket or drop off a nice pass for a big man and on the defensive end he uses his length well to disrupt passing lanes. However, the defensive end is where he has the most room to grow since he could utilize his length even better. He also needs to add strength which would help him on both ends of the floor so he can bang in the paint more and use his body to prevent opponents from getting into the lane. Additionally, he needs to improve his shooting consistency to reach his full potential on offense. The California native is the younger brother of former Longhorn Jordan Hamilton.
Christian Wood, Power Forward, Sophomore – Wood, a guy who just missed out on my top 25 Class of 2013 watch list, was simply outstanding at the Double Pump May Tournament this weekend between his tremendous shooting skills and his surprisingly explosive ability to finish around the rim. He clearly has a lot of talent and upside in his game and will be rising in the Class of 2013 rankings as I expect him to become more aggressive on both sends of the court. If he can become a better slasher, improve his mid-range game and have a more aggressive mindset he will be a force to reckon with in the coming years. USC is the early leader for Wood but he expressed interest in visiting Syracuse, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.
Derek Willis, Power Forward, Sophomore – The Purdue-commit played well at the Adidas May Classic and put his versatility on display since he was able to score from the perimeter and handle the ball in space while also scoring from inside the paint. He has a lot of potential between his size, length, athleticism and skill and could end up as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2013 as he continues to improve over the next couple of years. Willis also showed the skills of a small forward when he scored off the dribble and was able to penetrate and get into the lane too. One thing he should be working on is his strength since if he reaches the point to where he can start pushing around opponents as well as getting by them, he could be a scary player.
What They’re Saying
- Senior shooting guard Nick Faust (#38) on new Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon: “He’s [new head coach Mark Turgeon] a great guy, great coach. I told him that I just wanted to do this to make sure I go to the best place for me… I know he respected that. He gave me the option of being able to weigh my options. I respect him for that also.”
- Kansas head coach Bill Self on recruiting this late in the signing period for seniors: “We need to hit a home run late, but I think we are in a position to do so, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
- Senior point guard Sterling Gibbs on committing to Texas: “I have a great relationship with coach Rob Lanier. I’ve known him since middle school. My family trusts him.”
- Junior shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) on defending guards of different sizes: “Bigger guards are easier to defend. But when you’ve got a little guy in front of you all the time you’ve got to work harder. You’ve really got to change up your game when you’ve got a small guy on you.”
- Senior shooting guard Devin Coleman (Clemson) on how he got into basketball: “I didn’t like basketball until I was in 6th grade, and I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was in 8th grade. I competed in little league and stuff like that but I wasn’t really good. In middle school, I would have to wait for my mom to pick me up every day after school and I just watched the high school guys in the gym. I kind of just wanted to be like them. I just worked in the gym and tried to be like them and asked them questions and things like that. When I saw myself improve that’s when I really got into it.”
A Look Ahead
Stars to Announce Decisions Wednesday. The best unsigned player left in the Class of 2011, shooting guard Trevor Lacey (#37), will be making his decision Wednesday and will decide between Alabama, Kansas and Kentucky. Recent reports from both a Kansas source and Lacey’s high school coach indicate he is leaning towards the Jayhawks after his visit but that the other two programs are still under strong consideration. The Alabama native has taken many visits to see the Crimson Tide in action including an NIT game and has previously indicated that winning is important to him, something Kentucky will be doing a lot of next year. Elite small forward prospect DeAndre Daniels will also be making his decision Wednesday and will be deciding between Duke, Kansas and Texas. The Longhorns, from where he previously de-committed, are considered in the back of the pack right now but there have been so many rumors around Daniels’ commitment no one really has any idea what he’s going to do.